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SA's controversial police chief

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.

He was a political appointee and had no previous experience in policing.

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

Last 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, a convicted drug smuggler, is the man arrested in connection with the highly publicised assassination in 2006 of controversial mining magnate Brett Kebble.

JACKIE SELEBI
1987: Head of ANC Youth League
1991: In charge of repatriating ANC exiles
1994: Elected MP
1995: South Africa's ambassador to UN
2000: Appointed police chief
2004: Elected Interpol president
2008: Charged with corruption, resigns as Interpol head, suspended as SA police chief
2009: Denies charges at start of trial

True to his forthright nature, the 58-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, Mr Selebi is on trial on corruption charges.

He denies the charges, saying they are part of a conspiracy to frame him by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Former President Thabo Mbeki, who is said to be close to Mr Selebi, at first 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.

But Mr Mbeki finally gave to the pressure and suspended his police chief in January 2008 shortly before Mr Selebi was formally charged.

He had earlier resigned as president of the international policing agency Interpol, which elected Mr Selebi as its president in 2004.

Interpol had also initially stood behind its head, saying he was a competent man who had done a lot to improve the image of the organisation.

Mr Selebi has long been involved in politics.

He 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.

He was elected to parliament in South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994 but did not stay there long before moving on to represent his country at the UN in Geneva.



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