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
12 May 2008

Spurious case against Vusi Pikoli?

The more I find out about the suspension of Vusi Pikoli, the more it seems as if the case presented to the Ginwala Commission is nothing more than an ex post facto fabrication to cover up the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the Minister and the President. Nothing shows this more clearly than the fact that the President has consistently lied to the nation about Jackie Selebi.

Shortly after losing the ANC Presidency at Polokwane in December last year, President Thabo Mbeki told reporters that he could not suspend National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi because he knew nothing of any wrongdoing on the latters part.

“I have said this before, many times, that if there was anybody who has information that shows that National Commissioner Selebi has done wrong things, I would act on it. Nobody came to me,” Mbeki said.

Sadly, he was lying through his teeth. This is very clear if one peruses a letter which the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, had sent to President Mbeki on 7 May 2007 – almost eight months previously – to inform the President of serious allegations that incriminated the Police Commissioner in bribery and corruption. The letter also stated that Pikoli intended to seek a search warrant to obtain information germain to the investigation against Selebi.

This letter – now available on the Internet – sets out in detail the train of events that led the NPA to investigate Selebi including the following rather incriminating facts:

  • When Jackie Slebi became aware that Glen Agliotti’s cell number appeared in the files of investigators into the murder of Brett Kebble, he phone Mr Agliotti in the presence of the investigators to warn him about this;

  • Phone records show many suspecious calls between Jackie Selebi and persons connected to Brett Kebble’s murder before, on the night and after the murder;

  • Glen Agliotti – who was suspected of drug smuggling and murder and has now plea bargained and confessed to the former – kept a diary which contains many references to meetings with one “Jackie”, referring to the Police Commissioner, and that he had phoned the police Commissioner more than 50 times;

  • Sources alleged that Selebi met with the three suspects in the Kebble murder case on several occasions to discuss progress (or lack thereof) with them;

  • Mr Agliotti – fearing for his life after his arrest for the murder of Brett Kebble – had offered to make a statement to the effect that he had had a generally corrupt relationship with Jackie Selebi for which Mr Selebi had received about R1 million;

  • That Mr Selebi was officially under investigation by the Scorpions in terms of section 28(1) of the NPA Act.

The President therefore knew by May 2007 about the extremely serious allegations against the Police Commissioner yet he claimed several times that no one had brought any information in this regard to him. He then suspended Pikoli four days after a warrant of arrest was issued for Selebi and his Minister is now trying to argue that he was merely acting in the national interest to protect national security.

But the NPA Act does not allow the President to suspend or fire the NPA boss except for misconduct, incapacity, or if he is not a fit and proper person anymore. The latter is a legal turn of phrase which denotes integrity and character. If Pikoli had obeyed the illegal and unconstitutional instruction by Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla to stop his arrest of Selebi, he would have acted in a way that would have allowed for his suspension.

By refusing to do so, he showed exactly that he was indeed a fit and proper person and that he would rather obey the law and the Constitution than the Minsiter and the President.

When the President says in his letter to Minister Mabandla that he had constitutional duties regarding the National Commissioner of Police, he is merely stating the obvious, namely that he can appoint and also suspend the Police Commissioner. He himnself cannot decide whether the commissioner should be arrested or not. His letter seems to wrongly suggest that because the NPA prosecutes people on behalf of the state “represented by our duly elected government”, this government can interfere in decisions about prosecution – which it decidedly cannot do without facing the option of a 10 year prison sentence.

Unless dramatic evidence surface to show that Pikoli is involved in nefarious activities of his own or that he refused to provide the Minister with sufficient information about his actions, there is no way that the Ginwala Commission can make a recommendation that he should be fired.

So far the persons that seems to be candidates to be fired are not Pikoli but Mabandla and the President. I predict that when the history of this sorry saga is written, it will go down as yet another nail in the coffin of any reputation that President Mbeki might have had. First there was Aids, then his vilification of the “ultra left”, then his use of the Safety and Security Minister to nix his political opponents (Phosa, Sexwale etc), and now his protection of a man who seems deeply involved with a drug dealer and murder suspect.

What did we ever do to deserve such a deceitful and corrupt man as President? Or did the President act in this way because he once again thought he knew better than the professionals what the real story was (like he did on HIV/AIDS). No wonder a Jacob Zuma Presidency – based on collective leadership and acknowledgment of fallibility – looks a better option every day.

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