I can’t help but think of the Selebi corruption trial and conviction as a proxy for the big one that never happened.

There’s a story about Glenn Agliotti wandering around Shell House in the early 90’s, undoubtedly looking to meet and great the returning leaders of the ANC.

Somewhere in those chaotic corridors where incompetence was already a watchword he bumped into Jackie Selebi who was then the ANC Youth League president and member of the ANC National Executive Committee.

Too many versions of this story exist – some putting the meeting much later when Selebi was already a member of parliament, to which he was elected in 1994.

But the version I have is Selebi was part of the “advanced guard” of ANC cadres who had been sent to prepare the way for returning leaders, and that the first casual, supportive meeting took place as early as 1990.

Now the Jackie Selebi story has been exhuastingly, if not exhaustively, rehashed during the trial during which our previous Commissioner of Police and head of Interpol has now been found guilty of corruption – with Glenn Agliotti being the corrupter.

Similar story to Jacob Zuma’s

It reminds me of a similar set of stories about our erstwhile president Jacob Zuma. He was also part of an advanced guard and his version of Glenn Agliotti was none other than Schabir Shaik – who looked after him, gave him pocket-money and places to stay and, ultimately, traded on his name and access and went to prison for the crime of corruption.

The whole edifice of the organisation that became the sum total of our political and governing leadership was uniquely vulnerable during that brief moment of return.

They had nothing: no money, nowhere to stay, no transport and no infrastructure.

They were like innocents arriving off the boat in the new world; a whole legion of sharp and dangerous types were waiting to sidle up to them offering comfort and succour and help and support.

It doesn’t excuse Jackie Selebi just like it doesn’t excuse Jacob Zuma (who through political shenanigans remains untried and unpunished) but it is important to remind ourselves how vulnerable these men and women were and how easily they fell.

There is a moment when the frog in the pot on the stove is in cool comfortable water. As we watch, with horror and disgust, the frog stew boiling furiously and the green scum frothing into the flames we should keep that in mind.

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