The disciplinary case against the suspended head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Robert McBride, appears to be exposing a web of conspiracy within the South African Police Service.
The 52-year-old’s internal disciplinary hearing is based on claims that he doctored a report on the illegal rendition of five Zimbabweans.
Thursday’s hearing, at the Hawks’s head office in Silverton, Pretoria, was postponed before it started.
This followed McBride’s request for a stay of the hearing pending the outcome of a high court application. He is challenging the constitutionality of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s power to suspend him.
The presiding chairperson, advocate Phillip Mokoena, postponed the matter to July to hear arguments over whether to grant the stay.
McBride, who headed IPID for a year before Nhleko suspended him in March, looked relaxed despite the eight charges against him.
Asked how he felt, McBride said he was “okay”, but added that this was “just the beginning”.
The media were granted access to the hearing after a successful application by amaBhungane and News24.
Illegal renditions report
McBride is accused of manipulating the information and findings contained in an initial report in January last year on the illegal rendition of five Zimbabweans, between November 2010 and January 2011, to protect the former Hawks boss, Anwa Dramat, and the Gauteng head of the Hawks, Shadrack Sibiya.
The initial report, signed by an IPID investigator, Innocent Khuba, re-commended that Dramat and Sibiya should be charged with contravening the Immigration Act, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice. Nhleko said he suspended Dramat and Sibiya earlier this year on the basis of this document.
Two months later, a second report, co-signed by McBride, Khuba and IPID’s head of investigations, Matthews Sesoko, absolved Dramat and Sibiya of facilitating the renditions.
Of the five men handed over to the Zimbabwean authorities, all alleged suspects in the murder of a senior Bulawayo police chief, three are known to have died while in Zimbabwean police custody, and one was tortured for a protracted time before he was released.
McBride claimed that the first report was preliminary and that the evidence on which it based its findings against Dramat and Sibiya was insufficient and further investigation was needed.
In an answering affidavit, filed in court earlier this month, Nhleko dismissed McBride’s claim, arguing that the initial report was final and had been sent to the National Prosecuting Authority to decide on whether to take action against Dramat and Sibiya.
Nhleko claimed McBride’s appointment “caused IPID to change its report and recommendations” and that he tried to suppress evidence implicating Dramat and Sibiya in the rendition.
McBride was served with a notice of suspension after an investigation by Werksmans Attorneys acting on Nhleko’s orders. The investigation found that parts of the initial report were omitted from the later document.
The missing parts allegedly provided strong prima facie evidence that the two were aware of the renditions and “approved them”.
The 74-page Werksmans report, which Nhleko presented to Parliament last week, recommended that criminal charges should be reinstituted against Dramat and Sibiya, and that McBride should face charges of defeating the ends of justice.
But his lawyers have questioned the validity of the inquiry, and McBride said he believed there were ulterior motives for his suspension.
He previously said Nhleko “pursued the suspension of Dramat and Sibiya” after the Hawks were “seized with high-profile investigations”.
He said the minister’s claims that he [McBride] “acted improperly, inter alia, by issuing the investigative report that ultimately cleared Dramat and Sibiya … must be viewed in the context of the minister’s evident agenda to have Dramat and Sibiya removed”.
Despite a court ruling earlier this year that his suspension was illegal, Dramat resigned from the police in April after reaching a settlement with the national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega.
The charges against McBride are that:
• He improperly interfered in the administration of justice “by ensuring Dramat, Sibiya … are not criminally charged”;
• He interfered with the administration of justice by allegedly failing to inform the NPA that he “produced a new contradictory report”;
• He is guilty of “gross misconduct and/or gross dereliction of duty” for allegedly “intending to misrepresent the true facts to Nhleko”;
• He intended to interfere with the Werksmans’ investigation by allegedly instructing Khuba not to attend an interview with the law firm;
• In January and February this year, he “intentionally, alternatively, grossly negligently, misrepresented to Dramat and Sibiya’s attorneys” that the two had been cleared by the IPID report;
• He lied to the Werksmans’ investigators about when he first saw the January 2014 IPID report;
• He was guilty of gross insubordination in having bypassed Nhleko when asked to explain the two conflicting IPID report to the parliamentary portfolio committee; and
• He violated the Public Finance Management Act by having an advance payment of R500?000 made to the attorneys Adams & Adams, who represent him and IPID.
Adams & Adams attorney Jac Marais denied the claim and said there was nothing “untoward with the payment”.
“It is not funding litigation on behalf of Mr McBride,” Marais said. Instead, it was to pay for “a portion of the legal services rendered to IPID, including in respect of a constitutional challenge to protect IPID’s independence”.
He said McBride would respond to all the charges in due course.
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