You got it wrong, Mr Selebi

The Mail & Guardian has strongly objected to allegations made about it in an affidavit by police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi supporting his court application to stop the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) from prosecuting him.

Selebi brought the application in his personal capacity. In his founding affidavit, he argues that the Scorpions’ case against him is nothing more than a scandalous plot. The Scorpions were fighting for their survival and had launched a media campaign against him in a bid to discredit him, he claims.

M&G editor Ferial Haffajee and reporters Nic Dawes, Stefaans Brümmer, Sam Sole and Adriaan Basson said on Friday afternoon that Selebi made a number of claims regarding the newspaper in his affidavit.

“These claims are untrue,” they said. “Most significantly, Commissioner Selebi claims: ‘I have received information that members of DSO [Directorate of Special Operations] even went on a so-called ‘bosberaad’ with members of the media, more in particular members from the Mail & Guardian, to discuss and structure this campaign against me.’”

The M&G said: “This is absolutely untrue and an allegation for which the commissioner provides not a shred of evidence. The allegations are deeply damaging to our credibility. We would expect the national commissioner to have a better understanding of the sanctity of a sworn statement.”

In fact, the M&G has not enjoyed a close relationship with the Scorpions or with the National Prosecuting Authority. On at least two occasions, representatives of both agencies have attempted to quash publication of allegations related to their investigation of Selebi.

“Once they visited our offices threatening to gag us through an interdict and on another occasion they approached the court for an interdict—in which they failed. This is hardly evidence of a joint and strategic campaign,” said the M&G.

In his affidavit, Selebi also claims: “When evaluating the reports in the media, in particular the Mail & Guardian, the only logic conclusion is that the media was provided with information from inside sources within the NPA and DSO.”

“This is a serious distortion. Since the second half of 2005, when the M&G started investigating the relationship between Selebi and Glenn Agliotti, the M&G has relied on a wide array of sources, on and off the record,” said the newspaper.

The M&G exposed the relationship between Selebi and Agliotti in the article “Selebi’s shady Kebble links” (May 26 2006). Since then the newspaper has tended to lead media coverage on the Selebi matter.

“Commissioner Selebi appears to misunderstand that in a democracy the media is duty-bound to expose serious allegations of wrongdoing in high places. The public interest demands no less. He also appears to underestimate the resourcefulness of media like the M&G in getting access to information by means other than spoon-feeding,” the newspaper said.

Court delay

Selebi’s bid was only to be heard in the Pretoria High Court after 3pm on Friday, later than expected. The reason for the delay was that his team needed time to file an answering affidavit in response to a lengthy affidavit handed in earlier by the respondents—the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, the DSO and the minister of justice and constitutional development.

Earlier, Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe ordered that if Selebi’s application against the NPA went ahead, it should be decided by a full bench of the Pretoria High Court. However Judge Nico Coetzee would first have to determine whether the case was urgent. If he found the case should proceed urgently, it would be heard by three judges.

“I will make a ruling on that today,” Coetzee told the legal teams of Selebi and that of the respondents—who are opposing the application.

Coetzee in the morning adjourned the case until 2pm on Friday to give the respondents’ legal team, headed by advocate Matthew Chaskalson, a chance to file a responding affidavit to Selebi’s founding affidavit.

Selebi’s legal team, headed by advocate Jaap Cilliers, SC, will then file an answering affidavit before court resumes.

An arrest warrant against Selebi was cancelled in September. It was obtained by Gauteng Scorpions chief Gerrie Nel—who heads the investigation against Selebi—from the Randburg chief magistrate for Selebi’s arrest for alleged corruption, fraud, racketeering and defeating the ends of justice.

Selebi’s step follows this week’s arrest, by police, of Nel, whose hearing was postponed to Monday.

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