Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride on Tuesday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that the South African Police Service (SAPS) was run on a patronage system which demoralised the good officers “who are meant to keep the ship afloat”.
McBride told the commission that relentless plots, schemes, and conspiracies, which continued non-stop within the SAPS, were not only meant to drive him out of the directorate and deter him from his determination to fight corruption “but also include spending resources on harassment and disruption on Ipid’s activities”.
“It is the same tactic that they used when they are dealing with criminal syndicates, if they are doing their work properly, they will disrupt and they will tie them up in litigation,” he said, adding that this tactic had delayed the work of the Ipid.
McBride was giving testimony on how former acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane and North West police members, including Major-General Ntebo Mabula, attempted to interfere into the Ipid’s investigations into allegations ranging from corruption to murder and torture levelled against SAPS members, including Phahlane and Mabula.
McBride was suspended from March 24, 2015, and returned to work on October 19, 2016. Former police minister Nathi Nhleko suspended McBride for “altering” the preliminary report in the rendition of Zimbabweans.
He told the commission on Monday that during his suspension, a number of bizarre transfers occurred at Ipid which not only affected at least eight or more senior managers within the directorate but also made the Ipid dysfunctional.
On Monday, McBride said on his return from suspension, two officers had been transferred from SAPS crime intelligence on a permanent basis, including Tlou Kgomo, who was appointed to head investigations at Ipid.
Referring to an audio clip heard by the commission on Monday in which Kgomo offers Ipid investigator Mandla Mahlangu a promotion if the latter cooperated in an effort to bring down McBride, the former Ipid head said this was one example of how the SAPS ran on a patronage system, where subordinates were asked favours and carry out tasks on behalf of their seniors in exchange for promotions.
“Promotions within the forensics lab area will be related to assisting and facilitating further corruption and maladministration and in that process, everybody has an interest in protecting their seniors… they might even feel under obligation to protect,” McBride said.
The patronage system is sustained by bonds among those within SAPS which may have been formed for a number of reasons, including that people may have attended the same college, are from the same village or shared life-threatening experiences in the field, McBride said.
“Unless you have a strong hand about good governance and respect for the rule of law and the constitution, you’ll never get the SAPS right and its a system that is not being challenged, its a system on its own and it affects all aspects of our lives,” McBride said.
He told the commission that criminal and corrupt syndicates stopped senior officers from investigating past, current, and future acts of criminality, adding that he could list a litany of cases where billions had been stolen without the SAPS taking action.
“We will have this commission, your lordship will make recommendations which will be carried out but the patronage system within the police service will stay unchanged and politicians will require complaint senior police officers,” he said, adding that those politicians would come and go and they would use police officers as they wish.
The latter, McBride said, was how the Ipid often landed up at loggerheads with the minister of police – a politician.
Another example that McBride cited was the removal of former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and his replacement by Berning Ntlemeza, which led to the axing of former Gauteng Hawks boss Shadrack Sibiya and KZN Hawks head retired Lieutenant General Johan Booysens.
“The forces that should be fighting against this patronage system are being sabotaged politically,” he said.