A dedicated man who loved justice 

By Vince Pienaar

From the day he entered politics until his death on Tuesday, James Selfe managed to avoid petty politics and focus on important issues that mattered to the nation.

In an obituary in Business Day, his friend and colleague Ryan Coetzee wrote: “The authenticity of his attachment to liberal ideals explains how the left never provoked in him a shift to the right, and the right never compelled him to move left.”

Selfe was born in 1955 in Pretoria. At the age of 10, he attended Bishop’s boarding school, where “the casual brutality of the place toughened and wounded him in equal measure but nurtured in him an interest in politics”.

He joined the Progressive Party in 1973. He studied politics at the University of Cape Town and, in 1978, filled a vacancy in the party’s research department.

In 43 years in politics, he remained a member of what later became the Democratic Alliance, working in various positions and committing himself to reforms in the prison system and the well-being and rehabilitation of those who had broken the law.

He served as the shadow minister of correctional services in Parliament and was a member of Parliament’s portfolio committee on correctional services from 1994 until ill health forced him into retirement.

Selfe will be remembered for prosecuting the DA’s “lawfare” strategy, which focused on protecting individual rights and building a democratic state.

He was involved in the “Spy Tapes” case, which paved the way for the prosecution of Jacob Zuma on corruption charges and the setting aside of Menzi Simelane’s appointment as head of the National Prosecuting Authority.

Selfe is survived by his wife, Sheila, and three daughters.

He died on Tuesday at the age of 68 after losing his battle with a longstanding illness.

Pictured above: James Selfe. 

Image source: Herman Mashaba/X


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