What Jackie Selebi’s defence cost South Africans

2014-07-17 13:31

SAPS Quick Facts:

  • The South African Police Services currently has a force of approximately 160,000 officers and 40 000 public service act employees
  • A single police officer is technically responsible for 325 civilians
  • In 2010 police basic salaries were as follows:

    -Constable R 74,452.00

    -Sergeant R119,514.00

    -Warrant Officer R149,874.00

    -Captain R189,636.00

    -Lieutenant Colonel R238,872.00

    -Colonel R432,729.00

  • Basic public servants’ salaries have increased by between 5 - 8 % per annum between 2010 and 2014
  • The 2014/2015 police budget is set at R75 billion, up from R64 billion in the 2013/2014 fiscal year

Running at a loss

In a September 2013 parliamentary meeting, Financial Services and Administration Services Commissioner, Stefan Schutte revealed that R204 million was spent on litigation in the 2012/2013 financial year. Litigation costs included lawsuits filed against the SAPS for wrongful arrests and mistreatment.

With litigation in mind, a total recall of the Jackie Selebi case is inevitable. In a long drawn trial, the former SAPS Commissioner was found guilty of corruption in July 2010 for taking bribes from convicted drug trafficker, Glen Agglioti to the amount of R320 000. His defence torn to shreds by the ‘pitbull’ Gerrie Nel, the former Interpol top-cop was also expected to pay back the R17.4 million  incurred by  the SAPS during his trial. After serving only 229 days of his 15 year sentence, Jackie Selebi was released on medical parole in 2012.

Too broke to pay

An investigation by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) during Selebi’s high court case in 2010, established that Selebi’s assets amounted to R3.4?million. While Selebi like any other debtor is expected to foot his bills in full or in part, according to the Public Finance Management Act as interpreted Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, he is not “financially sound” to pay his dues.

Section 76 of the act stipulates that, as accounting officer, Phiyega is entitled to write off debts owed to the state if she is convinced “recovery would cause undue hardship to the debtor or his or her dependants”.

Phiyega would also have to be convinced that recovery of the debt would be “uneconomical” and that “all reasonable steps have been taken to recover the debt and the debt is irrecoverable” or that it “would be to the advantage of the state to effect a settlement of its claim or to waive the claim”.

More than just money

The pursuit to recover the legal fees abandoned, one may therefore conclude that R17.4 million of taxpayers’ money went begging for a man guilty of taking R320 000 and a few Jimmy Chus for his wife.  The case against Selebi was and still is a matter of principle which highlighted  for that brief moment that no one is above the law. In the same breath it also becomes apparent how the law resembles a pacifier those seeking justice yet have no friends in high places.

Had the legal fees been recovered and the money put to good use, much could have been achieved including the following:

  • 145 additional police officers getting paid R10 000 a month for a year
  • Purchase 6900 light weight bullet proof vests at R6000 each for police officers working in areas with higher rates of violent crimes
  • Upskill 1120 training officers for an entire year to be deployed at police stations across the country to improve service delivery and safety on duty

However, had the money been recovered and utilised to fund a personal endeavour it could have yielded the following results:

  • A not so conservative 4 bedroomed mansion in Sandton or Camps Bay
  • A Rolls Royce Phantom to say I have arrived
  • Jeep  or Land Rover to do away with psychological complexities
  • A BMW or Mercedes to fit in with the crowd
  • Shares in KFC

Now jokes aside, the costs incurred during  Jackie Selebi’s case are not just monetary neither are they simply short term losses written off in accounting books. It creates a state of criminal laissez-faire and gives no incentive to law abiding citizens to uphold the system which more often than not, bites the taxpayer that feeds it. Barely a year after assuming office, Jackie Sebeli's successor, Bheki Cele was deposed for similar charges and currently earns his keep as Deputy minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Whether calls for Riah Phiyega to resign are valid or not the question, the price taxpayers continue to pay in cash and in kind is still far too dear.

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