ANC Youth League head in exile, Member of the African National Congress, Member of Parliament, Director-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Police Commissioner and President of Interpol
Jacob (Jackie) Sello Selebi was born on 7 March 1950 in Johannesburg. Selebi was the African National Congress (ANC) representative to the Soviet Union's World Federation of Democratic Youth in Budapest, Hungary, from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, he was elected as leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) while in exile in Zambia. In the same year, he was appointed to the National Executive Committee of the ANC.
In 1991, he was responsible for the repatriation of ANC exiles back to South Africa. After returning from exile, Selebi was one of the ANC’s acclaimed civil servants.
In 1993, he was appointed the head of the ANC’s Department of Welfare. After South Africa’s first democratic elections, in 1994, Selebi became an ANC Member of Parliament. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed South Africa’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, a post that saw him chair two key UN sessions, the 54th session of the Human Rights Commission and the Oslo Diplomatic Conference on a Convention Banning Anti-Personnel Landmines. From 1995 to 1998, Selebi served as the South African Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
In 1998, Selebi was appointed Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, a post he held until 1999. He had a distinguished career as a diplomat. In addition, in 1998, Selebi received a Human Rights Award from the International Service for Human Rights.
Former president Thabo Mbeki appointed him as the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service on 1 January 2000 as successor to the then National Police Commissioner, George Fivaz, whose term of office expired at the end of January 2000.
Selebi was elected Vice - President of Interpol (African region) in 2002, as post he held until 2004 and was elected INTERPOL President from 2004 and served until 12 January 2008.
On 10 September 2007, the National Prosecuting Authority issued a warrant of arrest for Selebi for corruption, fraud, racketeering and defeating the ends of justice.
In 2007, Selebi was strongly criticised for responding to concerns within the country over South Africa's rising crime rate with the comment "What's all the fuss about crime?" In March of the same year, Selebi was also criticised for his suggestion to legalise prostitution and public drinking for the duration of the 2010 Soccer World Cup to be hosted in South Africa. Opposition political parties and Doctors for Life International (a non-governmental organisation) expressed dismay at Selebi's recommendation and called on Parliament not to legalise prostitution or public drinking.
Following this, on 12 January 2008, then President Mbeki effectively suspended Selebi via an "extended leave of absence," and appointed Timothy Charles Williams as acting National Commissioner of Police. In January 2008, Selebi was put on extended leave as National Police Commissioner, and resigned as President of Interpol, after he was charged with corruption in South Africa.
After several postponements, Selebi’s trial began in earnest on 8 April 2010; nearly two years after the charges were first laid.
Selebi admitted to a friendship with convicted drug smuggler, Glenn Agliotti, who was a suspect in the murder of mining magnate, Brett Kebble, and was involved in a large drug deal and organised crime. Despite being head of police at the time, Selebi claimed that he was not aware that his friend was involved with crime.
During the trial, Agliotti told the court that he had paid Selebi over R1.2 million in bribes since 2000. He maintained that he had first met Selebi in 1990, when he (Selebi) asked for money to pay for medical bills. Agliotti further testified that he and Selebi would go shopping together and all Selebi’s purchases would be charged to Agliotti's account.
Selebi was found guilty of corruption on 2 July 2010, but not guilty of further charges of perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on 3 August 2010.
On 2 December 2011, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) unanimously overturned his appeal, against his sentence, o and ordered that he begin his 15-year jail sentence immediately. Judge Joffe found that Selebi had shown "complete contempt for the truth", including falsely accusing a witness of lying during the trial. The Judge added that Selebi had a low moral fibre and could not be relied upon.
Read the full Selebi SCA Judgement here
Jacob Sello (Jackie) Selebi died on 23 January 2015 at the age of 64.
• Basson A. (2010) Finish & Klaar: Selebi’s Fall from Interpol to the Underworld https://www.tafelberg.com/Books/10708. Accessed on 5 December 2011
• Blurb Wire (date unknown). Jackie Selebi: Biography. www.blurbwire.com online. Accessed on 5 December 2011
• Pietersen M. (2011) The rise and fall of Jackie Selebi from the Cape Times online. Available at www.iol.co.za . Accessed on 6 December 2011
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