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Wed Dec 07 20:13:11 SAST 2016

Little joy at fall of Selebi, the deeply flawed struggle hero

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2011-12-06 00:15:08.0

The Times Editorial: No one with a modicum of humanity would take pleasure at the unedifying sight of someone of pensionable age being carted off to prison from his hospital bed.

That was the fate of disgraced former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who collapsed and had to be hospitalised on Friday after learning that his appeal against his conviction and 15-year jail sentence for corruption had failed.

Yesterday, the 61-year-old, who should have been contemplating a peaceful retirement with his wife and grandchildren, was ferried to a prison hospital in Pretoria.

If he recovers, he is likely to be transferred to Pretoria Central prison, home to assorted criminals and assassins such as Clive Derby-Lewis and Eugene de Kock.

Selebi's fate is particularly tragic given his contribution to the liberation of South Africa. In exile, he was a leader of the ANC Youth League, earning the trust of senior ANC leaders. He rose through the ranks to become head of the ANC's department of welfare in 1993, an MP the following year, and then ambassador to the UN.

Later, Selebi was praised for his work as director-general of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

His appointment as national police commissioner was controversial - not least because of his lack of police experience - but he had the confidence and political support of then president Thabo Mbeki. He was appointed president of the international policing agency, Interpol, in 2004.

South Africans were appalled when details of the ''gifts'' Selebi had received from his ''friend'', druglord Glenn Agliotti, including cash and fine imported clothing, were revealed, but his allies in the ANC stood by him and he was only brought to trial for corruption after the ousting of Mbeki.

His marathon trial was deeply embarrassing to the country.

Very few countries tolerate a bent police chief and South Africa, happily, is no exception.

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