Jackie Selebi: Anti-apartheid activist who became South Africa's Police Commissioner but ended his career in disgrace

The  former schoolteacher was twice detained for anti-apartheid activism, going into exile in Tanzania and later the Soviet Union

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The legacy of the former anti-apartheid activist and South African MP, Jackie Selebi, may be overshadowed by his disgrace as national Police Commissioner. Also president of Interpol from 2004 to 2008, he was convicted of corruption in 2010, accused of accepting bribes from a drug smuggler in exchange for tip-offs into police investigations.

During his sentencing, Judge Meyer Joffe described Selebi as "an embarrassment" and quoted the former commissioner's own words to him, in which he promised to "fight crime with clean hands." Selebi, a senior member of the ruling ANC, maintained his innocence; the judge dismissed his argument that he was targeted by political enemies.

After losing an appeal Selebi was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was paroled on medical grounds after eight months. Opposition leaders and civil society groups criticised his early release.

Selebi, a former schoolteacher, was twice detained for his anti-apartheid activism. He went into exile in Tanzania and later the Soviet Union, where he underwent military training. The government said it would remember Selebi for his "selfless contribution to the liberation struggle"; the ANC described him as a "giant". The South African Police Union said that while he had left the police "under a dark cloud", he was commended for his leadership.

After apartheid ended in 1994 he served in parliament and later as an envoy to the United Nations in Geneva and as the chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission. He died in hospital, having suffered from diabetes and kidney failure.

Jacob Sello Selebi, campaigner and politician: born Johannesburg 7 March 1950; married (two children); died Pretoria 23 January 2015.