What might be in store for McBride at IPID?

Former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride, mooted as the next executive director of South Africa's police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), will probably face more criticism when Parliament convenes to discuss his suitability for the post.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa recommended McBride for the position this week, resulting in a storm of criticism.

McBride, a former Ekurhuleni metro police chief, was convicted of drunken driving, a finding that was overturned on appeal this year. He was sentenced to death by the apartheid regime in the early 90s for the bombing of the Magoo restaurant in Durban but was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He went on to become an ANC MP and an employee at the then-department of foreign affairs. 

However, McBride's real challenge will arrive if he gets his first day in office. The IPID has so far performed reasonably well considering that it is battling significant investigations with scant resources.

The IPID, a body administratively independent of the police, investigated 7 277 cases in the 2012/2013 financial year and achieved an unqualified financial audit.

An admirable feat considering it operated in a year where its executive director resigned soon after a massive change in legislation, and on the day of the Marikana massacre.

Marikana and the Cato Manor
Adding to the strain was the fact that a chunk of the IPID's investigators were diverted to the Marikana and Cato Manor investigations.

In the IPID's 2012/2013 annual report, acting executive director Koeki Mbeki said 43 investigators from all provinces had been deployed to the Marikana investigation alone.

Both Marikana and the Cato Manor investigations had a "severe impact" on the IPID's performance, she said.

IPID replaced the old Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) in 2011. It inherited a substantial backlog of complaints from its former iteration. In the last year, Mbeki said this backlog had been reduced from 1 000 cases to just 236.

IPID has also enjoyed the support of Parliament, but this could change with opposition parties vowing to oppose McBride's appointment.

Former IPID head Francois Beukman was appointed in 2009 with the support of opposition parties in Parliament.

He is credited with some of IPID's successes during his tenure.

Civil society organisation Corruption Watch credited him with spearheading IPID's improved legislation, which now legally obliges police to report wrongdoing in their own ranks and increases the watchdog's powers.

'Suitably qualified'
Unlike the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), who has to be a "fit and proper person", the executive director for the IPID only has to be "suitably qualified".

The minister of police is allowed to determine his appointment process and Mthethwa was adamant this week that McBride is qualified for the post.

Section 6 (1) of the IPID Act reads: "The minister [of police] must nominate a suitably qualified person for appointment to the office of executive director to head the directorate in accordance with a procedure to be determined by the minister."

The executive director also refers cases to the NPA for prosecution. The IPID is administratively independent from the South African Police Service and receives its funding directly from Parliament.

The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday alleged that the initial job advertisement for McBride’s post said applicants needed to have a legal qualification. But the qualification was allegedly removed from the later advertisement, to "tailor-make" the post for McBride, the party said.

DA MP? Dianne Kohler-Barnard said: "The DA will therefore today submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act application to gain access to all documentation pertaining to the nomination of Robert McBride as the head of the IPID. It is absolutely necessary that South Africa knows who the other candidates for this position were, and what their qualifications are.

"According to Mthethwa: 'The process of appointing a permanent head was carried through advertising the position via media platforms and various public service circulars. Mr McBride was the successful candidate following the shortlisting, interviewing processes as well as Cabinet's endorsement.'

"It is highly doubtful, considering McBride’s scandal-ridden past, that he would have been the best candidate for the post following a rigorous interview process," she said.

Zweli Mnisi, Mthethwa's spokesperson, said the ministry would not issue any further statements on the matter until Parliament had made a decision on the appointment.

Anyone who had further reservations on the appointment would be granted an opportunity to raise these at Parliament, she said.

Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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