S. African Chief of Police Put On Leave

National police chief Jackie Selebi, shown in 2005, has drawn the scrutiny of prosecutors for his ties to a convicted drug smuggler.
National police chief Jackie Selebi, shown in 2005, has drawn the scrutiny of prosecutors for his ties to a convicted drug smuggler. (By Franca Bruns -- Associated Press)
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By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 13, 2008

RUSTENBURG, South Africa, Jan. 12 -- President Thabo Mbeki announced Saturday that national police chief Jackie Selebi was being placed on extended leave, a day after prosecutors said Selebi would soon be charged with corruption, fraud and racketeering.

Mbeki's move marked a new phase in the case against Selebi, who also is president of Interpol and a longtime political ally of Mbeki. Prosecutors have been investigating his relationship with a convicted drug smuggler, Glenn Agliotti, who, along with associates, allegedly paid Selebi at least $175,000.

"The position that we take, that nobody is above the law, is a real serious position," Mbeki said at a news conference, according to the Reuters news service.

Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma, who unseated Mbeki as leader of the African National Congress last month, made his first major policy address to party loyalists.

In the speech in Pretoria, Zuma called for intensified efforts to create jobs and alleviate poverty while also combating crime and the country's massive AIDS epidemic.

"We must make the creation of decent work opportunities the primary focus of our economic policies. We need to make maximum use of all the means at our disposal, as the leading party in government, to achieve this," he said, according to a text released by his party.

Zuma also called for renewed unity in the aftermath of his bruising leadership battle with Mbeki and praised him for his work for the party.

Charges of corruption have come to dominate South African politics. Last month, just a week after taking over as the ruling party's leader, Zuma was indicted on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

He faces trial in August and, if convicted, would be ineligible to serve if elected South Africa's president in 2009.

Selebi has been under investigation by the elite Scorpions crime-fighting agency for many months. This week, about 20 of Selebi's officers arrested Gerrie Nel, the lead Scorpions investigator in the Selebi case, and charged him with corruption and defeating the ends of justice. He was later released on bail.

Interpol issued a statement Saturday saying it was aware of the case against Selebi.

"While it would be inappropriate for Interpol to comment on the ongoing investigation in South Africa, it should be stated that President Selebi has significantly helped the organization and its member countries to enhance security and police co-operation worldwide," the Interpol statement said.

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