Up until now, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has staunchly supported the police chief. Jackie Selebi is one of Mbeki's long time political allies, from the days of the anti-apartheid fight. But after prosecutors stated they will charge Selebi with fraud, corruption and racketeering, President Mbeki finally called a press conference, ï¿½We've given the national commissioner of police extended leave of absence. He himself was of the view that that should happen so that whatever might happen in the courts about him, he ought not to be sitting at police headquarters because that's very easy to misinterpret that.ï¿½ President Mbeki is under fire himself for having left Selebi in his powerful police headquarters for such a long time despite mounting evidence against him. An arrest warrant for Selebi was actually issued last year and then canceled after President Mbeki suspended the chief prosecutor. Then last week police raided the home of one of the lead investigators in the Selebi case and arrested him. Today he was cleared of all charges. This weekend, President Mbeki responded to his critics saying he's never interfered and in fact was kept in the dark about the police chief, ï¿½If there was anybody who brought information to me that showed the national commissioner of police had done wrong things, I would act on it. and nobody did, nobody came to me with that information.ï¿½ The Selebi scandal is further complicating a period of deep division and turmoil within South Africa's ruling political party, the African National Congress, the ANC. Last month President Mbeki lost his position as head of the ANC to his rival, Jacob Zuma. Many analysts believe Mbeki's blind loyalty to dubious political allies like Selebi helped cause his plunge in popularity. Since the ANC elections, the new party leader, Jacob Zuma, has also been slapped with corruption charges. This political analyst says there's a strong public perception that the two rival camps in the ANC are using the police and prosecutor's office to protect their allies and pull down their rivals, ï¿½We need to restore faith that those leading the fight against crime and themselves not implicated in crime, that those who are leading the national prosecutor authority are not doing so because they're politically motivated or are supporting one faction within the ANC or the other.ï¿½ For the Mbeki administration, the Selebi case has been doubly embarrassing because the police commissioner was also president of the international policing agency, Interpol. While Selebi still denies all the charges against him, he has officially resigned as President of Interpol.
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