Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
2 July 2010

Selebi conviction leaves many questions unanswered

The conviction this morning of former Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, on charges of corruption leaves many questions unanswered. Judge Meyer Joffe found that Selebi had received substantial amounts of money from gangster Glen Agliotti and then did favors for Agliotti, including showing him a top secret document which contained substantial sections of the the national intelligence estmate. Joffe also found that Selebi had been a very bad witness who fabricated evidence and lied to the court.

Not that Agliotti was a much better witness, but in as much of his testimony was corroborated by other witnesses, the court found that he had to be believed and not Selebi.

The conviction must place a question mark over the actions of former President Thabo Mbeki, who appointed Selebi, at first took steps aimed at protecting Selebi and claimed that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Selebi even after Mbeki was briefed by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) about the evidence against the former top cop.

Why was Mbeki so adamant that Selebi should not be arrested? Why did Mbeki ask us to trust him on Selebi and why did he maintain – in the face of overwhelming evidence provided to him –  that there was no evidence to suggest that Selebi was a crook? Why did he appoint this guy in the first place? Does it not show- at the very least –  a spectacular lack of judgment on the part of our former President?

One should also ask if Selebi would ever have been investigated and prosecuted by the Police and whether he might not have still been our Police Commissioner had it not been for the Scorpions. If the now defunct Scorpions had not taken on the case, the chances are that we would never have known that Selebi was a crook. The conviction of Selebi thus underlines the sheer folly of the decision to abolish the Scorpions.

During Selebi’s trial it emerged that several members of the Police Service tried to assist Selebi to prevent him from ever facing charges of corruption. The prosecutor was arrested and acting crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego intervened to secure testimony from Agliotti to weaken the case against Selebi. But it is not entirely clear to what extent the Police tried to protect a now convicted crook from prosecution.

Meanwhile Menzi Simelane has dropped all charges against Mphego relating to the Selebi case. Why was this done? Who is being protected? Can one trust Simelane to have dropped the charges purely for legally sound reasons? The conviction of Selebi suggest that the decision to drop all charges against Mphego was at best dubious.

For the conspiracy theorists, or even for those merely skeptical of the integrity of the Police, questions must now also be posed about the role of Selebi and other members of the police in the investigation into the murder of Brett Kebble. Selebi was called from the scene of the crime and it is alleged that he allowed Kebble’s car to be removed from the crime scene before the police could gather the required forensic evidence. Was Selebi protecting anyone when he allegedly did this?

At Kebble’s funeral then President Mbeki’s side kick and enforcer, Essop Pahad, bizarrely said that “what Brett said to any of us in private should remain private”. It is well-known that Kebble bankrolled the ANC and questions will inevitably be raised about the link between Selebi, Kebble, Mbeki and the financial dealings of the ANC and some of its members. Whether Selebi and others are hiding anything is, of course, unclear.

Lastly, the conviction underlines the fact that the relevant piece of legislation on corruption – passed by the ANC dominated Parliament – is excellent. Where a political will exists to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals, whether they are politicians, state officials or private businesspeople, the legislation will provide sufficient legal backup to secure convictions. In that sense, the prosecution and conviction of Selebi is remarkable: I suspect in most countries in the world the top cop would never have been investigated and convicted of corruption – no matter how crooked he might have been.

The question does arise though, whether there is sufficient political will on the part of the Zuma administration to ensure that this act will be utilized properly to help stamp out corruption in both the public and the private sector. Given the fact that President Zuma himself only escaped prosecution for corruption through the shenanigans of the NPA, this is sadly far from clear.

Political will is key to fighting corruption. If we see more high profile cases of private and public corruption brought to court, we will know the Zuma administration is serious about stamping out corruption. If we do not, we will know that it is rotten to the core.

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