Nine police officers accused of murdering a taxi driver have been granted bail.

Controversial McBride set to head SA independent police body

Controversial ANC loyalist and former Ekurhuleni Police chief Robert McBride inches his way forward to being appointed the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, as critics fear the divisive nomination will plummet the South African Police Service further into corruption.

Nine police officers accused of murdering a taxi driver have been granted bail.

Nine police officers accused of murdering a taxi driver have been granted bail.

SOUTH AFRICAN Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has nominated Robert McBride, a controversial figure from South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, as the Executive Director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

The nomination came amid public and political outcry that the appointment of McBride would merely be an extension of previous ill-informed ANC appointments to high-profile police posts, continuing the perceived trend of corruption and abetting organised crime within the police, which SAPS is trying hard to shake off.

McBride, who, in exchange for amnesty granted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), had disclosed full details of his involvement as the mastermind behind the 1986 Umkhonto We Sizwe twin bomb attacks in Durban (during which three civilian women were murdered) went on to enjoy a successful career in the higher ranks of the police service, despite being repeatedly involved in public scandals. His conduct as Ekurhuleni (East Rand) police chief frequently came under scrutiny, following problems with the law ranging from drunken driving and perverting the course of justice (“defeating the ends of justice” under SA law) to assault charges and all the way to cross-border weapons smuggling in Mozambique.

Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee’s approval of the nomination is interpreted as an assurance that the 50-year-old former Ekurhuleni police head will likely be guaranteed the post. However, voices from the opposition, particularly from within the Democratic Alliance (DA), have criticised the fact that the job specifications appear to have been tailored to specifically suit McBride’s profile (including a lack of relevant tertiary qualifications requested in the advertisement of the post). DA Shadow Minister of Police, Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, condemned the nomination as “disturbing”.

“It is yet another indication that Zuma’s ANC is not serious about the fight against corruption or crime,” said Barnard. “After the disastrous appointments of Jackie Selebi and Bheki Cele, the DA believes the Minister should have chosen differently.”

Selebi and Cele, both former National Commissioners of the South African Police Service, were disgraced and – in Selebi’s case – convicted with criminal charges in respective corruption scandals, which shook public confidence in the police nationwide amid a climate of fear produced by ever-increasing displays of police brutality and violence in custody.

With eight civilians alleged to have died at the hands of the police last year alone, the South African Police Service isn’t likely to receive any awards for encouraging performance standards anytime soon. In fact, major revisions and overhauls are identified as crucial by all political parties to ensure a more transparent future of the police force, but the high levels of corruption and cronyism between the ANC government and SAPS might imply that this might just be another instance of the government paying lip-service to the public while looking after its own interests.

“McBride has shown clearly that he is deeply embedded in the ANC,” Kohler Barnard said while adding that DA will seek all legal avenues to prevent the appointment from going ahead. “The person in that position should be an individual who is completely independent of political influence.”

In South Africa, that sentiment might easily prove to be an impossible dream.

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014