Far-out tales from Zondo to Zuma


I’m exhausted. Another two days of watching the wheels of justice grind excruciatingly slowly at the Umzimkhulu magistrate’s court has worn me down. Two more days of stop and start, of standing around waiting, of hoping that the putrid effluent seeping down the outer wall of A Court is, in fact, water. Two more days of whiling away the time by watching desperate young men picking up years of jail time for stealing chickens and goats because they can’t afford to pay the R2 000 fine imposed by the court.

Wiped out or not, I’m up early, keen to square the last copy away in time for former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride’s testimony at the Zondo commission into state capture. There’s the small matter of a trip to Umdoni on the South Coast that has to be made today, but I’m hoping to at least catch the start of McBride’s evidence before I head off.

I’ve been gagging to hear McBride’s presentation to Zondo, which has been postponed twice to give the people he has implicated in his affidavits sufficient notice before he gives evidence. The capture of the security cluster, the criminal justice system and the intelligence services was a central part of state capture by the Zuptas and the Bosasas of this world.

McBride, as Ipid head, spent most of his term of office in a war with their deployees in the security services, particularly the police and its crime intelligence division, with, in some cases, rather spectacular results. McBride has promised to join the dots about how a parallel network came to run our security establishment under Jacob Zuma’s leadership; how crime intelligence’s informer fund became a private piggy bank for a cabal of bent cops, their business pals and the politicos who pulled their strings.

McBride was appointed as executive director of Ipid, which investigates wrongdoing by the police, in February 2014. By March the following year, he had been suspended by then police minister Nathi Nhleko. McBride went to the Constitutional Court to appeal Firepool’s decision, won, and was reinstated in September 2016, serving the rest of his term. In February the current police minister, Bheki Cele, did not renew McBride’s contract at the end of that month.

It’s a weird call on Cele’s part. McBride can be a handful, but he’s been a pretty effective Ipid head, particularly when it comes to keeping the police brass honest.

Cele’s no Firepool — we hope — but his decision doesn’t sit that well.

Perhaps Bheki Cele doesn’t like Bobby M. Perhaps McBride is too good at his job.

I have a lot of respect for McBride. As a young journalist, I ended up covering McBride’s trial for the 1986 bombing of Magoo’s Bar on the Durban beachfront in the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Three women died in the bombing and 69 people were injured.

I was a kid — so was McBride, for that matter — and had been thrown in the deep end because my senior cut off the tip of one of her fingers while cooking dinner the night before the trial started and the bosses had nobody else to send.

The trial was an education for me in a whole lot of ways. Apart from the bombings, McBride and his dad, Derrick, sprung their comrade, Gordon Webster, who had been shot by the police, from custody in Edendale Hospital. The evidence of their daring rescue of Webster was amazing, more like a movie script than real life, heroic stuff. People in the public gallery broke into applause. I battled to stop myself joining them.

I was there when McBride was sentenced to death for the bombing in April 1987. It was a horrible moment. I can’t imagine what McBride must have felt, listening to those words.

Thankfully, the sentence was commuted to life.

I crank up the laptop.

There’s a statement from the Jacob G Zuma Foundation.

The former head of state, it appears, is peeved about the story that appeared over the weekend claiming that he had stashed $30-million given to him by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with King Mswati in the country previously known as Swaziland, seemingly after the block got hot at Nkandla in the wake of last year’s St Valentine’s Day Massacre. uBaba, as his followers call Zuma, says there is no money and that he is considering suing.

It’s an outlandish tale, but then again, our man has done some pretty outlandish shit over the years, particularly when it comes to other people’s money.

The taking of Gaddafi’s money and sinking it part I can believe, knowing uBaba as I do. No problem there: money is money and this is Jacob Zuma.

It’s the part about handing the $30-million to Mswati that I’m battling with. Why would Zuma give the money to somebody who is as likely as he is — or perhaps even more likely — to chow it? uBaba’s not dumb. Once the 30 mil passes the Golela border post, it’s missing. Gone. For good. Like I say, it’s an outlandish tale.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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