Jackie Selebi, South Africa’s first black national police commissioner, who in 2010 was convicted of taking bribes from a drug trafficker in a trial that drew immense international attention, died on Friday in a Pretoria hospital. He was 64.
His death was announced on the website of theAfrican National Congress, of which he had long been a ranking member. Mr. Selebi, who in 2012 was granted a medical parole less than a year into his 15-year prison term, was reported to have had diabetes and kidney disease.
One of the most prominent A.N.C. members to be convicted of corruption, Mr. Selebi had previously had a distinguished political career in both pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. His trial and its outcome were widely seen as a fall from grace, born of hubris and greed, of one of the country’s leading lights.
Mr. Selebi was appointed police commissioner in 2000 by Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president. He held the post until 2008, when, amid allegations of corruption, he was placed on extended leave of absence. He was also a former member of South Africa’s parliament, a former South African ambassador to the United Nations and a former president of Interpol.
Mr. Selebi went on trial in Johannesburg in the fall of 2009 on charges that he had accepted cash and gifts from his friend Glenn Agliotti, a confessed drug kingpin, in exchange for confidential information about police investigations.
Mr. Agliotti, who testified for the prosecution, told of having given Mr. Selebi more than $150,000 in cash over time, and of squiring him on all-expense-paid shopping trips for designer clothing, including Canali neckties and Louis Vuitton shoes.
Testifying in his own defense, Mr. Selebi denied any wrongdoing, saying that he had been using Mr. Agliotti as a police informant.
After an eight-month trial, Mr. Selebi was convicted in July 2010; an appeals court upheld the conviction the next year. He began serving his sentence in December 2011 but was paroled 229 days later, after doctors diagnosed end-stage kidney failure.
Jacob Sello Selebi was born on March 7, 1950, in Soweto, a former black township that is now part of Johannesburg. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the North, an institution for nonwhite students near Pietersburg. (It is now part of the University of Limpopo.)
Detained at least twice for anti-apartheid activities, Mr. Selebi spent periods of exile in Tanzania and the Soviet Union. During the 1980s he taught history at several schools, including the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College, an A.N.C.-run institution then in Morogoro, Tanzania.
He rose swiftly through the A.N.C. ranks, becoming the head of the organization’s Youth League in 1987; in 1991, after the government of President F. W. de Klerk began a gradual reversal of apartheid — the system was fully abolished in 1994 — Mr. Selebi was put in charge of repatriating A.N.C. exiles.
In 1993, he was named the director of the A.N.C.’s welfare department; the next year, with South Africa’s first democratic elections, he was voted into Parliament.
In 1995, Mr. Selebi became South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, a post he held until 1998. In that capacity, he served as chairman of the 1997 diplomatic conference in Oslo that drew up the first international treaty outlawing antipersonnel land mines, which so far has been signed by more than 160 nations. (Last year the United States, which has not signed the treaty, announced that it aspired to do so, though it set no firm date.)
Mr. Selebi was also the chairman of the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, held in Geneva in 1998. That year he became director general of what was then South Africa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2002, while serving as police commissioner, Mr. Selebi was named a vice president of Interpol, the international police organization. He became its president in 2004, the first African to hold the post, which he held until his resignation in 2008.
Even before his corruption trial, Mr. Selebi’s tenure as South Africa’s police commissioner was not without controversy. The appointment itself, which placed him in charge of the country’s 120,000-member national police service, incurred criticism, as Mr. Selebi had no background in law enforcement.
In 2000, shortly after his appointment, Mr. Selebi was publicly criticized for having called a black female police sergeant a chimpanzee. In 2007, he drew unfavorable notice worldwide when he suggested that public drinking and prostitution be legalized during the World Cup, held in South Africa in 2010.
Mr. Selebi’s trial proved to be a spectacle in South Africa and far beyond.
“So far, the trial has bordered on the grotesque,” The New York Timesreported in October 2009. “Both the accused and the witness seem in competition to outdo the other’s attire. Each day, the news media report on the fineness of their ensembles, the suits, the shirts and the ties.”
In a statement on its website on Friday that made no mention of Mr. Selebi’s criminal conviction, the A.N.C. called him “a giant and leader of our people.”
Mr. Selebi’s survivors include his wife, Anne, and two children.
After being paroled in 2012, Mr. Selebi returned to his home in Waterkloof, a Pretoria suburb, where his wife, a nurse, supervised the dialysis he was said to need several times daily.
The next year a South African newspaper reported that he was seenshopping unaided in a Pretoria store. Accusations that he was too healthy to have received parole spread throughout the news media.
Mr. Selebi denied going into the store but seemed otherwise unperturbed by the report.
“The only time it gets difficult is when you get people who give you an impression that they can’t wait for you to die,” he told City Press, a South African newspaper, shortly afterward. “They don’t say it, but from what they do, you get an impression that these people just can’t wait.”
Jacob (Jackie) Sello Selebi (7 March 1950 – 23 January 2015) was the former national commissioner of the South African Police Service and the President of African National Congress Youth League 1987-1991, and a former president of Interpol. In January 2008, Selebi was put on extended leave as national police commissioner, and resigned as president of Interpol, after he was charged with corruption in his native South Africa. He was replaced as national commissioner in July 2009 by Bheki Cele. Selebi was found guilty of corruption on 2 July 2010  and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on 3 August 2010. His appeal against his sentence was rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeal on 2 December 2011, after the court unanimously ruled against him. However, he was released on medical parole in July 2012.
Selebi was a representative of the Soviet Union's World Federation of Democratic Youth in Budapest, Hungary, from 1983 to 1987.
