It’s a conspiracy from start to finish: Robert McBride
Former Ipid boss tells of Hawks dismissals
Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) boss Robert McBride used his first day at the state capture inquiry to take direct aim at the police and its ministry, talking about the hurdles he came across during his tenure.
What has infamously become known as the “Zimbabwean rendition saga” – which led to the suspension of senior Hawks members – took centre stage when McBride took the stand on Thursday after two months of delays to his testimony.
The case, which he described as “a conspiracy from start to finish”, marked McBride’s first battle with political forces within the police when he arrived at Ipid in March 2014, and would eventually result in his wrongful suspension only a year later.
It was widely seen as a political manoeuvre to have former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and his Gauteng commander, Shadrack Sibiya, removed from their respective offices by then police minister Nathi Nhleko.
The two were accused of planning and executing an operation in 2010 that led to the illegal repatriation of five Zimbabweans wanted by police in their country for the murder of a senior officer.
An investigation by Ipid, conducted before McBride’s arrival, recommended that Dramat and Sibiya be prosecuted on charges of kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.
McBride said when he arrived at Ipid, taking over from its acting director Koekie Mbeki, he requested an update on all high-profile cases.
He was briefed on this case by then acting national head of investigations Matthews Sesoko and Innocent Khuba, who was the provincial head of Ipid in Limpopo.
He learnt that the case docket on Dramat and Sibiya had been prepared by Crime Intelligence and handed to Khuba with an instruction to continue working with intelligence officers.
“I was under the impression that the investigation’s integrity had been compromised,” McBride told the commission.
He requested a full review of the case and new evidence, in the form of an analysis of cellphone records, showed that Sibiya, in contrast to what three Crime Intelligence officers had previously stated, was not near any of the crime scenes, as initially alleged.
“Dramat’s association was that he was informed by a [Crime Intelligence] officer at the border that Zimbabwe officials wanted to see him because they were looking for suspects. “He also congratulated officers for the arrest of the Zimbabweans.
“He also was among those who received automated bulk SMSes indicating successes,” McBride said.
“After I was informed that Sibiya could not be placed at any of the scenes, it meant that the three witnesses from [Crime Intelligence] placing Sibiya on three different scenes could not reasonably be true and it just made me even more suspicious.”
After the review, Ipid drafted a second report which recommended that no prosecution be levelled against Dramat or Sibiya because of a lack of evidence.
But months later, after Nhleko was appointed, the minister requested that the entire docket on the rendition saga be handed over.
Days after McBride complied, Dramat was suspended based on the recommendations, it seemed, of the initial report prepared by Ipid before McBride’s appointment.Nhleko went a step further, suspending McBride in March 2015 on allegations that he had altered the initial report to clear Dramat and Sibiya.McBride successfully battled Nhleko’s decision in the courts, effectively winning his reinstatement.Since then, his trouble had to a large degree been with bureaucracy – specifically around the declassification of information Ipid needed to pursue its investigations into corruption.He told the commission that there was a “blue curtain” around the police’s Crime Intelligence unit.“Any request for information from [Crime Intelligence], except for a brief period, is generally met with resistance and very often will resort to the classification of documents.“There is actually what we call in Ipid a blue curtain.“More often than not, even before my appointment to Ipid, there’s a history of cases where’s there’s been rampant abuse and a sense of impunity in the exercise of the usage of the secret service account of [Crime Intelligence] and that also goes towards the classification.”As his testimony continues, McBride is expected to detail how a “silent coup” in the state resulted in the weakening of anti-corruption entities.“My belief is that there was an attack on anti-corruption institutions and that my suspension [by Nhleko in 2015] was part of that process to take control of independent anticorruption bodies and remove their heads by suspension, spurious disciplinaries, and then to supplant them with compliant people who would not carry out their tasks diligently,” he said.“A few years ago, I came to the conclusion and expressed myself publicly, but I had also engaged with other affected persons from other organisations.“The statement I made is that it [the weakening of anticorruption entities] is to cover up crimes committed before, crimes being committed in the present, and crimes expected to take place in the future.”His testimony continues.