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Parliament, Cape Town - Former police chief Jackie Selebi had kidney failure, a stroke, heart and eye disease, a pulmonary embolism, and motor function impairment, MPs were told on Tuesday.
This was why he was paroled, and not because he was politically connected, vice-chairwoman of the Medical Parole Board, Angelique Coetzee, said.
She said Selebi had been suffering from kidney disease before his trial, but decided not to disclose it.
“He was being treated long before his trial by a very known physician,” she told Parliament's portfolio committee on correctional services.
“When he was incarcerated in December it was not the first time that he was aware of his chronic end-stage renal failure. On his admission, he was in acute and chronic end-stage failure. The only treatment for that is dialysis, otherwise he would have died.”
She said Selebi also suffered a stroke and a pulmonary embolism this year, and had severe kidney complications.
“The problem with Mr Selebi's dialysis is that you are using the lining of the peritoneal cavity of the body as a filter, so if you get infections into that lining you cannot dialyse him anymore; and then he will die.”
She said he had two infections this year, and needed four dialysis sessions daily. His motor function illness also made it hard for him to dialyse himself.
“There was no favouritism, no minister phoning us. This is a clinical diagnosis,” a visibly exasperated Coetzee said.
“We have got evidence of all the stuff that we are saying here.”
Selebi, 62, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for taking bribes from a convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti. He started his sentence in December after his final appeal failed.
National commissioner of correctional services Thomas Swahibi said the department realised there was a public perception that Selebi “was faking it” and wanted to dispel any notion of favouritism.
“I am comforted by the fact that the decision the department took was on principle,” he told MPs.
“I am trying to paint a scenario that it was not in terms of preference as to which political party he belongs to.”
Without explicitly mentioning the Schabir Shaik case, he said the department had tried to handle the Selebi case as transparently as possible because medical parole had become a controversial issue.
“We as the department... convened a press conference, so the world and the country should know what we are dealing with and we should not be tarred with the same errors, if they were there in the past.”
At this briefing independent doctors testified that Selebi was suffering from end-stage renal failure.
National correctional services commissioner Tom Monyane said the perception that Selebi received special favours was putting at risk the careers of members of the department, and he wanted to make it plain that all inmates were treated equally.
“They receive the same medical attention as and when they fall ill.”
Details of Selebi's condition were divulged despite clear directions from the committee chairman, Vincent Smith, that the discussion should be confined to facts of procedure.
“We deliberately asked for this session to dispel any notion that there was something wrong,” said Smit.
“What was he sick with? When did you expect him to move on from this life? I don't expect you to answer that... we ask you to contain yourself to the process.”
He conceded that the controversial release of Shaik, President Jacob Zuma's former financial advisor, had made the public sceptical of high-profile paroles.
Shaik was freed on medical parole after he served less than one year of his 15-year fraud sentence, and has routinely been spotted playing golf.
Monyane said there was no possibility the Shaik case could be reviewed under the new conditions for medical parole in the Correctional Matters Amendment Act passed last year. - Sapa