Mbeki accused of protecting police chief after prosecutor suspended Chris McGreal in Johannesburg Saturday September 29, 2007 The Guardian President Thabo Mbeki has been accused of attempting to block the arrest of Jackie Selebi, South Africa's police chief and the head of Interpol, by suspending the director of public prosecutions. The official opposition called on Mr Mbeki to reveal what he knew, and when he knew it, about the issuing of a warrant charging Mr Selebi with links to organised crime and ties to underworld figures - including a crime boss accused of the murder of a corrupt mining magnate. The warrant was issued last week but only made public on Wednesday in a report by the state broadcaster. In between, the president suspended the DPP, Vusi Pikoli, ostensibly because of "an irretrievable breakdown" in his working relationship with the justice minister. But the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said that if Mr Selebi was not immediately arrested "then it will become quite clear that Pikoli's suspension was as a direct result of his decision to pursue and prosecute the [police] commissioner". Other political leaders levelled similar charges and called for a judicial inquiry. The DA leader, Helen Zille, said yesterday that the issue "constitutes a potential constitutional crisis". "It seems clear that the suspension of Pikoli was motivated by the desire of President Mbeki to protect his close ally, Jackie Selebi," she said. "Because the president has declined to give any satisfactory reason within the provisions of the law for the suspension this is the only conclusion we can draw. The latest development ... also adds fuel to the belief that the president will take whatever steps he deems necessary, no matter what damage they may do to our state institutions, to protect his close allies." South African newspapers reported that the DPP decided to arrest Mr Selebi three months ago, but backed off under pressure from Mr Mbeki. The papers said that Mr Pikoli finally issued the warrant last week, and was removed from his position when the president found out. The papers also said that "the highest levels of government" blocked a raid by prosecution authorities this week as part of the inquiry into the commissioner. The investigation arose out of the murder of Brett Kebble, a mining magnate shot six times in his car two years ago. Kebble was revealed to have stolen millions of pounds from his mining companies and had close ties to criminal syndicates. Last year Glen Agliotti, described by the police as a drug and organised crime boss, was arrested for allegedly organising the murder. Mr Agliotti is a longstanding friend of Mr Selebi, and called the police commissioner within minutes of Kebble's death. Mr Selebi denied anything more than a casual acquaintance with Mr Agliotti, but investigators had seized Mr Agliotti's diary, in which he detailed regular meetings with the police commissioner. It was also revealed that the police handed over the dead man's car to Clint Nassif, the head of a security firm, before forensic tests could be carried out. The car was allegedly cleaned, destroying crucial evidence. Mr Nassif is a close friend of Mr Agliotti, who was later charged with fraud. "These hands are clean," Mr Selebi said when he first faced the accusations. "I am not involved in any criminality." Mr Selebi's office, the presidency and the prosecution authority all declined to comment yesterday.