SAPS acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane squared off with Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head on Tuesday as they briefed Parliament's portfolio committee on police.
McBride and his team levelled a series of allegations against Phahlane and senior SAPS members, including that they were actively interfering with a probe into the commissioner's perceived relationship with police service providers.
Ipid's head of investigations Matthew Sesoko went as far as calling for Phahlane to be suspended or put on leave pending the outcome of the Ipid probe.
"Ipid is convinced that it will be in the interest of justice for General Phahlane to be suspended or put on leave so Ipid can continue with investigations without any interference," said Sesoko.
Sesoko cited death threats issued via SMS to Ipid head Robert McBride and private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, the complainant in the probe against Phahlane.
He said one of the phones from which the threats were issued was linked to a police officer stationed at the OR Tambo International Airport.
“It is possible just as Ipid members had received death threats, witnesses could also be intimidated or have their lives threatened in order not to comply with investigators,” he said.
Sesoko further claimed that Phahlane had assembled a team, led by Major-General Ntebo Mabulu, to directly counter the Ipid probe. He added members of the team were being investigated by Ipid for murder, torture and assault, among other alleged anomalies. He suggested Phahlane and his team’s actions were “detrimental” to the independence of Ipid.
MPs warned the Ipid and SAPS they were not interested in personality clashes as McBride poked fun at Phahlane over the bravery award he received for fighting off armed robbers at a Johannesburg spa last year.
"People who saw the video on YouTube will come to different conclusions," quipped McBride, before being warned to not get personal by an MP.
Questioned about O'Sullivan's contribution to the case, McBride said while he did not agree with the private investigators "attitude", he did provide Ipid with information on a number of occasions.
Phahlane rejected allegations he was interfering in Ipid's work, saying Mabula and team were assembled to do a threat assessment after the attack at the spa. He also brushed aside Ipid's call for his suspension.
"If it were to be in the interest of the country and there was good reason why I should be at home, I would have taken the liberty to do so but I of course realised that this is an investigations directed at my person," said Phahlane.
The acting commissioner claimed O'Sullivan had "sanctioned" the probe against him and that he was manipulating the Ipid to serve his own agenda.
“Without any fear of contradiction, Ipid as an independent body doesn’t exist… is not functioning. Under the current circumstances it might be safe to call it OPID – O’Sullivan’s Police Investigative Directorate,” said Phahlane, suggesting there was a nefarious relationship between O’Sullivan and McBride.
“They [Ipid] have been captured for far too long. We cannot allow Ipid to be utilised to serve people’s personal agendas.”
Phahlane pleaded innocence on the Ipid allegations against him, saying he did not need to illegally make money off SAPS tenders as between him and his wife they earned R2.5 million, at the same taking a potshot at McBride.
"I want to congratulate Mr Robert McBride, the Ipid and O'Sullivan for a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign..they have been excellent."