Ekurhuleni Metro Police boss Robert McBride claims he is the victim of a campaign by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to punish him for his controversial past — particularly the bombing of Magoo’s Bar in 1986 which left three people dead and many injured.
“Simply put, many have made it their mission to ‘bring me down’,” McBride says in court papers that form part of his application to the Pretoria High Court for access to all sworn statements made to the police by his three detractors.
McBride’s drunk-driving case was put on hold this week pending the outcome of the application, to be made on August 18.
Pretoria Regional Court magistrate Peet Johnson had earlier refused McBride’s application to see all statements given to the police by his former colleagues and confidants Stanley Sagathevan, Patrick Johnson and Itumeleng Koko.
The police boss now hopes that the high court will be more sympathetic to his cause.
His request stems from evidence given in his drunk-driving trial by Patrick Johnson, who admitted in court that the three men had made “section 204” statements not only in the present matter, but also in other serious criminal cases.
Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act makes provision for state witnesses to incriminate themselves in evidence and be given indemnity from prosecution if the presiding officer is satisfied at the end of the trial that they gave the court an honest and full disclosure of events.
During cross-examination by McBride’s counsel, Patrick Johnson said Sagathevan, Koko and he had also given statements “about people we hijacked”. The magistrate immediately stopped him from elaborating on other matters and warned him against incriminating himself.
McBride’s lawyers then approached the National Prosecuting Authority to obtain his other section 204 statements, but failed to secure them. Thereafter they approached magistrate Johnson, who dismissed the application.
McBride’s founding affidavit in the case before the high court alleges a plot by the SAPS and his detractors to convict him, while giving indemnity to the three men on more serious crimes. It suggests his accusers turned on him after they realised they were in trouble for a string of other alleged crimes being investigated by the police.
“If these documents do create the reasonable possibility that the investigation of other crimes committed by [Sagathevan, Patrick Johnson and Koko] was used to cause them to implicate me — this will be decisive in my defence.
“There is a strong likelihood, if not a probability, that these documents will achieve this purpose and for this reason I should be afforded access to them,” McBride says.
The three men initially made sworn statements in which they alleged McBride was not under the influence of alcohol when he crashed his car after a year-end function in Hartebeespoort Dam in December 2006.
They later changed their statements and now say McBride was intoxicated on the night and that they were part of a cover-up.
“The question which cries out for reply is: what caused these witnesses to make the dramatic turnabout six months after the investigation had commenced and to move from a position where they exonerated me to one where they fully implicate me?” McBride asks.
He says the investigation against him must be seen in context.
“There is no question that because of my well-publicised political past, including the infamous Magoo’s Bar bombing and its various sequelae, and my appointment as chief of the Ekurhuleni Metro police department after having been granted amnesty, I am a highly controversial figure.
“There exists a strong sentiment in certain quarters, especially among members of the SAPS, that I should not be occupying the position of Ekurhuleni Metro police chief.”
McBride says the police have embarked on a “course of intimidating and coercing witnesses in order to build a case against me”.
In her replying affidavit, prosecutor Petronel du Plessis denies the conspiracy and rejects the claim that other cases in which McBride might be implicated influenced her decision to prosecute him on drunk-driving charges.
When she became involved in the matter, she had no idea who McBride was “because of my youth — and my lack of interest in politics”.
Regarding the original statements of McBride’s accusers, which cleared him of wrongdoing, Du Plessis says the men had admitted they were motivated by “misplaced loyalty” towards McBride.
Also included in the state’s reply is an affidavit by Witwatersrand director of public prosecutions Charin de Beer. In this she confirms that McBride’s three accusers made section 204 statements on the arrest of alleged cash-in-transit heist kingpin Marco Singh in December 2006.