Following the Supreme Court of Appeal’s rejection of former Police Commissioner Bheki Cele’s appeal last week – I was reminded by Pierre De Vos in his Jackie Selebi finish and klaar analysis of a letter former President Thabo Mbeki wrote in August last year in response to a letter by Freedom Front-Plus’ Peter Groenewald when he asked him to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations (of corruption) against Selebi but refused.
Mbeki refused, saying in his response to Groenewald at the time that: “Up to now nobody within the state structures has informed me that there are any investigations affecting National Commissioner Selebi that are being conducted by anybody, including the DSO, (the Scorpions).” He said he was “certain that if there was such an investigation [against Selebi], or such an investigation was contemplated, I would have been informed accordingly. In this regard, I must emphasise that if any of our law enforcement or intelligence agencies felt that they had information that justified such an investigation, I would encourage them to do their work without let or hindrance, in keeping with their legal mandate”.
The former president said appointing a Judicial Commission of Inquiry “solely and exclusively on the basis of what in reality (to him, it seemed) amounts to nothing more than rumour and speculation”. He went on to speak of how “very wrong and absolutely absorbed” it would have been for him as a president to constitution such an inquiry “on this [rumour and speculation] basis”.
Groenewald had also asked in his letter to Mbeki that Selebi vacate his positions as Commissioner of Police and Head of Interpol until such an investigation had been finalized. He said not only was the former police commissioner an embarrassment to South Africa but that the he was also an embarrassment for the whole international Police community. “It can not be tolerated that the chief of the Police continue with his work under a cloud of allegations of his involvement with crime. The public and members of the SAPS can also not have any faith in the National Commissioner with these allegations levelled against him,” said Groenewald.
But Mbeki would not barge, claiming he had the “greatest confidence” in Selebi and was “certain that whatever the rumour mill is saying about him, he will continue to do his critically important work with the same diligence, dedication and selflessness he has shown ever since we appointed him as National Commissioner of the SAPS”. Said Mbeki in his letter to Groenewald at the time: “During the twelve years we have been in government we have seen a number of instances when rumour and speculation have been used to oblige our government to engage in fruitless activities that would only serve to give such rumours and speculation a longer lease of life. Consistently, we have refused to engage in such misguided activities”.
“Contrary to what you say in your letter”, Mbeki wrote to Groenewald, “I have no doubt that both the public and the members of the SAPS are both sensible and wise and thus would never stop trusting the National Commissioner simply because some unknown people decided to spread negative rumours about him”.
The former president said “If at some point the people responsible for peddling the allegations against the National Commissioner of Police to which you [Groenewald] refer in your letter provide me with credible information in this regard, I would take all necessary steps to ensure that the proper investigations are carried out”. Where credible information existed as Groenewald had claimed, Mbeki said, it would have been Selebi himself who would “be the first to insist that the necessary conditions should be created to facilitate any investigation against him, including his suspension, if necessary”.
As a result and as president of the country at the time – Mbeki said it would have been “entirely wrong and absurd” of him to take serious decision to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into corruption allegation against Selebi for which he has since been found guilty – a conviction which was further confirmed appropriate the by Supreme Court of Appeal last week.
And it is for this reason that I bet it is Groenewald who now “laughs the best”.