South Africa corruption: Praise for 'historic' sentencing of former police chief Jackie Selebi

South Africa officials and citizens see the 15-year sentence handed to former police commissioner Jackie Selebi today as a warning for others in government.

Themba Hadebe/AP
Former South African police commissioner Jackie Selebi, second from left, was escorted by his bodyguards as he left the High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday. Mr. Selebi was sentenced on Tuesday to 15 years in prison for corruption.

The sentencing of Jackie Selebi, former South African police commissioner, is being widely applauded here as a landslide victory against corruption.

Mr. Selebi is South Africa's first police commissioner to be arrested and convicted of a serious crime involving corruption.

Politicians, businessmen, and members of the public welcomed the verdict, saying it would act as a deterrent for would-be criminals occupying influential positions in society.

Selebi's sentence of 15 years in prison marked the end of one of the most controversial trials in South African history, says Dianne Kohler Barnard, a Member of Parliament for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and shadow South African police minister.

"[The trial is] controversial because of the numerous obstacles placed in the way of due process and the law in trying to bring this criminal to book, and controversial because we as a country are almost completely unfamiliar with the idea of a corrupt official, connected to the [ruling African National Congress party], actually going to prison," says Ms. Barnard. "As Selebi comes to grips with the idea of prison, so too should the government think about the integrity of a police structure that was for years led by an individual who today joins the ranks of the very criminals from which the police are supposed to protect our society."

Spokesperson for the Communist League of South Africa (SACP) Gugu Ndima says that his party welcomes Selebi's jail term, as it would force other criminals within the ruling party to abandon their actions.

"We are aware that Selebi still has recourse within the law and in higher courts, and that this sentence or sanction may be reversed," says Mr. Ndima. "The trial signals that no one is above the law and that irrespective of your [anti-apartheid] struggle credentials, or positions you may occupy in government or party politics, there will be consequences for corruption."

He says the trial will also serve as a lesson to current members of public office and senior bureaucrats that they have a responsibility to serve as examples in the quest to restore clean governance.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said the sentencing was historic, but also noted that Selebi has the right to appeal against the wrong just like anyone else in democratic South Africa.

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