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Editorial: Exploiting Selebi’s death

What should one make of the claim, five years after he was jailed for corruption, that the late Jackie Selebi was the victim of a conspiracy-driven miscarriage of justice? In the interest of our constitutional guarantees of a fair trial and justice, we expect a court of law to review a case based on new, credible evidence. In this case, however, the new allegations are far-fetched – as any inspection of the facts will show.

The claims, made by former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego, resonated with the pro-Selebi chorus at his funeral. Without a shred of evidence, and in the teeth of both high court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) rulings, the ANC’s Jessie Duarte also declared the former national police commissioner a victimised innocent.

Behind Mphego’s allegation lies a healthy dose of opportunistic self-justification. Now out of state service, he was suspected of leaking the “spy tapes” used to scotch Jacob Zuma’s graft case. He was also charged with defeating the ends of justice to favour Selebi, although the charges were later dropped.

Mphego told the Sunday Independent that, far from having a corrupt relationship with Glenn Agliotti, Selebi was spying on the alleged drug dealer in a mission sanctioned by the national intelligence co-ordinating committee (Nicoc). He could not testify to this at Selebi’s trial because his evidence was “suppressed”, presumably by anti-Selebi plotters.

Could he please explain why Selebi himself did not mention this rather important fact in his defence? Why did his lawyers not call Mphego or intelligence committee officials to testify, or subpoena this evidence, which would have obliterated the state’s case? Why not raise it at the SCA, which unanimously rejected Selebi’s appeal?

Ex-Nicoc chair Barry Gilder testified at the trial; there is no sign in the judge’s findings that he said anything to corroborate Mphego’s story. And, in Selebi’s own pre-trial challenge to the case, where he cast himself as a casualty of infighting between the Scorpions and the police, the intelligence committee does not feature.

It was announced at the weekend that the long-delayed inquiry into National Prosecuting Authority boss Mxolisi Nxasana’s fitness to hold office will proceed. At the same time, acting Hawks chief Berning Ntlemeza has reportedly requested the dockets of NPA officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, perceived Zuma allies and under investigation for perjury.

Is it too conspiratorial to see in all this a wider assault on the NPA? All the signs are that Zuma’s circle is on a destructive rampage aimed at bringing key institutions – including the Hawks and the revenue service – to heel.

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