Hiccup sees McBride free to return to work

Johannesburg - Robert McBride, the Independent Police Investigatifve Directorate (Ipid) head whose suspension the Constitutional Court declared invalid last month, can return to work today after Parliament missed the deadline for an inquiry into his alleged misconduct.

This follows a bewildering sequence of events in which Parliament’s police oversight committee initially determined it would be unable to process Police Minister Nathi Nhleko's request for it to hold such an inquiry because it required a mandate by way of a resolution passed in the National Assembly. It couldn't do that before the expiry of the 30-day deadline.

Ipid head Robert McBride File picture: Boxer Ngwenya. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

As the first sitting of the House is scheduled for Tuesday, Speaker Baleka Mbete wrote to Nhleko last week, informing him that Parliament wouldn't be able to assist him before the lapse of the end of the grace period granted by the Constitutional Court for proceedings against McBride to be initiated.

This was the position announced by police committee chairperson Francois Beukman on Thursday.

However, on Friday the committee did an about-turn, saying it was obliged in terms of the National Assembly rules to consider a matter referred to it and that it would consider Nhleko’s request this week.

But on Tuesday, Beukman announced he had studied the opinion of Parliament’s senior legal adviser, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, and it was clear that a resolution was required for the committee to consider the matter. It therefore fell away, he said.

Nhleko acknowledged in his letter to Mbete requesting the inquiry that should Parliament fail to begin an inquiry before the deadline, McBride’s suspension would lapse automatically and he would be entitled to return to work.

McBride did not wish to comment on Tuesday.

This is the second change of heart by Parliament within a week.

Mbete’s office announced on Friday that she would not take custody of outgoing public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on state capture, only for the office of ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu to announce on Saturday that the statement hadn't been authorised by Mbete and that she would keep the report safe.

This follows a soul-searching session of the ANC caucus to reflect on the local government election results and their implications for the party.

After the meeting, Mthembu announced that ANC MPs would take a more rigorous approach to their oversight duties, suggesting there will be increased tension between Parliament and the executive in coming months.

Nhleko accuses McBride of having doctored an Ipid investigation report to exonerate former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat of allegations relating to the rendition of Zimbabweans.

But the Constitutional Court found his powers to suspend and remove the Ipid head were inconsistent with the independence required of the directorate.

It set aside McBride’s suspension and said the police watchdog’s head could be suspended only via a parliamentary process and could be removed only after the adoption of a resolution to that effect passed by a two-thirds majority.

Political Bureau