/ 9 January 2007

Was McBride going nowhere fast?

The apparent “emergency” in Eden Park to which Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride was rushing before he rolled his car in December did not exist, according to media reports on Tuesday.

McBride faces charges of reckless driving — but not drunken driving despite earlier witness reports that he was “blind drunk” — after hitting a curb on the R511 near Centurion on December 21.

A source close to McBride told the Citizen newspaper last week that McBride was in a rush to help Democratic Alliance ward councillor William Jarvis, whose life had been threatened.

Jarvis told the newspaper on Monday that this was “utter rubbish”. He confirmed that three days prior to McBride’s accident there had been some protests over the allocation of Reconstruction and Development Programme houses in Eden Park where some demonstrators did, in fact, threaten Jarvis and his family.

Jarvis said that after reporting the matter to the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD), officers visited his home and promised to do regular patrols of the area.

But, according to the newspaper report, Jarvis doesn’t understand why McBride had to leave his year-end function to get to Eden Park, when everything was calm at the time. “I want to make it clear there were no further incidents on the Thursday [the day of McBride’s accident], and I never called on him to come and assist me.

“It seems the EMPD are trying to use the situation as an excuse for his accident … the fact is that he never had to come here in the first place,” he said.

Police investigation

Meanwhile, police have confirmed they will investigate whether McBride was drunk at the time of the accident and whether his “hooligan” officers tried to cover up for him. Police will study statements from witnesses who were at the scene.

According to the Star newspaper on Tuesday, provincial police spokesperson Director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo confirmed on Monday that these statements — containing allegations that McBride was drunk and that his officers acted like bullies — were collected from witnesses.

New charges, if necessary, will be formulated by the end of the month, he said. One witness statement is still outstanding and will be collected soon.

Five witnesses to the crash told the Star that McBride was so drunk when he crawled out of the wreckage that he could not tell whether he had been driving alone.

According to the newspaper, the witnesses recalled that McBride’s officers, who were in the jurisdiction of the Tshwane metro police without explanation, arrived and whisked McBride away before a blood-alcohol test could be done.

Days after the accident, investigating officer Inspector Quentin Smith could not confirm whether McBride’s blood-alcohol levels had been measured at the scene, and did not know if this was done at the hospital.

All witnesses said McBride smelled of alcohol and that his men, accused of beating and threatening to shoot bystanders, removed evidence from the car, said the Star.

Police will also investigate why no blood tests were taken, why officers from the EMPD were out of their jurisdiction and why no mention was made of the hospital McBride was rushed to with head injuries.

Once they complete their investigations, police will approach the director of public prosecutions to lay charges against the police chief, if necessary.

Parallel to the police’s investigations, police watchdog the Independent Complaints Directorate will be investigating charges of defeating the ends of justice against the metro police. According to reports, the directorate has at least six statements from witnesses.

McBride is still on sick leave.