South Africa: The Saga of the Former Police Boss

By Commey, Pusch | New African, March 2008 | Go to article overview

South Africa: The Saga of the Former Police Boss


Commey, Pusch, New African


Until a few weeks ago, Jackie Selebi commanded all that he surveyed. As South Africa's police boss and head of international police (Interpol), he was a powerful figure held in high esteem. Today, all that has gone up in smoke as he faces three counts of corruption and one of defeating the ends of justice. It is a bizarre case, where unbelievable allegations were made, reports Pusch Commey from Johannesburg.

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It was a bemused and smiling Jackie Selebi who sat in the box on 1 February 2008, bringing to a head a long-running tussle between politics and law. Until his recent suspension as the national commissioner of police, and his resignation as head of international police (Interpol), Selebi loomed large in the media. Matters reached a head when he was linked to an underworld kingpin, Glen Agliotti (also known as "The Landlord").

Selebi has openly accepted that the landlord was his friend over years, but that he personally was not involved in any criminal activity. How it was possible that in his two high-profile positions (head of Interpol and South Africa's national police boss!), Selebi would not have known what business his friend was involved in, has puzzled commentators.

"The Landlord" has since turned on his friend. He struck a deal with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to testify against Selebi in exchange for a suspended sentence for his role in the importation of hashish worth R250m.

It was, however, the political sideshow that has been intriguing. The national director of public prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, was suspended by President Thabo Mbeki from his post last year when he threatened to arrest Selebi.

The media accused the president of going to extraordinary lengths to protect his friend, Selebi. Mbeki, however, defended his action by citing a breakdown of trust between Pikoli and his political boss, Bridget Mabandla, the minister of justice.

The acting head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, then took up the running. After convening a panel of experts to review the case against Selebi, they came to the conclusion that indeed the police boss had a case to answer.

In a series of failed court applications to prevent his arraignment, Selebi worsened his image and others. The responses by the NPA to his court papers revealed several damaging allegations.

It was revealed that a relationship developed between Selebi and Glenn Agliotti. They met in 1990 when Agliotti wanted to enter into a business deal with the ruling ANC. He held discussions at ANC headquarters while Selebi was social welfare representative of the party.

During those meetings, Selebi said he was unable to pay medical bills for the treatment of his son, and Agliotti allegedly gave him money for this. Selebi was later appointed national commissioner of police, on 1 January 2000. Two years later, in February 2002, Agliotti was appointed a police informant, with Selebi's approval. Agliotti had in the meantime also proposed a fundraising drive for mentally challenged children, with the participation of the police. Selebi agreed to this, too. During the fundraising period, Selebi also allegedly said he needed money and Agliotti, again, obliged him. Selebi would on occasion phone Agliotti and allegedly request more money because "he was short", and it would be given to him in envelopes.

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Agliotti allegedly also bought clothes for Selebi, his wife and sons. It is also alleged that at one point Selebi requested Agliotti to buy shoes for President Mbeki. There is no evidence that such shoes were ever delivered, though. However, it is the mysterious murder of the mining magnate, Brett Kebble, in September 2005, in what is now accepted as an "assisted suicide" that has added a new twist. Agliotti has admitted to organising hitmen to despatch Kebble at his own request.

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