Selebi 'not gravely ill'
Disgraced former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi walked around his hospital ward for six months with great ease and climbed off his bed into a wheelchair unassisted when released on Saturday.
Amid a mounting public outcry over Selebi's sudden release on medical parole at the weekend, The Times can reveal that the former top cop took daily walks to "stretch his legs" while at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in Pretoria, to which he was admitted in February.
He has been receiving treatment for diabetes and kidney failure.
In announcing Selebi's release on medical parole, Minister of Correctional Services Sbu Ndebele on Friday described the former Interpol head's illness as "irreversible".
The Medical Advisory Parole Board released him after he had served only 229 days of the 15-year sentence handed down in 2010 when he was convicted of corruption.
A hospital staff member yesterday said Selebi did look sick but was "not gravely ill" and that he walked about his ward every morning, "probably to stretch his legs".
His release has sparked questions about whether, because of his political connections, Selebi received preferential treatment - not only in terms of his parole but also with regard to his treatment at the public hospital - at which 82 patients were on the waiting list for kidney dialysis in March.
A day after Ndebele's announcement, Selebi was whisked from the hospital by his family.
"The porter pushed the wheelchair close to his bed and he climbed off the bed into the wheelchair without any assistance," the staff member said.
He said nurses had told about five prison warders that Selebi was going to spend a weekend at home but would be back at the hospital today for further treatment.
According to hospital staff, Selebi was taken from his nephrology ward on a wheelchair by a porter into a waiting family car and taken home for the weekend.
He was fetched by his wife, Anne, who was accompanied by an unidentified woman, and a driver, just before 2pm.
The hospital's CEO, Dr Ernest Kenoshi, yesterday said it was up to a physician to decide whether a patient was well enough to go home for a weekend.
"What I know is that he [Selebi] has not been fully discharged because I would have known."
The Sunday Independent yesterday quoted Dr Victor Ramathesele, chairman of the Medical Advisory Parole Board, as saying Selebi suffered from end-stage renal disease as a complication of diabetes mellitus, and "many other complications".
Ramathesele was quoted as saying that Selebi received peritoneal dialysis about three times a day.
It is not known how Selebi received his dialysis treatment at the weekend.
James Smalberger, Correctional Services deputy chief commissioner, defended Selebi's release, saying medical parole did not mean he should die in hospital.
"He qualified in terms of his medical condition in hospital and was released [on medical parole] and that does not mean he will be in hospital up until his last day," he said.
Smalberger said that one of Selebi's medical parole conditions was that he would have two hours of free time every weekday to allow him to "for instance, go to a corner shop to buy a newspaper, and six hours free time a day on weekends to allow him to go and buy groceries, and go to church, if his medical condition allows".
In addition, Selebi would be paid surprise weekly visits by Correctional Services officials. He will be subjected to random blood and alcohol tests, and cannot leave themagisterial district of Pretoria without permission.
In July 2010, Selebi was convicted of corruption for accepting money and gifts from convicted drug trafficker Glenn Agliotti. He was sentenced to 15 years.
He collapsed at his home in Waterkloof, Pretoria, in December last year after the Supreme Court of Appeal turned down his appeal application.. He has since spent most of his prison time in hospital.
Correctional Services has denied that Selebi was favoured. Koos Gerber, the department's acting deputy commissioner for communications, said his parole application was one of the first 12 received since the Correctional Services Amendment Act came into effect in March. He said the department did not have a database of prisoners who qualified for medical parole.
But the office of ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga estimates that, of 140 000 prisoners,298 could be considered for medical parole.
Motshekga's spokesman, Moloto Mothapo, said Selebi's release was in line with the constitution and that "to not release terminally ill prisoners would not only be a serious violation of the constitution but a morally repugnant abuse of human rights".