/ 17 May 2016

McBride, Dramat, Pillay claim there is a political conspiracy

Robert McBride is fighting his suspension.
(Business Day/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Former Hawks head Anwa Dramat, former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and suspended Ipid head Robert McBride have together come out against political conspiracy that they claim is threatening the country’s public institutions.

In a joint statement by the three, they said that recent events at various organisations were related. The men said these organisations included: the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks); the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid); the SA Revenue Service (Sars); Crime Intelligence in the SAPS; the State Security Agency; Denel; and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

“There appears to be a remarkable coincidence in the methods used to remove officials from these institutions, the players involved and their intersecting interests,” they said.

“In our view, attacks on individuals in these institutions are aimed at undermining the fight against corruption. A key part of all of our mandates was to investigate cases of corruption. In reviewing our individual experiences over recent weeks, we have discovered a convergence in the cases that we were working on.

“A common thread is that cases under investigation involved individuals or entities with questionable relationships to those in public office. Most of these cases involved state tenders of some kind that were awarded due to patronage with influential individuals in public office.”

They said the manner in which officials were removed followed a similar pattern.

“Internal documents or ‘allegations’ from within institutions are leaked to select journalists. Working in tandem with ‘anonymous’ sources, facts are distorted in the media,” they said.

“After the information is leaked, the institution in question then launches an ‘investigation’ into the accused officials, using news reports as pretext. The results of these ‘investigations’ are then leaked to the same journalists again.”

‘Snouts in the trough’
They said that during the ‘investigations’, affected officials are suspended and prevented from defending themselves publicly. They are never called to answer to any allegations by the investigators, while any representation is usually ignored, distorted or rejected by the institution in question.

“When an ‘investigation’ fails to reach a conclusion, the institutions enter into settlements with the officials. Later, based on the same allegations that preceded the settlement, officials are then criminally charged. It appears from this pattern that the intent is to hound officials out of institutions and destroy their credibility publicly.”

They said all of these suspensions or removals happened when officials were investigating corruption that linked to influential people.

Following a Constitutional Court hearing into his suspension on Tuesday, McBride told reporters that the reason they were really there, and why some people who headed other departments were in the trouble, was because they were investigating corruption.

“With the organisation that I come from, it is brother tearing brother apart to get at the proceeds of corruption.

“People who literally shared the same trenches are now at each others throats so that they can sit… with their snouts in the trough.

“There is clearly an attempt, in our view, and is a firmly held belief of mine, that there is connivance between certain elements of the Hawks and the NPA in persecuting us.”

He said the decision to criminally charge him just before he came to the Constitutional Court was part of those “collusion of interests”.

The Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday that the decision by the police minister to suspend McBride must be declared invalid.

McBride also wants the Constitutional Court to give Parliament 30 days to decide whether it wants to institute a disciplinary hearing against him.

If the order is handed down by the Constitutional Court, and if Parliament does not make a decision within 30 days, then he will be back in his job.

McBride was suspended in March last year on allegations that he had changed an Ipid report implicating then Hawks head Anwa Dramat in order to protect the latter.

The report was about the alleged illegal rendition of five Zimbabweans that Dramat, axed Gauteng Hawks boss Major General Shadrack Sibiya and Captain Lesley Maluleke were allegedly involved in.

A first report allegedly implicated them in the renditions, however a later report cleared them.

Dramat resigned in April last year after much back and forth between the court, his office, and being on leave following his suspension in December 2014.

Sibiya was fired in September last year after being found guilty of gross misconduct by a disciplinary inquiry into the renditions.

Following Dramat’s resignation, Major-General Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza was appointed to head up the Hawks.

Under Ntlemeza, the Hawks sent Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan several questions over the SA Revenue Service’s “rogue unit”.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Hawks wanted Gordhan and eight others to be prosecuted for espionage for spying on taxpayers during his time as SARS commissioner.

‘Pattern of questionable processes’
There were also reports that former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay were facing arrest.

Dramat, Pillay and McBride said in their joint statement that “the pattern of questionable processes” also applied to the recent investigations of the Hawks into Gordhan.

“They sent him 27 questions at a time when it was not feasible to answer, insisted on an unduly urgent deadline, leaked the questions to the media and excoriated him publicly to answer on the pain of legal consequences. During all of this, they did not disclose what offence, if any, they were investigating or whether he was a witness or suspect,” the three said in their statement.

“To date, it is not clear whether the minister of finance was even named in the complaint that was laid with the police by Sars in May 2015. There was also complete disregard by the Hawks for the broader consequences to the economy.”

The three said that they would continue to use their experience and expertise to investigate, fight and expose corrupt activities in the private and public sector.

“Further, our actions will bring light to the true reasons for the abuse of state resources in the manner described above. We call on those in business, civil society, organised labour, NGOs and the general public who value and want to defend our constitutional democracy, to assist our efforts with legal advice and expertise and legal and financial resources.” – News24