Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Friday, 11 January 2008

SA's controversial police chief

By Mohammed Allie
BBC Focus on Africa, Cape Town

National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi
Jackie Selebi became South Africa's first black police commissioner

Jacob Sello Selebi - better known by his nickname of Jackie - has been at the centre of controversy since becoming South Africa's first black commissioner of police in the year 2000.

He was appointed to head the police force after having served as South Africa's permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva for three years and then as director general in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Soon after taking up his post, Mr Selebi got into trouble over a black policewoman who claimed he had called her a chimpanzee.

Earlier this year, he caused another stir when he recommended that prostitution should be legalised for the duration of the 2010 Football World Cup.

The Agliotti connection

But those misdemeanours were nothing compared to the storm that erupted around Mr Selebi when he admitted to being a friend of Glenn Agliotti.

Mr Agliotti is the man arrested in connection with the highly publicised assassination two years ago of controversial mining magnate Brett Kebble.

True to his forthright nature, the 57-year-old defended his association with Mr Agliotti, saying he had the right to choose his friends and that they never discussed crime when they met.

Now, after months of speculation, South Africa prosecutors say they will charge Mr Selebi with corruption, although details of their investigations are unknown.

President Thabo Mbeki, who is said to be close to Mr Selebi, has consistently resisted calls for his police commissioner to be fired, saying he would not take any action until evidence of any wrongdoing was brought before him.

Mr Selebi was a representative of the socialist-leaning World Federation of Democratic Youth in Budapest, Hungary between 1983 and 1987.

He also served as head of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League while in exile in Zambia during the apartheid era.

On his own return from exile, Mr Selebi was responsible for the repatriation of ANC exiles in 1991 and two years later he was appointed head of the now governing party's Department of Welfare.

Amid the controversy surrounding him, the international policing agency Interpol, which elected Mr Selebi as its president three years ago, has stood firmly behind its leader, saying he is a competent man who has done a lot to improve the image of the organisation.

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