McBride takes parliament to court

Ipid executive director Robert McBride argues the decision was politically biased. /ALON SKUY
Ipid executive director Robert McBride argues the decision was politically biased. /ALON SKUY

Robert McBride has accused parliament's police committee that endorsed the decision by police minister Bheki Cele not to renew his contract of being politically biased.

Yesterday, the committee adopted a report that sealed McBride's fate as head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), citing the breakdown of relations between Cele and McBride.

But McBride immediately fought back by filing papers in the North Gauteng High Court to have his contract extended.

In his court papers, McBride argued that members of the committee made several statements quoted in the media which clearly showed their bias and that they had already made their decision that he should go before considering the facts.

Among these statements was one made by ANC MP Martha Mmola where she was quoted as having said: "If I was the minister, I would not give him reasons, because the contract is going to expire. If I was the minister, I would have said 'contract expires February 28, thanks'."

McBride quoted other MPs including committee chairperson Francois Beukman. "In the light of the above, I had serious concerns that certain members, including the chairperson and other members on the committee were biased and politically influenced; did not exercise an open mind in taking the decision on my reappointment; and were not acting lawfully and rationally, in compliance with their constitutional and statutory duties."

McBride said over the past five years, Ipid had become a highly effective and independent institution. "I also have a genuine concern that change in the leadership of Ipid at this stage, or the minister's appointment of an acting executive director, would threaten important and politically sensitive investigations that are ongoing."

McBride dismissed Cele's argument before the committee that his retention would have a negative impact on the public perception of Ipid.

"That is evidently not so. In fact, the opposite is true - the public's perception of Ipid will be enhanced if my term in office is renewed . If I am removed in these circumstances, the public's perception will inevitably be that my removal is politically motivated. That would be a blow for the public's perception of Ipid's independence and should not be countenanced," he said.

In January, Cele wrote to McBride informing him that his contract would not be renewed or extended when it expired at the end of February. McBride then filed an urgent application, asking the high court in Pretoria to declare Cele's decision as "unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid".

The court granted an interim order that Cele's decision must still be confirmed or rejected by the portfolio committee.

Helen Suzman Foundation's legal counsel Anton van Dalsen said Cele's recommending McBride's removal and the committee's decision were unlawful.

"It is clear in the judgment of the Constitutional Court that this is not allowed. . any decision by a political actor on the renewal and non-renewal of the term of office of the head of a body that needs to have strong independence [such as Ipid] is unconstitutional and unlawful."

McBride's lawyer Thando Manentsa said his client was disappointed with the committee's decision and was now focused on reviewing this in court.

"In theory he is not an Ipid employee from tomorrow. I would imagine that he would not be reporting to work, his contract has come to an end."

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