26 March 2023 | 01:51 PM

Selebi hits at Scorpions

Key Takeaways

Someone attending Jackie Selebi’s corruption trial for the first time on Thursday might have thought Selebi was the prosecutor in the case.

Apart from flatly denying that he ever received money or gifts from drug-dealer Glenn Agliotti, Selebi spent most of his first day on the witness stand accusing the Scorpions, former OR Tambo airport security boss Paul O’Sullivan, the Mail & Guardian and others of conspiring to put him in prison.The strategy did not seem to impress Judge Meyer Joffe, who had one of his quieter days on the Bench.

A visibly annoyed Selebi looked uncomfortable in the witness box at the beginning of his evidence in chief, but relaxed as the day went on. Eventually, he started taking control of proceedings, often leaving his advocate, Jaap Cilliers SC, bemused and amused.

Cilliers began by giving Selebi the opportunity to express his disgust that people had accused him of taking money in exchange for favours.

Visibly agitated, he turned down Joffe’s suggestion that he sit down in the dock, saying: “I stood for a long time in my life.”

Asked about his relationship with Agliotti, Selebi said he was introduced to the gangster when he [Selebi] had to arrange for the return of ANC members from exile. Agliotti made a “fantastic” proposal that they import second-hand Japanese clothes and distribute them among the exiles.

As soon as he mentioned “money”, almost as a swear word, Selebi ­passionately explained to Joffe why the case had caused him so much “pain”.

“Money has never been at the centre of my life. I don’t know money. I lived all my live in exile without a salary, without knowing there’s a bank to get interest. I don’t know those things.”

He added: “I’ve never asked anyone for money for myself, my family, including from Glenn Agliotti. I’ve never done that. I do not own shares in a company, none of my family owns shares. I don’t have any directorships or anything that has to do with money.

“My money comes on the 31st of every month through my salary. I receive nothing else.”

Cilliers didn’t ask Selebi to explain his irregular spending patterns during the time he was allegedly bribed by Agliotti, but the accused did not give his counsel much time to ask questions.

Asked again about his alleged corruption, Selebi spoke like a politician, looking at the prosecution with disgust: “I would never sell my soul for money, neither the country. I wasn’t just the police commissioner because I was looking for a job. I was commissioner of police because I had a bigger idea — the success of the country. It was not about money. I have never ever received money in order to act in this way in my life.”

Selebi then turned his fire on the Scorpions, saying he always believed that their creation was a bad idea, as they had no clear mandate and illegally gathered intelligence.

“You take 300 young people from university, you take them to the US to be trained by the FBI. How many of the 300 come back as double agents? You send them to the UK. How many come back as MI6?” Selebi asked.

In a multipronged attack foreshadowing one of the central planks of his defence, he accused the Scorpions of:

  • Employing Nick Rowell, the son of the “former MI5 boss”, as head of their intelligence unit;
  • Telling the US that South African police had arrested a Tanzanian national for alleged al-Qaeda- related bombings and allowing the Americans to fly the man back to Washington DC;
  • Using information peddlers in compiling the notorious Browse Mole report;
  • Covering up for a Scorpions member who was caught spying for a foreign nation;
  • Buying clothes worth R182000 and a computer for a state witness;
  • Planning to prosecute former president Thabo Mbeki, other senior ANC politicians and apartheid security operators for crimes for which they had not received amnesty;
  • Using former apartheid agents to raid Jacob Zuma’s properties; and
  • Running an irregular “C-Fund” to pay “nonexisting informants and sources”

Selebi admitted to assisting Agliotti when he called for help, but said “that was my job”.

The case continues.

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Aisha Abdool Karim

Aisha is a freelance science and health reporter. She is joining the amaB team to work on a project about water and sanitation. Aisha’s passion for long-form narrative and investigative journalism was sparked while doing her master’s degree at Columbia University in New York. After graduating in 2018, she returned to South Africa and began working as a general beat reporter for the Daily Maverick. Aisha joined the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism in 2020 to focus on science reporting. During her time there, she covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively — from fact-checking harmful medical misinformation to unpacking the science behind vaccine development. Aisha’s special interests include analysing health systems and in-depth coverage of public health issues and infectious diseases. She also loves spreadsheets and digging through data.

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