Analysis

South Africa deserves a transparent appointment of the next IPID head

By Marianne Thamm 1 February 2019

Independent Police Investigative Directorate boss Robert McBride at the Portfolio Committee on Police in Parliament. The briefing was by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate on high-profile cases and progress report on Marikana investigations, 29 March 2018. Photo by Leila Dougan

Potentially politically explosive investigations – involving hundreds of millions of rand – into SAPS high flyers make the IPID job crucial to South Africa's fight against corruption.

Attached to his urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court to declare the unilateral decision by Minister of Police Bheki Cele not to renew his five-year contract as the director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Robert McBride provided a list of 24 sensitive investigations involving more than R200-million and which are all potentially politically explosive.

While McBride, in his application, said that he accepted that he had no right to have his appointment renewed, he did have the right to have the decision “taken lawfully by the body vested with this power – that is the portfolio committee – rather than the minister”.

Cele informed McBride in a 16 January 2019 letter that his contract would not be renewed. McBride’s term of office comes to an end on 28 February. He had been initially recommended by the Cabinet for the top job in 2013 but was illegally suspended in 2015 by former police minister Nathi Nhleko.

McBride challenged the suspension in the Constitutional Court in 2016 and was reinstated after Judge Chris Jafta ruled that the minister of police did not have the power to intervene in IPID matters.

The ruling determined that the executive director of IPID was not a public servant employed by the minister of police under the Public Service Act. The court held that section 6 (3) of the IPID Act was unconstitutional for making the executive director subject to the laws governing public service.

The IPID director has made many enemies investigating a series of high-profile corruption cases against South African Police Service top brass.

Attached to his application to the High Court, McBride provided a list of 24 cases, including the role of SAPS members in the Marikana massacre in 2012.

The most potentially damaging cases IPID is investigating, however, are three probes into I-View, a company owned by Durban businessman Inbanathan Kistiah.

Kistiah is alleged to have met top SAPS brass, including National Commissioner Khehla Sitole, in December 2017 in order to procure, at an inflated price of R45-million, an eavesdropping device, known as a grabber. Former minister of police, Fikile Mbalula’s adviser, Bongani Mbindwane, was filmed attending the meeting, held at a Pretoria hotel.

The grabber was alleged to be procured through Crime Intelligence and the money, said McBride, meant to be laundered in order to “buy” votes for the Jacob Zuma faction at the ANC’s Nasrec elective conference in December 2017.

Cyril Ramaphosa won the election by a slim margin.

Sitole cancelled the procurement when a Crime Intelligence whistle-blower tipped off IPID. The whistle-blower currently faces a disciplinary hearing.

Sitole has thwarted McBride’s attempts to declassify documents relating to the R45-million procurement, saying these related to “national security”. However, the inspector-general for intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe, as well as IPID, are of the opinion that the classification of the documents is an alleged attempt to cover up possible criminality.

Dintwe wrote to Cele, saying the issue pertained to SAPS procurement matters and not national security and that documents should be declassified.

The two other cases involving I-View, centre on a R6-million SAPS procurement of bulletproof vests at a vastly inflated sum as well the receipt of Louis Vuitton handbags worth R40,000 each as “gifts”.

In another matter, an amount of R54-million was paid to I-View for a software encryption application, Daedalus, to monitor social media sites during the 2016 #FeesMustFall student protests.

McBride, in his application, also sets out how the NPA – about to be led by Shamila Batohi, who starts work on 1 February – has sat on several of the high-profile cases and has yet to take decisions on these.

Considering the endemic corruption in the SAPS top structure, the minister of police would be well advised to follow the letter of the law in the appointment of a new IPID head.

The undermining of the criminal justice system from within has led to it being unable to serve the citizens of crime-ridden South Africa.

It would be tempting for the ruling party to try to stymie or stifle particularly IPID’s I-View investigations, which implicate individuals who are politically connected.

An open and transparent process, guided by the portfolio committee as the law requires, would be in keeping with President Ramaphosa’s commitment to clean government. DM

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In other news...

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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