Selebi trying to avoid cell-by date


Lawyers for former national police commissioner Jacob “Jackie” Selebi, who collapsed on Friday after an appeal against his 15-year jail sentence for corruption failed and is reportedly in a “really very, very critical” state, are to liaise with the Department of Correctional Services about his fate.

This after the lawyers met the Registrar of the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to explain why Selebi had not reported for his 15-year prison sentence yesterday as required once his appeal against his corruption conviction failed, the South African Press Association reports.

Selebi was found guilty of corruption for accepting money from convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti and giving Agliotti benefits such as showing him a British drug investigation report. At the time Selebi was also president of international counter-crime organisation Interpol.

The National Prosecuting Authority said Selebi’s lawyers had approached the agency on Saturday to say he might not be able to present himself to start serving his sentence. “They approached our prosecutors on Saturday and informed them of what they plan to [do], that he may not be able to present himself to correctional services on Sunday, but we told them to approach the registrar as prosecutors are not involved in that process,” NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said on Monday morning.

His lawyer, Wynanda Coetzee, told Beeld newspaper she visited him in hospital on Saturday evening, but due to the seriousness of his illness, he was unable to give her instructions on how to handle his case. Coetzee said Selebi was “really, very, very critical”.

Asset Forfeiture Unit head Willie Hofmeyr told SABC radio news that bribe money paid to Selebi amounted to about R165 000. “We’ve already obtained a confiscation order. We are waiting for the finalisation of the appeals and then that money will be payable … Our law entitles us to adjust those to inflation so the total order we obtained [was] for about R230 000,” Hofmeyr told the broadcaster.

Selebi also needs to pay back his legal costs to the state. According to Business Day, that amount is estimated to be between R15 million and R17 million.

Selebi trained as a teacher, at the time a prestigious profession and one of the few open to black South Africans. He taught at Orlando West High School where his flamboyant dress earned him the nickname “Styles”. He was sacked in 1975 for political activity. He then became regional director of the African National Congress-aligned South African Students Association. He was active during and after the June 16 risings in Soweto, making and distributing pamphlets, recruiting, setting up cells and helping fugitives from the Security Police. He was arrested in October 1977 and detained at Modderbee prison. He left SA in 1979 and underwent military training in the Soviet Union (Moscow), Tanzania and Angola. In Angola, he headed the ANC Youth Sector. In 1983 he began a four year stint as ANC representative at the World Federation of Democratic Youth in Budapest, Hungary. Afterwards, aged 36, he was elected to the ANC’s national executive council (NEC). He was its youngest member.

He returned home with the unbanning of the ANC and with Peter Mokaba re-established the ANC Youth League. He next directed the repatriation of exiles and in 1992 succeeded Winnie Mandela, as she then was, as head of the ANC’s Social Welfare Department. In 1994, Selebi became a Member of Parliament, but the next year he was appointed SA’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where he played a role in the adoption of the anti-personnel landmine treaty. He also headed the UN Commission on Human Rights. In 1998 he was promoted director general of foreign affairs. In 1999 he was moved to the police (effective 2000). He was suspended and arrested in early 2008.