'Pikoli removed to protect SA, not Selebi': Mbeki
Former president Thabo Mbeki claims he suspended public prosecutions head Vusi Pikoli to protect the country, not embattled national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.
Mbeki suspended Pikoli in 2007 when he insisted on executing a warrant authorising search-and-seizure operations at police headquarters and at the home of Selebi. It was alleged that Selebi had a corrupt relationship with drugs dealer Glen Agliotti.
But the suspension was widely viewed then - and in some quarters still is - as a ploy to protect Selebi from prosecution.
In the latest in a series of "letters" Mbeki is writing that he says are meant to "clarify" the events of his presidency, Mbeki claims that his decision was intended solely to avert a "shooting war" between members of the Directorate of Special Operations (the Scorpions) and the police. He said that a clash would have presented "a very serious threat to national security".
Mbeki said he and director-general of the Presidency Frank Chikane failed to persuade Pikoli to hold back on pursuing Selebi.
Selebi was later tried and prosecuted - a fact Mbeki seized on as proof that his intervention eight years ago was not designed to hinder Pikoli's prosecution of Selebi.
Agliotti was convicted of drug dealing and later turned state witness in Selebi's corruption trial. Selebi was convicted of accepting bribes of R166000 from Agliotti in exchange for showing him top-secret police reports.
In 2010 Selebi was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, which was later commuted to medical parole. He died in January last year.
In his latest letter, Mbeki says that Pikoli's refusal to postpone "by just one more week the actions he intended to take against [Selebi and the police]" pushed him into suspend the prosecutions chief, unleashing an avalanche of criticism, including that the criminal justice system had been subverted to protect a corruption-accused police commissioner.
The National Prosecuting Authority and the Scorpions later "carried out their work without any hindrance and with no threat to national security. This included the arrest and prosecution of national commissioner Selebi".