In a victory for suspended Independent Police Investigative Directorate head Robert McBride‚ the Constitutional Court on Tuesday found that the current provisions of the IPID Act undermined the directorate’s constitutionally guaranteed independence.
It set aside the minister’s decision to suspend and take disciplinary action against McBride. However‚ this order was suspended for 30 days so that the process could be restarted with the necessary parliamantary oversight.
The court ruled in an application for confirmation of an earlier order made by the high court in Pretoria in December.
In that judgment‚ the court declared the provisions of the IPID Act to be invalid because it allowed the minister of police to suspend and remove the IPD head.
This did not adequately safeguard IPID’s institutional independence‚ said Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane in December.
McBride was suspended in March last year on allegations that he had covered up the alleged involvement of senior Hawks officials in the unlawful renditions of four Zimbabweans during 2010 and 2011.
McBride denied the claims against him and challenged his suspension by the police minister.
McBride said the Constitution did not allow Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to suspend or discipline him unilaterally without affording Parliament any role in this process.
The high court agreed with McBride’s argument.
The court also set aside the minister’s decision to suspend McBride and take disciplinary steps against him.
In a unanimous judgment written by Acting Judge Lebotsang Bosielo‚ the court said since both parties were in amenable‚ the order setting aside the minister’s decision to suspend and take disciplinary action against McBride was suspended for 30 days so that the process of suspension can be restarted with the necessary political oversight.
The court also ordered the minister to pay the costs.
McBride‚ who was present in court for the judgment‚ welcomed the judgment and said it confirmed the independence of IPID.
“That principle has been established‚” McBride said.
He said he would now wait 30 days to see if any steps will be taken against him.
“It must be remembered I initially approached the National Assembly to account to them on the report.
“As soon as 30 days are over‚ I would like to return to work‚” McBride said.
He also said although the court awarded him legal costs‚ this was taxpayers’ money‚ which was unnecessarily spent.
Click here to read the full judgment