Police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi has been granted an extended leave of absence, President Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday.
Speaking at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Mbeki said Selebi had requested the leave himself.
”I must say that he himself was of the view that it should happen, so that whatever might happen in the courts about him he ought not to be sitting at police headquarters,” Mbeki said.
This follows Friday’s revelations by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that it was ready to charge Selebi with corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
Mbeki has appointed Timothy Charles Williams, Deputy National Commissioner responsible for Crime Intelligence and Detection, as the acting police National Commissioner.
Mbeki said he held a meeting with the top brass of the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Saturday morning, stressing that police officers should continue their work.
”It was important that police should continue with its work as normal,” Mbeki said.
He also gave the assurance that the police would assist the NPA with any request they make in their investigation of Selebi.
”[They must] do whatever is necessary to ensure that indeed the investigation takes its course without hindrance,” Mbeki said.
Interpol mum on charges
Meanwhile, Interpol would not comment on the pending criminal charges against
Selebi, who is president of the organisation, but would meet with its executive committee in February to discuss the matter, its website said on Saturday.
Interpol said that while it is inappropriate for it to comment on the ongoing investigation, ”it should be stated that president Selebi has significantly helped the organisation and its member countries to enhance security and police cooperation worldwide”.
ID: Selebi should have resigned
Selebi should have gone one step further and possibly resigned after allegations of criminal activity surfaced two years ago, the Independent Democrats (ID) said on
ID deputy leader Simon Grindrod said: ”His position was untenable and possibly he should have gone one step further and resigned completely.”
Grindrod said Selebi’s continued role as the police boss was having a very serious impact on the critical function of the police and law and order.
”Clearly Selebi’s role as president of Interpol is damaging the reputation of our country given the continuing allegations against him,” said Grindrod.
The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) welcomed Selebi’s leave, saying allegations against Selebi had seriously harmed South Africa, especially its international image.
”Mbeki’s judgement with regards to Selebi has failed him and attests of poor governance,” said FF+ spokesperson Pieter Groenewald.
Groenewald said the issue should be finalised as soon as possible so that relations between the police and the Scorpions — the NPA’s Directorate of Special Operations — can return to normal.
Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard said Selebi’s decision to voluntarily step down was overdue and a welcome announcement.
”The silence on the part of President Thabo Mbeki and the Minister of Safety and Security has been deafening but thankfully the president announced that he has accepted Selebi’s offer to vacate his office,” she said.
”The latest developments around Jackie Selebi have proven exactly why the Scorpions should never be incorporated with SAPS, where they would have been under the management of the same man they were investigating,” she said. – Sapa