/ 14 February 2019

McBride set to testify before Zondo commission

People queue to view the body of former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings.
(David Harrison)

The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture continues on Thursday, with the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) Robert McBride expected to testify.

McBride is set to give evidence on the alleged capture of criminal justice agencies, including the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

In October last year, McBride said in Ipid’s annual report that the directorate “has already started investigations into the role of police officers for defeating the ends of justice to undermine investigations into allegations of state capture”.

He further stated that Ipid was “the first institution to call out state capture in the criminal justice cluster”.

The alleged role of the NPA in state capture was brought into sharp focus during the testimony of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi before the commission in January.

Agrizzi told the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — that suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and special director and head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit Lawrence Mrwebi were paid by Bosasa for their co-operation in stymying the mounting case against the firm.

In 2009, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) completed an investigation into Bosasa and tenders awarded to it by the department of correctional services. The SIU’s report was handed to the NPA, but no charges were brought against Bosasa and its alleged associates until last week.

In a recording played at the commission, Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson was heard supposedly preparing to lobby then president Jacob Zuma for a new NPA head. Watson could be heard saying: “[Former Hawks boss Berning] Ntlemeza is the right guy at that place, doing what he can. Now we need to get the right person at the NPA.”

Agrizzi further recounted how Anwa Dramat — Ntlemeza’s predecessor — refused to succumb to Jiba’s alleged attempts to shut down the Bosasa case.

Last month, deputy national director of public prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr told the Mokgoro inquiry that there was a “very concerning” trend at the NPA of prosecuting those viewed as “obstacles to corruption and the capture of the state”.The inquiry, chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, is looking into the fitness Jiba and Mrwebi to lead the prosecuting authority.

Hofmeyr said the trend — of prosecuting those who got in the way — “emerged under Jiba”. He gave examples, including the prosecutions of Dramat, McBride and former Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya.

Dramat resigned in 2015 after he was accused of being involved in the illegal rendition of Zimbabweans in 2010.

McBride was accused of covering up Dramat’s involvement.

At the time, Dramat denied the allegations, saying he was being discredited because of his attempts to investigate high-profile and politically connected people. He said the move against him was motivated by his bid to have the Hawks investigate the upgrades to Zuma’s Nkandla home.

McBride was suspended by then police minister Nathi Nhleko. But the Constitutional Court set aside the suspension in September 2016 and in November that year the charges against McBride were withdrawn.

Nhleko revealed in October 2016 that the litigation against McBride, Dramat, Sibiya and former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen cost the police ministry a total of R17.2-million.In an affidavit to the Constitutional Court, McBride accused Nhleko of “undue political pressure on the Ipid to take a particular decision relating to its investigations, which is favoured by the minister”.His affidavit also raised 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.

Ipid subsequently investigated Ntlemeza for fraud, perjury and crimen injuria. The directorate also investigated Khomotso Phahlane, the then acting national police commissioner, for corruption.