South Africa


Robert McBride: ‘Werksmans law firm got Zimbabwean renditions case wrong’

Archive Photo: Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate boss Robert McBride at the Portfolio Committee on Police in Parliament, 29 March, 2018. Photo by Leila Dougan

The circumstances around two conflicting reports involving the Zimbabwean renditions case were explored by former IPID head Robert McBride, in day two of his testimony before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on Friday.

Former police minister Nathi Nhleko allegedly compromised the independence of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) when he interfered with an investigation by law firm Werksmans, that examined the circumstances around two conflicting reports involving the Zimbabwean renditions case.

And, the law firm, allegedly got it wrong when its team concluded that the first of two IPID reports into the role of former Hawks boss, Anwa Dramat and former Gauteng Hawks head, Shadrack Sibiya, in the Zimbabwe renditions case, had been altered.

This is what McBride told the State Capture Commission during the second day of his testimony on Friday.

The renditions case was widely seen as a part of a political move to remove Dramat from this key post at a time when he had called for all sensitive investigations, allegedly including one into the construction of former president Jacob Zuma’s home at Nkandla, to be centralised under a team at the Hawks, the Commission heard.

McBride’s team at IPID had produced a report that crushed efforts to haul Anwa Dramat, Sibiya, and others up on disciplinary and or criminal charges over what became known as the Zimbabwean renditions case.

The report found there was no evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution but Nhleko later relied on an earlier report, one that had been submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority prior to McBride’s arrival in the job, to suspend Dramat.

That earlier, January 2014, report had been rushed by former IPID investigator, Innocent Khuba, who had allegedly been pressurised by among others, Berning Ntlemeza, the man who would later replace Dramat, to submit a report to the NPA before the investigation was concluded.

The initial report recommended Dramat and Sibiya, among others, be charged for their role in South Africa having handed three Zimbabwean nationals over to Zimbabwean authorities – two of the men later died as a result.

Unaware of this earlier report, once McBride was appointed as the head of IPID two months later, he asked for a briefing on all high-profile cases, it included the renditions matter.

He said he then realised that the docket had pretty much been provided to his team by the police’s Crime Intelligence unit which had no business being involved in an IPID investigation as this compromised the investigation.

As a result, he asked that the entire process be re-covered by IPID investigators, that crucial outstanding cellphone analysis be incorporated into the docket. The final report was then submitted to the NPA, this time effectively clearing Dramat and Sibiya.

Months later Nhleko, seemingly unhappy with the outcome of the IPID investigation, hired Werksmans to investigate the circumstances behind the two conflicting reports.

McBride said his understanding of the initial report, even though he only became aware of it later on, was that it was not a final report as the investigation had not been concluded.

But, in an April 2015 report, Werksmans concluded that the initial report had been altered and recommended disciplinary charges against McBride and senior IPID officials, Mathews Sesoko and Khuba.

And, Werksmans recommended that Dramat and Sibiya be criminally charged.

Yet, said McBride, the author of the Werksmans report refused to testify while the report had carried a disclaimer that it could not be used in litigation.

What then was the purpose?” McBride asked before Commission chairperson, deputy chief justice, Raymond Zondo.

McBride briefly alluded to a pattern during the State Capture project whereby those in charge had allegedly used auditors, lawyers and even media companies to drive the “persecution” of senior government officials that needed to be shafted.

While the Werksmans report served as the basis for subsequent criminal charges against McBride and the two others, those were later withdrawn, again, because there was no evidence to sustain a prosecution, he told the Commission.

He accused Werksmans of having tried to work around him during its investigating in the two reports by their sending him notices to incorrect email addresses or by targeting his subordinates, Sesoko and Khubu directly.

Nhleko, he said, had allegedly irregularly interfered at times by having his office call Khubu to tell him to co-operate with Werksmans and by offering to fly him to Cape Town for meetings with Nhleko. “Even over weekends,” said McBride.

He said the Werksmans report formed part of the record that later served before the Constitutional Court where he had successfully challenged the minister’s power to suspend him.

The law firm, he said, was hired to investigate misconduct within the Hawks and principally, the role of IPID in that renditions investigation, yet it failed in the end to make definitive findings about who and under which circumstances the first report was allegedly altered.

The Commission’s senior evidence leader, advocate Paul Pretorius said the Waksman’s’ report may still be dealt with by the Commission later on.

The firm has legal representation at the Commission.

McBride’s testimony continues. DM


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