Notes following Briefing to media by President Thabo Mbeki
Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria Saturday 12 January 2008

Remarks by President Thabo Mbeki

A few days ago I was briefed by the Acting National Director of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that they would be proceeding against the National Commissioner of Police and he did that because he understood that as President of the Republic I would have to take various actions in response to what they intended to do.

So, what therefore has happened, is that with effect from midnight last night, the National Commissioner of Police has been given an extended leave of absence.

I must say that he himself was of the view that this should happen so that whatever should happen in the courts about him, he ought not to be sitting at Police Headquarters because it would be easy to misinterpret that and this would likely to have a negative impact on the work of the NPA.

So I accepted that and he has been on extended leave effective midnight last night which also then means that an Acting National Commissioner of Police had to have been appointed. We have done this and the Acting National Commissioner of Police is Tim Williams who is with us here. Commissioner Williams is one of four National Deputy Commissioners of Police. Again, he is the Acting National Commission of Police effective midnight last night.

This morning, I had a meeting with the entirety of the leadership of the police – both national and provincial because it was my view that it was important that I meet with the police leadership so all the provincial and national commissioners assembled for a meeting so that I could discuss this matter directly with them.

Two matters in particular: one of them being that we all have to respect all the legal processes in the country and therefore if the NPA believes that it needs to proceed against the National Commissioner of Police we would have to accept that and ensure that we do all that is necessary for the law to take its course without any hindrance from any party.

The second matter was that, as you know very well, the role that the police service plays with regard to all matters that have got to do with the security of the country – law enforcement, etc – it was important that despite the fact that the National Commissioner would be charged that the police service should continue with its work as normal and indeed communicate to the country that work would continue as normal with indeed is one of the matters I wanted to discuss with the police leadership this morning.

We have with us here, as I was saying, the Acting National Commissioner of Police Tim Williams, and four of the Deputy National Commissioners who were at this meeting this morning. So indeed, on behalf of the police leadership, I would like to make this assurance that in the first place, the police service are available to extend such assistance to the NPA as it may request of them and secondly that they are all at their posts and will do their work as is required by the law and constitution.

That is really all that I wanted to say. The law will take its course. The NPA told me they were going to proceed but they have not confirmed that they have actually proceeded. But I am quite sure that they will proceed when they think it is appropriate and they have said they would do so quite soon.

Questions and answers

Question President Mbeki, do you regret not having taken this decision earlier on and what would be the impact of this situation in the Ginwala enquiry?

Well, I am not sure what impact it would have on the Ginwala enquiry – I am not certain as to the relationship between the two. You may know more about this than I do. I do not see what impact it should have on the enquiry.

I have said many times that if there was anyone who came to me with information indicating that the National Commissioner had behaved improperly then I would act on such information.

No one has come to me with such information.

And secondly, what has happened is that as I have indicated, the NPA has said to me that they would act and I said fine, it was their duty to do so and that we would do what was necessary from government.

I am not sure what there is to regret about this.

Question President Mbeki, we have been told that the President had asked religious leaders and the country to trust him on this issue. We had also been told that there if indeed there was an investigation against the National Police Commissioner the President would know about it. We have also been told by senior government ministers who have defended Jackie Selebi’s relationship with Glen Agliotti. Can I ask you if you were misinformed and on what basis did you ask religious leaders and the country to trust you?

Answer Would you like me to reiterate my previous answer? I had said to the religious leaders that if there was any information from anybody indicating that the National Commissioner had acted wrongly, we would act against the National Commissioner of Police and the position that we take it that no one is above the law is a very serious position.

I had said to the religious leaders that if such information is provided we would act and there was no reason to mistrust what we had said on this matter so that is all.

I do not know what is meant by senior ministers – all ministers are equal – I am not sure what they said to you but the matter is really quite straight forward.

The NPA is sensitive to the fact that here you are dealing with the National Police Service which has the responsibility to maintain law and order in the country and deal with all matters that bear on national security so the NPA has been of the view that to the extent that it is investigating the National Commissioner, the President has to be informed. So, they have.

And indeed, in instances where they have sought our assistance to access documents in the police service and so on, they have come and asked us to do the following to assist them in their investigation and we have done that. They are the only people who could have come to me to inform me of this matter because they are the only people, together with the Scorpions, who have been handling this matter.

Question Mr President, court proceedings yesterday revealed that the Minister of Justice had been informed by the NPA about the impending charges against the National Commissioner. The idea was that she would brief the President about this and actions would be taken. Why was there a delay from the end of November 2007 when the Minister of Justice was informed of this matter until now for action to be taken? Were you not briefed until a few days ago?

Answer I am not aware of anything at the end of November 2007. what I know is that in the normal course, the NPA submitted a report to the Minister of Justice. This is normal under various provisions of the National Prosecuting Act which the Minister of Justice had to study and make comments to the NPA. But this is a matter that was between the Minister of Justice and the NPA and indeed, I know that in that report, it did say that they would proceed. But off course, they would await the response of the Minister of Justice to the report. These are normal procedures that would be adhered to.

The matter that we are about to proceed to serve charges against the National Commissioner of Police is a recent matter.
It is true that they had given a report to the Minister of Justice, that they had indicated in that report that they would charge the National Commission of Police – this is what the 14 January, 2008 8:12 AMed to the report under the law, the Minister of Justice is entitled to the report. So my recollection of that is that the report was given to the Minister of Justice, not in November 2007, but some time last month. I am not sure of the exact date.

Question Mr President, do you believe there is a discrepancy in the way in which you treated the former Deputy President of the country and the way in which you have treated this matter? The former Deputy President was dismissed when he had not yet been charged yet Mr Selebi has not been dismissed but instead placed on extended leave.

Answer I think the best thing to do is to give you copies of the statement I had made when Jacob Zuma was relieved of his government responsibilities and the statement he made in response to that and I think if you read those statements you will see the distinct difference between both instances.

Question Mr President, how does this affect Mr Selebi as the President of Interpol?

You know very well that the National Commissioner of Police was not seconded by South Africa to Interpol – he was elected at their Congress in Mexico.

I would proceed from the premise that this is a sovereign decision by Interpol regarding their action in this regard.

Had he been seconded by South Africa to Interpol, we would have withdrawn the secondment but it is entirely a matter that was decided by Interpol through their own democratic processes so it is a matter they would have to decide upon.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

12 January 2008

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