Opinionista Lebo Keswa 11 February 2015

Selebi: The ANC eats its own children, chapter [xx]

The ANC has done a painfully transparent and hypocritical about-turn on the matter of Jackie Selebi. But it’s too little, too late. A man who made a great contribution already spent his last years, alone and ill, in jail.

Now that Jackie Selebi is dead, it is somewhat ironic that his funeral has been paid for by the ruling party and his heroic deeds as former leader of the Youth League – and many other accolades – are being spouted forth from the mouths of ANC leaders.

It leaves one especially cynical because this was the same fellow who was thrown to the wolves, left to wait for death, and not a good word was spared for him until now. And now – of all times – the necessary questions are being asked about whether he was truly guilty.

It is hard to believe that someone of Selebi’s calibre did what he did, in his position as Police Commissioner, without some political cover. Ah, but there’s that cynicism again – could it be that his political cover was that of Thabo Mbeki, who soon lost power, and therefore his capacity to provide protection?

Could it be that we are back to square one; that position where people are victims of factional fights within the ANC?

Could it really be that upon taking over, President Jacob Zuma had not a jot of concern for protecting Selebi, regardless of his guilt or innocence, because he was close to Mbeki? Was Selebi possibly even innocent?

These are the deep questions that are beginning to ring, ever more loudly, in our ears, as the criminal label looms large over Selebi’s legacy. But death, in its own way, also brings cover. So what are the facts?

Firstly, whatever Selebi did could easily have been covered up by the ANC. After all, he was accused of stealing a couple of hundred rands. His counterparts deal with untold sums of taxpayers’ money each day, with millions (billions?) reportedly being stolen, especially by municipalities. The ANC, when it is convicted and has to defend one of its own, typically does not waste time in doing so. If it was able to turn a blind eye to the 700-odd charges facing President Jacob Zuma in his time, it could surely have wiped the slate clean when it came to one of its most solid sons, Selebi.

The ANC, in its highest decision-making body, declared the Zuma matter a political problem and applied a political solution – much to the chagrin of opposition parties, who had used Zuma’s Achilles heel as their political trump card. It was clear from the ANC’s blasé stance that they would stop at nothing to defend their man.

This defence of the indefensible is not an event per se; more of a process or flavour. But as the Pringles ad reminds us, once you pop you can’t stop – and the ANC continues in the same vein to this day. (Nkandla, anyone?) They couldn’t cover up for Selebi over half a million; how does this explain Zuma’s R260 million? It is clear that Selebi’s sin was not corruption, but his failure to be a Zuma loyalist.

It is shocking that it did not seem to matter that charging an Interpol boss would damage the country’s reputation, and that defending Selebi in this instance would have equalled defending whatever reputation the country had left, things being as they are, with our growing name as a murder, corruption and crime capital. No, batting for the wrong political team was far more important!

This is why it is so ironic to see the National Executive Committee, which sat by as he was sent to the gallows, solemnly flanking his flag-adorned casket in Pretoria last week. Have they no shame?

Do not misunderstand me – I know that much can be written about Selebi as a fallen hero. Even the Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein has weighed in on the Selebi debate, berating the ANC for honouring Selebi this week. Examining the matter more closely, however, Goldstein should really reserve his criticism for the faction of the ANC that could not be bothered to show humanity to Selebi in his darkest days.

I am not a moral expert. But surely, surely there is something to be said for showing compassion, when the shadow of death visits us, waiting in the wings.

In the Chief Rabbi’s missive, he suggests that the ANC instead pay for the funerals of those murdered in our crime-riddled country – deaths caused, he writes, by poor leadership from the likes of Selebi. The ANC, according to him, openly and brazenly condones corruption and crime.

I would not go as far as to say this. In the cases of some, there has been precious little retribution, yes. But in the case of Selebi, he was left to rot in jail.

Saying farewell and acknowledging his contribution is a part of history that cannot be erased by the sad end to his life. Now that the political games are moot, I am watching keenly, and waiting for the facts to emerge. And I am willing to bet that Selebi was innocent; the victim of a political game.

Mark my words, it will not be surprising if it comes to light that Selebi was not, in fact, involved in criminal activities; that intelligence services set him up, knowing full well that his interaction with Agliotti was innocent; that the deal with Agliotti was sanctioned at the highest levels (let’s face it, when you have an intelligence service crippled by factionalism, nothing should surprise you); and that the ANC top brass knew all of this – but were too distracted by the Mbeki/Zuma bunfight to do the right thing; the medical parole plan was structured a long time ago, and was an instruction from a faction of the ANC that felt guilty about not quashing the case ‘Zuma style’.

Many of the ANC top brass who were waxing lyrical about him after his death never bothered to visit him in hospital. Some never even called the family when it mattered. But publicity comes so easily when it looks good.

Sadly, the Selebi matter has only served to make the ANC look more hypocritical than ever, and brought the party further into disrepute – calling now, of all times, for a so-called investigation. It is far too little, far too late. The man is dead.

Hypocrisy takes the strangest – and yet most predictable – of forms. And the ANC eats yet another of its children. DM


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