No I was not fired, suspended or on extended leave. I am just a columnist, not a politician. I was just chilling, giving you a break from me.
Speaking of which, what is it with politicians and daring? Remember, about seven years ago, Jacob Zuma’s response to noises about possible corruption linked to him—then deputy president of the country? “Charge me!” he said.
A few years later when he was charged he called it everything from a conspiracy to a personal vendetta against him and his ambitions.
I was reminded the other day, by one of my two-and-a-half fans, about another dare of recent times. Speaking to the Sunday Times around November 2007, then national police commissioner Jackie Selebi was quoted saying: “I will never be arrested … If there is a warrant for me I will stand on the top floor of the Sandton Towers so that the Scorpions can arrest me.”
I am not one to clamour to watch spectacular events, though I did fight hard to get accreditation to witness the implosion of a few buildings in Johannesburg to make space for the Gautrain.
But when ex-Scorpions boss Vusi Pikoli issued that warrant, in spite of resistance by then president Thabo Mbeki and his justice department, I readied myself to scramble for a ticket to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the country’s top cop being nabbed on top of one of Johannesburg’s famous landmarks. I thought because I had friends on both sides of the divide—at the National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Service—I would easily pick up priceless accreditation to this event.
However, the attention had turned to Pikoli for being hot-headed and shortly thereafter he was suspended and subjected to a test of character. In the meantime the ruling party decided to disband his naughty Scorpions, while Selebi sat at home on full pay waiting for his day in court.
It seemed so unfair. Can you imagine the kind of TV footage we could have enjoyed if Selebi’s dare had been carried out? This is the stuff of intrepid journalists like CNN’s war correspondent Christiane Amanpour and our very own fearless Abbey Makoe. Come to think of it, whatever happened to Makoe, the former SABC political editor who subjected Mbeki to a tough sucking up weeks before the ANC conference in Limpopo? But I digress.
I had already imagined this day with Selebi, in his size 50 police uniform, surrounded by 16 security guards in arms, waiting for the suited Pikoli, accompanied by one or two lawyers, to hand him the warrant. The tourists putting up at the Sandton Towers would be locked out for hours by the SAPS VIP unit, there to protect Selebi in case of attack or arrest.
No wait, silly me, he would have been there to get arrested in the first place.
One wonders if Selebi would have used the lifts to get up to the roof of the building, or have used one of those anti-hijack choppers to drop him off directly. After all, removing the middle man is always best isn’t it?
And, at the delivering of the warrant, I wonder if Pikoli would have read Selebi his rights. Expecting Selebi to exercise his right to be silent would be nonsensical. With the world media gathered far below to witness the spectacle, and with his eye on the chance to get an exclusive one-hour interview on SABC TV, why would Selebi quietly accept the warrant and whisk back home to await trial? I wouldn’t observe my rights either. TV interviews are a rare privilege, especially when you are not a Cabinet minister or a leader of the ruling party.
As matters stand, Selebi is still waiting for his trial. He got his warrant, but it was not delivered at the Sandton Towers. Indeed, by the time he appears in court there will be no Pikoli, no Scorpions and no Mbeki. How boring!
However, knowing Selebi, I am sure he is working on one or two more dares before the curtain falls. I will not be surprised if he dares the judge and says: “You will not find me guilty. If you find me guilty, I will go straight to jail. I will not appeal. I will not ask to say farewell. I will just go straight to jail.”
But I bet you, should this trial happen, that Selebi will be the first to complain about political conspiracies. It does not help much that the new safety and security minister Nathi Mthethwa does not seem too fond of the bulky former head of Interpol. In fact, Minister Mthethwa, I dare you. Remove Selebi from office and I will stand on top of my house and say you are a brave man. Pity there won’t be any cameras to cover me.