Robert McBride accuses former top cop of targeting Ipid investigators

Robert McBride accused Khomotso Phahlane of orchestrating a counter-investigation into Ipid.
Robert McBride accused Khomotso Phahlane of orchestrating a counter-investigation into Ipid.
Image: Masi Losi

Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) boss Robert McBride claimed on Tuesday that former top cop Khomotso Phahlane orchestrated a counter-investigation into the police watchdog to thwart a corruption probe linked to him.

Testifying at the state capture inquiry, McBride pulled no punches when he gave evidence on the now-suspended police commissioner and the controversial "Mabula team" - a crack group of officers from the North West tasked to investigate Ipid officials, private investigator Paul O'Sullivan and his attorney Sarah-Jane Trent.

When McBride returned to his office in October 2016 after an almost 18-month suspension, he received a request from O'Sullivan for an update on a case he had reported to Ipid during McBride's absence. The case dealt with allegations of corruption and money laundering levelled against Phahlane, who was said to have received millions in kickbacks from service providers registered with the police.

McBride told the commission last week that he discovered that two cases had been opened into this matter within Ipid, but as a result of its duplication on the system, both were closed. He said this was a common trend in his absence to misrepresent the success statistics of the institution and cover up corruption in the police's top brass.

A task team was set up to investigate allegations into Phahlane comprised of Ipid officials Mandla Mahlangu, Temane Binang, Mantsha Raphesu and Cedrick Nkabinde.

The team was tasked to probe the construction of Phahlane's home at the exclusive Sable Hills Estate, north of Pretoria, which was allegedly funded by a police service provider, as well as vehicles in the possession of Phahlane and his family that were said to be sponsored for their personal use.

In January 2017, three months after McBride arrived back at Ipid, Phahlane's house was raided.

"Phahlane in 2017 launched a challenge for the search warrant. A response from Ipid's side was given and Phahlane identified a number of technical issues with the search warrant. The matter lay dormant for almost 18 months. Upon the removal of Nkabinde from the task team, we became aware that Phahlane was initiating and attempting to re-enroll that initial search warrant challenge, based on a testimony he got from Nkabinde," McBride told the commission.

"As a result of the visit to Sable Hills residential estate, a complaint was initiated within the police services by Phahlane that there was a security breach at his house and that his life is now in danger. He then requested [the] acting divisional commissioner [Agnes Makhele] and [the] North West provincial commissioner [Baile Motswenyane] to establish a team to investigate the security breach."

Phahlane "also contacted [Ntebo Mabula] and his team from North West. An investigation was carried out by crime intelligence on the alleged security breach. A record of that investigation has gone missing," continued McBride.

"The Mabula team moved to Gauteng. They set up in a hotel in the CBD of Pretoria and were basically permanently based there for almost a year. Their only purpose for being there was dealing with O'Sullivan, Trent and Ipid."

This eventually resulted in O'Sullivan and Trent - and separately, two members of Ipid's task team - being arrested on what McBride described as "trumped-up charges". None of the prosecutions were successful.

The alleged interference in Ipid's work has been at the core of McBride's four-day testimony.

This interference became so apparent for McBride upon his return from suspension that he scheduled a meeting with top law enforcement officials hosted within the State Security Agency (SSA) to campaign for the independence of his institution.

"At a certain stage after my return, I realised there are counter-investigations [by the police into Ipid] and that the criminal justice system is shaking. I was concerned about national security. I then approached the SSA to call a meeting between all the heads of services so we could get an undertaking that we will be allowed to do our work," he said. 

"I went to the only authority which doesn't have investigative prosecutorial powers and they are seized with the security of the state. I went to the director-general [Arthur Fraser at the time]. He arranged a meeting with the heads.”

McBride said there were about two or three meetings - attended by himself, Fraser, then NPA boss Shaun Abrahams, then Sars commissioner Tom Moyane and Phahlane.

"A number of issues were discussed. We undertook that we will manage our difference of opinions through the work that we do," he said.

"In one of the meetings, immediately after the first meeting, [Phahlane] went to the media about something in the effectiveness of trying to contain the fallout from investigations we were doing. Out of that process, those meetings kind of fizzled off."

The commission will hear testimony from former KZN Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen on Wednesday.


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