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McBride gets nod from Parliament committee for IPID head

Andisiwe Makinana

Parliament's police oversight commission has endorsed controversial former Ekurhuleni Metro police chief Robert McBride as head of IPID.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa (pictured) has defended his nomination of Robert McBride as the new head of the IPID. (David Harrison, M&G)

Parliament's police oversight committee has endorsed the nomination of controversial former Ekurhuleni Metro police chief Robert McBride to head the police watchdog body, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

It was not a walkover for McBride's supporters as opposition MPs tore into his character, questioning his integrity and the process that was followed in making him a candidate.

In a heated and highly politicised parliamentary meeting, the ANC majority voted to recommend that Parliament appoint McBride after it opens next month.

The three opposition parties present at the meeting on Wednesday morning – the Democratic Alliance, the African Christian Democratic Party and Freedom Front Plus all opposed McBride's nomination, saying he was an unsuitable candidate. When the matter was put to a vote, the ANC outvoted others by seven to three.

The recommendation will go to the House, which will either adopt or reject McBride's nomination.

This will only take place after Parliament re-opens. Parliament is scheduled to open on February 13 with a State Of The Nation address by President Jacob Zuma.

Portfolio committee chairperson, the ANC's Annelize van Wyk said the committee received two unsolicited submissions from the public, but the process of appointing an IPID head did not allow for public participation.

The IPID, which is charged with the responsibility to investigate any member of the South African Police Service, has been without a permanent head for more than a year.

Recommendation
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said last November that Cabinet had recommended McBride's appointment as executive director of the IPID.

On Wednesday, Mthethwa told Parliament that he was confident that McBride would rise to the occasion.

"During the interviews, he was found to have performed above average and the competency test concurred with the view of the panel," he said.

"The candidate demonstrated the deep and clear understanding and insight of the IPID core mandate, and has extensive hands on experience in policy.

"Reference checks testified to the fact that he is highly skilled, strategic and professional in his managerial approach."

McBride listed seven references in his CV. Topping the list are ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mthethwa also sought to defend McBride who has faced many controversies, which opposition parties and civil society have raised as an issue since his nomination was announced.

In March last year, McBride won an appeal against a conviction of drunken driving and attempting to obstruct justice.

The high court in Pretoria concluded that he was not guilty on both charges, and upheld the appeal against conviction on both counts.

"When a competent court of law has made its findings, everybody must abide by that," said Mthethwa.

"I'm saying this because some of the comments which have been running out in the public were talking more on this matter. I'm asking everybody to respect the rule of law," he said.

Requirements
He revealed that the requirements for the position were: the applicant must have a recognised post graduate degree or equivalent qualification with extensive management experience and proven leadership skills; must have a sound knowledge of the function of the police and municipal police services with extensive experience in policing related matters; strategic capability leadership and management skills with a strong service delivery ethos and multifunctional orientation; and have skills in cultivating a high performance culture within the IPID with a transformation propensity.

Mthethwa said the process to find a new IPID head started with the placing of an advertisement in the newspapers on February 17 and 18 2013, to which 49 people applied and six were shortlisted.

No suitable candidate was found during that round of interviews, which were held in June last year. It was in the second round in September that the panel found "the best candidate to help take IPID forward".

Opposition MPs were not buying any of it.

The DA's Dianne Kohler Barnard said McBride's nomination was clear cadre deployment by the ANC and that this, in public administration, was deemed illegal by the courts.

"The person in that position should be an individual who is completely independent of political influence, and McBride has shown clearly that he is deeply embedded in the ANC. [He is] very loyal to the ANC," she said.

Kohler Barnard also claimed that the advertisement was crafted to suit McBride's CV – as the crucial legal qualification requirement was excised from the job advertisement.

McBride has no legal qualification.

But Van Wyk argued that it was the portfolio committee that felt the legal requirement was not necessary as IPID had a legal division.

Trust
Pieter Groenewald, from the Freedom Front Plus, was worried whether the public would put its trust in McBride considering the run-ins with the law and other allegations against his name.

"It's important for the public to have trust in the head of the IPID as the body that polices the police. That is where the public can go to if they have complaints against the misuse of power or brutality as far as the police is concerned," he said.

He then asked Mthethwa: "Did you look at whether the public will have trust in the candidate? Did you look at whether the candidate is controversial … because the public will not have trust in a controversial candidate."

Groenewald said there were a number of serious allegations against McBride which Mthethwa should have considered. Although he was never prosecuted for them, connection to underworld figures such as the late Cyril Beeka, allegations of arms running and assault were too serious not to be considered, he said.

The ACDP's Kenneth Meshoe said while McBride was qualified for the position, he was not suitable because he lacked integrity.

"The issue of commanding respect because of your character and integrity is very important. The police should be policed by a person they would respect because of integrity.

"I want to submit that the nominee is not commanding respect because of his carelessness … the fact is people are acquitted because of technicalities and that doesn't mean the person was not guilty."

Conflict of interest
Meshoe said there was also a potential conflict of interest as McBride had served in the police, was a policeman and has friends in the police. "Because of his shortcomings, the position will compromise him."

However, ANC MPs were singing a completely different tune.

They welcomed McBride's nomination, defended his record and even congratulated Mthethwa for bringing them a nominee with "such a rich CV".

At least two MPs claimed it was racist to suggest that McBride's appointment was ANC cadre deployment. ANC MP George Lekgetho said: "To say that this is cadre deployment is nothing but a racial statement. When we had McBride' s predecessor who happened to be a white comrade, Honourable Kohler Barnard didn't question that.

"It's strange and infinitely difficult that today, because McBride is not white as herself, this is cadre deployment," he said.


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