Concourt reserves judgement on suspension of Ipid head Robert McBride

Concourt reserves judgement on suspension of Ipid head Robert McBride

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday reserved judgement in the matter in which suspended Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) boss Robert McBride is challenging the lawfulness of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko's move to "unilaterally" suspend him.

File photo: Gallo Images

Before the adjournment Advocate Steven Budlender, for McBride, told the Constitutional Court that he felt Parliament should be given 30 days to make a decision and state what grounds the decision was made on.

McBride was accused of tampering with an IPID report into whether the former head of the specialised police unit, the Hawks, Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat, was involved in the illegal rendition of Zimbabweans accused of murder in their country.

However, McBride is of the opinion that he cannot do his job independently if Nhleko is allowed to suspend him without consulting other members of the Cabinet.

In December, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that the laws that had allowed Nhleko to suspend McBride unilaterally were unconstitutional. As a result the court suspended its order pending the Constitutional Court's ruling on the matter.

McBride was suspended in March last year as part of the fallout in the investigation into the illegal deportation of five Zimbabweans wanted for the murder of a policeman in Bulawayo in that country.

This year in March McBride, Matthew Sesoko and Innocent Khuba appeared in the High Court in Pretoria facing charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice following their investigation of Dramat in the rendition matter. The trio are all out on bail of R1 500 each.

On Tuesday Lawyer Tembeka Nguckaitobi, from Nhleko's defence team, said the court had to make a call on whether the police minister made a good decision based on the evidence that was presented to him.

Judge Sisi Khampepe put it to Nguckaitobi that he seemed to be assuming that Parliament wouldn't be able to play its role in making a decision regarding McBride's suspension.

"You seem to be assuming obstacles for parliament and there is no bases to maintain that Parliament wouldn't be able to do what is required of it to set up an appropriate inquiry. There is no bases of why you came to that conclusion," Khampepe said.

Nguckaitobi said Parliament could arrange an appropriate inquiry, but there were no full facts and it boiled down to how much time they would need and whether they had necessary infrastructure.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said Nhleko could not object to a 30-day period or say he didn't know how long he would need.

"It's your responsibility to prepare before you object it," asserted the chief justice.

Nguckaitobi said if McBride was allowed to return to his position after the 30-day period there was a risk he would interfere witnesses, who work at IPID.

Judge Chris Jafta said that the Nhleko had the option to inform the court that the process was in Parliament and he needed to be granted an extension due to the fear of interference

Nhleko's team later revealed that they had received a call informing them that the police minister was requesting a 90-day extension because Parliament was on a recess and was only dealing with "urgent matters".

Carol Steinburg, representing the Helen Suzman Foundation, argued that if Nhleko was is allowed do be the complainant as well as the authority, the public and police services perception that IPID was free of political interference would be undermined.

After the court reserved judgement and adjourned, McBride said corruption was the reason why the case was at the Constitutional Court. "We ask everyone to be part of the effort to fight corruption."

McBride said that there were events at the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI or the "Hawks"), IPID, the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Crime Intelligence in the SAPS, the State Security Agency, Denel and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), that were related to the matter.

"There appears to be a remarkable coincidence in the methods used to remove officials from these institutions, the players involved and their intersecting interests," said the suspended Ipid head.

"In our view, attacks on individuals in these institutions are aimed at undermining the fight against corruption. A key part of all of our mandates was to investigate cases of corruption. In reviewing our individual experiences over recent weeks, we have discovered a convergence in the cases that we were working on.

"A common thread is that cases under investigation involved individuals or entities with questionable relationships to those in public office. Most of these cases involved state tenders of some kind that were awarded due to patronage with influential individuals in public office." - ANA

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