In 1987 he was elected head of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League while in exile in Zambia. In the same year, he was appointed to the National Executive Committee of the ANC. In 1991 he was made responsible for the repatriation of ANC exiles back into South Africa, and was appointed head of the Department of Welfare of the ANC in 1993. In 1994 he was elected as a Member of Parliament for the ANC.
From 1995 to 1998, Selebi served as the South African ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.
In 1998, he was appointed Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, a post he held until 1999.
In 1998, Selebi received a Human Rights Award from the International Service for Human Rights.
In 2000, he was made national commissioner of the South African Police Service, a post he held until 2009. During that time, he was elected vice-president of Interpol (African region) in 2002, as post he held until 2004.
In 2004, he was elected as president of Interpol, a post he held until 2008. During his time with Interpol, Selebi also served as Chair of the Anti-Landmine Conference, Oslo, Norway; Chair of Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster; and Chair - Human Rights Commission, United Nations, 54th Session.
He resigned both as National Police Commissioner and President of Interpol in 2008 when corruption charges were laid against him.
On 23 January 2015, after diagnoses of diabetes, kidney failure, and hypertension, Selebi died of a stroke, according to South African officials.
Response to crime rate
In 2007, Selebi was strongly criticised for responding to concern within the country over South Africa's rising crime rate with the comment "What's all the fuss about crime?"
On prostitution and drinking
In March of the same year, Selebi was also criticised for his suggestion to legalise prostitution and public drinking for the duration of the 2010 Soccer World Cup to be hosted in South Africa. Opposition political parties and Doctors For Life International expressed their dismay at Selebi's recommendation and called on parliament not to legalise prostitution or public drinking.
Friendship with drug lord
Selebi has admitted to a friendship with Glenn Agliotti, who was accused of murdering Brett Kebble. He also received a conviction and suspended sentence for his role in a multi-million Rand drug deal known as the 'Paparas' case. Despite being head of police at the time, Selebi claimed that he was oblivious that his friend was involved with crime.
Arrest on corruption charges
On 10 September 2007, the National Prosecuting Authority issued a warrant of arrest for Selebi for corruption, fraud, racketeering and defeating the ends of justice.
Then NPA head Vusi Pikoli was suspended for his pursuance of Selebi and his commitment to prosecuting the Police Chief.
On 12 January 2008, President Thabo Mbeki effectively suspended Selebi via an "extended leave of absence," and appointed Timothy Charles Williams as acting national commissioner of police.
On 13 January, Interpol announced that Selebi had resigned as president of the organisation to fight the corruption allegations.
Selebi made his first appearance in the Randburg Magistrate's Court on 1 February 2008 on charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice.
After several postponements, Selebi’s trial began in earnest on 8 April 2010, nearly two years after the charges were first laid.
Evidence in court
During the trial, convicted drugs smuggler, Glenn Agliotti told the court that he had paid Selebi over R1.2 million ($157,000; £98,000) in bribes since 2000.
Agliotti testified that he had handed over cash-stuffed envelopes and bought handbags for Selebi's wife.
Agliotti said he had first met Selebi in 1990, when he was the head of the ANC's Social Welfare department, responsible for the repatriation of expatriates back to South Africa.
"Initially I would pay from my own money. I would put it in an envelope. It was small amounts - 5,000 rand, 10,000 rand, Agliotti testified. Two later payments, Agliotti continued, were worth R120,000 and R200,000 respectively.
Agliotti further testified that he and Selebi would go shopping together at upmarket Johannesburg shopping centres where all purchases would be charged to Agliotti's account.
"When the accused and I met, I enjoyed shopping and so did he. Him being my friend, I would instruct shop attendants to put all the clothes on my account," Agliotti testified. "For the accused's wife's birthday, I wanted to buy her a Louis Vuitton handbag from Sandton... a red patent one [that] cost 10,000 rand. [The] accused's wife came with me," he said.
In further testimony, Agliotti said he had been a go-between for Selebi and mining tycoon, Brett Kebble, who wanted Selebi to stop an investigation into his company and have charges against his father Roger dropped.
Selebi was found guilty of corruption on 2 July 2010, but not guilty of further charges of defeating the ends of justice.
Judge Meyer Joffe dismissed the defence's argument and said prosecutors had proven that Selebi had received money from Agliotti. "Having due regard to the poor quality of the accused's evidence, the accused's denial of receipt of the payment is not reasonably possibly true," Judge Joffe said. Furthermore, he found that Selebi had shown "complete contempt for the truth", including falsely accusing a witness of lying during the trial. "It is never pleasant to make an adverse credibility finding against a witness. It stigmatises the witness as a liar, a person of low moral fibre. It is a stigma that remains forever. It is so much more unpleasant to make such a finding against the person at the head of SAPS," Judge Joffe said, adding that Selebi had a low moral fibre and "cannot be relied upon."
Selebi was slated to be sentenced on 15 July, but the non-availability of character witnesses caused a postponement to 2 August 2010. On 3 August 2010 he was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.
Selebi was released on R20,000 ($2,746) bail while his lawyers prepared an appeal. On 2 December 2011 the Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously rejected this appeal. Selebi collapsed at his Waterkloof home while watching the ruling on television. He began his fifteen-year prison term the following day.
An 11-member medical parole advisory board met on 20 June 2012 and recommended the release of six offenders, including Selebi, who needed dialysis for kidney failure. Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele made the announcement at a press conference in Pretoria. "Six offenders were recommended for medical parole. Of these, two of the offenders were respectively released on the 9th and 12 of July 2012," said Ndebele. Selebi was released on medical parole having served just 219 days of his fifteen-year sentence. He remained at home in Waterkloof where he received dialysis for his kidney illness until his death.