Former Commissioner of the South African Police Service, Jackie Selebi, has died after battling a long illness. He died on Friday at the Jakaranda Hospital in Pretoria at the age of 64.
Jackie (whose full name is Jacob Sello Selebi) was born on March 7, 1950 in the sprawling township of Soweto. He was educated at various schools around South Africa and attained his Bachelor’s degree from the University of the North, which is now the University of Limpopo. He became a member of the ruling African National Congress at a young age and rose through the ranks to become the leader of the ANC Youth League. Due the problems of apartheid at the time, Mr. Selebi went into exile and lived and worked in Tanzania and the then Soviet Union for some time. He is reported to have taught history at the ANC-run Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Morogoro in Tanzania in the 1980s.
In 1991, when President F.W. de Klerk ushered in the end of the apartheid era, Selebi was tasked by the ANC of the safe repatriation of its exiles. With the advent of the 1994 elections, Jacob Selebi was elected a member of parliament. He was, in 1995, appointed the South African Ambassador to the United Nations and, in that capacity, he was appointed chairman of the 1997 diplomatic conference that came up with the first international treaty, which outlawed the use of antipersonnel land mines.
Following this illustrious career, coupled with other achievements and appointments, Selebi’s fall from grace may easily be traced back to his appointment by the then President of a South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, back in the early 2000s as the first black Commissioner of Police. Soon after his appointment, which was in itself without controversy, he made headlines for the wrong reasons when he called a female police sergeant a chimpanzee. Later on, in 2007, he was widely criticized after calling for the legalization of both public drinking and prostitution during the World Cup, which was due to be held in South Africa in 2010.
If Selebi was not well known at this stage, his arrest and subsequent trial in 2009 ensured that many that had not heard about him learnt who he was. Selebi was accused of corruption in that he accepted huge sums of cash from a self confessed drug kingpin, Glen Agliotti in exchange for information on police investigations. During the trial, he denied any wrongdoing and argued rather that he had been using Mr Agliotti as a police informant. After an eight month trial, he was convicted in July 2010 and despite his appeal, the verdict was upheld by an appeals court the next year. He started serving his sentence a year later but was released just under eight months later due to what doctors called end-stage kidney failure. This led to his parole in 2012 and relocation to his home in Waterkloof, Pretoria, which is where he was living until the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Anne and two children.