McBride guns for police minister

Robert McBride. (Gustav Butlex)

Robert McBride. (Gustav Butlex)

Robert McBride, suspended director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), has hit back at Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, accusing him of direct interference in the Zimbabwe rendition investigation.

In an affidavit submitted as part of a constitutional challenge to his suspension, McBride slams Nhleko for:

  • Attempting to liaise directly with the lead investigator on the rendition matter;
  • Relying on a parallel investigation by a private law firm “conducted at the behest of the minister and for the minister’s benefit”; and
  • Suggesting to IPID staff that his actions were “politically motivated, and affiliated with the views of the DA [Democratic Alliance] in particular”.

McBride alleges: “The conduct of the minister … including the threat of my suspension, my subsequent suspension, the institution of a disciplinary inquiry against me, and the minister’s institution of his own investigation to ‘second-guess’ an IPID investigation – all constitute undue political pressure on the IPID to take a particular decision relating to its investigations, which is favoured by the minister.”

New concerns over role of crime intelligence
McBride’s affidavit and related evidence also raise new concerns about the role of crime intelligence in the rendition investigation as part of an alleged vendetta against the Hawks, who were investigating then crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

McBride’s evidence also suggests interference in the rendition investigation by Nhleko’s predecessor, Nathi Mthethwa.

Nhleko suspended McBride in March, accusing the IPID boss of attempting to protect then Hawks head Anwa Dramat and Gauteng Hawks commander Shadrack Sibiya.

McBride was charged with improperly causing the alteration of an IPID report on the illegal deportation of Zimbabwean nationals to exonerate Dramat and Sibiya.

The Zimbabweans were wanted in connection with the murder of a Zimbabwean police officer. Several are alleged to have died at the hands of the Zimbabwean police after being handed over at the Beit Bridge border post in late 2010 and early 2011.

Nhleko cited the rendition allegations to justify his unprocedural suspension of Dramat in December 2014, in violation of a Constitutional Court ruling aimed at limiting executive interference in the Hawks.

Politically sensitive cases sparked backlash
Dramat alleged the action against him was triggered by the Hawks’s attempts to investigate certain sensitive cases, including the “security upgrades” to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

McBride set himself on a collision course with Nhleko when he met Dramat shortly after Dramat’s suspension, and told him the IPID investigation of the rendition case had not recommended that either Dramat or Sibiya be charged.

In response, Nhleko produced a January 2014 version of the IPID report, signed by IPID investigator Innocent Khuba, that recommended charges against Dramat, Sibiya and the man in charge of the deportation, Colonel Leslie “Cowboy” Maluleke.

It contradicted what McBride insisted was the official report, dated March 18 and signed by him on April 9 2014, just over a month after taking over as the IPID director.

The report signed by McBride excluded a number of references in the earlier report to evidence said to implicate Dramat and Sibiya and recommended to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that only Maluleke be charged.

Nhleko seized on these discrepancies to suspend McBride and appoint a private law firm, Werksmans, to conduct an investigation into how the changes to the report and its recommendations occurred.

Werksmans found that Khuba could not provide a plausible explanation for why information relating to Dramat was deleted. The firm recommended that charges be pursued against Khuba, McBride and chief investigator Matthews Sesoko, who all signed the March report.

McBride’s first detailed version on reports
Now McBride has delivered a detailed version for the first time, contained in the final affidavit of his Pretoria high court application to have his suspension and disciplinary hearing set aside.

His main argument is that the IPID Act, which grants the minister wide discretion to suspend the IPID director, unconstitutionally infringes on the independence of the police watchdog.

But he also addresses his involvement in the finalisation of the IPID report and the reasons for the differences between the January report, which McBride claims was “preliminary”, and the “final” March document.

McBride’s defences, supported by affidavits from Khuba and Sesoko, amount to the following:

  •  The January report could not have been final because evidence was outstanding and the document was not properly authorised under IPID regulations.
  •  McBride was unaware of the earlier report and was not involved in editing out evidence or changing recommendations.
    He notes that Khuba told Werksmans: “There was not even a single time where McBride said to me: change the reports to suit Dramat.”
  • Although the IPID report may have changed, the investigation docket was not tampered with. McBride notes that an IPID report only makes a recommendation: “The NPA had all the information necessary to make an independent analysis of the evidence.”
  • There was a suspicious pattern of interference with the rendition investigation – including, allegedly, by political principals.

IO uneasy over instructions
Here, Khuba’s affidavit is significant. He recounts that, in about October 2011, allegations about Hawks involvement in the illegal rendition were first reported in the Sunday Times.

He alleges the IPID was asked by the police secretariat to begin investigating but was then told to hold off, “apparently on the instruction of the then minister of police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa”.

Khuba states that, about a year later, a Colonel Moukangwe of the police’s crime intelligence gathering division (ClG) came to the IPID and presented a docket he had already prepared on the rendition. It was passed on to Khuba for further investigation.

Khuba alleges that then acting IPID director Koekie Mbeki instructed him to collaborate with Moukangwe in conducting the investigation, and to keep this collaboration secret.

“Mbeki’s instruction was an unusual and problematic one because members of the CIG were themselves involved in the arrest of the Zimbabwean nationals …

“It also seemed to be a problematic instruction, given the widely known history of animosity between … Mdluli … and Sibiya.”

Khuba says he relayed concerns at his first meeting with McBride: “I told McBride that I felt uncomfortable and suspicious of the involvement of CIG.”

Email shows Nhleko interacted with IO
McBride, in his affidavit, amplifies this concern over the possible manipulation of the original investigation and Nhleko’s apparent determination to pursue Dramat and Sibiya.

McBride argues: “It is evident that the minister is seeking only to justify his suspension of Dramat and Sibiya ex post facto and to save face in his ill-considered reliance on the January 2014 report …

“Further, while the minister states in his affidavit that [he] has no role to play in the investigative functions of the IPID, the minister has sought to liaise directly with Khuba on his investigation of the renditions matter.”

McBride attaches an email sent by Nhleko’s personal assistant to Khuba dated March 9 this year, asking him to make himself available for “follow-up on investigations”.

McBride notes that Khuba revealed he had met Nhleko on another occasion without telling McBride. 

According to Khuba: “The minister wanted to know: Are you sure you are co-operating?”

McBride also complains that shortly after his suspension the minister addressed IPID staff and conveyed his view that there was something underhand about the revised rendition report.

“The minister further intimated that the March report was politically motivated, and affiliated with the views of the DA in particular.”

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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