Shock as Mthethwa nominates McBride as IPID head

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has nominated controversial former Ekurhuleni Metro Police chief Robert McBride as executive director of police watchdog body, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). 

The IPID, formerly known as the Independent Complaints Directorate, is tasked with dealing with independently investigating criminal offences allegedly committed by police.

McBride, who left the Ekurhuleni Metro Police after he was charged with drunken driving, is an unlikely choice after his name was dragged through the mud during a highly publicised court case over the incident.

He was charged with drunken driving after he rolled his car following a Christmas party in Tshwane in 2006. He was initially found guilty and sentenced to a five-year prison term in 2011, but both the verdict and sentence were overturned on appeal earlier this year.

McBride was on death row for murder in the early 1990s for his role in the bombing of the Magoos bar on Durban's beachfront. He was released along with Barend "Wit Wolf"? Strydom, by then president FW de Klerk, as a sign of good faith ahead of the Codesa negotiations, according to Business Day's report on Tuesday.

The previous executive director of the IPID was former ANC MP Francois Beukman – whose resignation was announced to the media on the afternoon of the Marikana massacre. He was thought to have been pushed out of the position as he did not see eye to eye with Mthethwa. Beukman was temporarily replaced by the IPID's then recently appointed chief director of legal services, Koekie Mbeki. If the nomination for McBride succeeds, he will replace Mbeki and become the permanent head of the organisation.

Head of the IPID
The news was broken after parliamentary papers on Tuesday showed that a letter had been received from Mthethwa "requesting the relevant parliamentary committee to confirm or reject the nomination of Mr Robert John McBride as executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) in terms of section 6 (2) of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act".

If Mthethwa's request is approved by Parliament's police committee, McBride will be the next head of the IPID.

Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson on police Dianne Kohler Barnard said her party would oppose McBride's appointment, and said the police watchdog "should not be led by such a controversial figure". The Mail & Guardian could not reach police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi immediately for comment, nor IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini. 

In May this year, McBride told newspapers he was "heavily indebted" following his court case. "I owe lots of people money," McBride said at the time. "I had to sell lots of my things. Fortunately some of my family, friends and comrades assisted me."

McBride spent R1.7-million on legal fees.

Beukman's departure
Beukman was ousted from the role after he was investigated for alleged irregularities in the appointment of the director for executive support in his office, the M&G reported in September 2012.

It is understood that Beukman had not always seen eye to eye with Mthethwa and this might have forced him to resign.

In announcing his departure, the directorate claimed that Beukman had tendered his resignation "to pursue other interests". Its spokesperson, Moses Dlamini, said the body had no further comment to make on Beukman's departure.

There has been some speculation that he could have been encouraged to resign because he would not allow a cover-up.

Beukman took up the IPID job in August 2009 and his contract was due to end in August 2014.

The M&G has also learnt that Beukman had done some restructuring at the organisation that had upset some staff. Although nobody doubted his capabilities and his desire for independence to allow the directorate to carry out its tasks, there had allegedly been some complaints from staff against him.

Reaction from South Africans
South Africans on Twitter responded strongly to the news as it broke on Tuesday, taking issue with the minister's choice of director for the independent body.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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