Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride testifying at the state capture inquiry. File picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Zondo commission has heard how the South African Police Service crime intelligence division would often declare documents as classified in an attempt to prevent investigations by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid). 

Former Ipid boss Robert McBride took the stand on Thursday and told the commission that most requests by Ipid to crime intelligence were often met with resistance. 

He said it was in certain circumstances where the division was willing to part with information needed in investigations related to allegations of corruption. 

McBride gave an overview of the issues he faced as the head of Ipid and attempts to weaken the organisation. 

McBride served as the head of Ipid from 2014 until March 2019. He is currently challenging the non-renewal of his contract.  

Ipid provides oversight on the role over SAPS officials and it investigates accusations against the police which can be related to a variety of matters, such as death under police custody and corruption within the police service. It is governed by the Ipid Act. 

“Any request to crime intelligence, except for certain cases, is met with resistance. Very often crime intelligence will resort to the specious classification of documents in contravention of policy standards which prohibits the classification of documents to cover up maladministration,” said McBride. 

“In an example, I can give in the abuse of resources, a senior officer who is not allowed to make use of an official SAPS vehicle made use of such a vehicle and it was reported to us and we investigated. Upon the investigators requesting the log book to ascertain the days and numbers and purpose of use of the vehicle, it immediately became a classified document. As to who classified the document and why, upon query on the telephone, investigators were told that is also classified,” he said. 

McBride said the issues of resistance within the police services were often widespread and affected various institutions within the security cluster. 

“It is not isolated it is the general pattern and including cooperation. There is what we call an Ipid blue curtain. For a long time, there was no oversight within the police service and as a result, oversight is met with huge resistance especially within crime intelligence. Even before my appointment as Ipid head, there is evidence where there had been rampant abuse and impunity and oversight in the use of the secret service account of crime intelligence. There is no transparency at all,” said McBride. 

He said his office had asked for assistance from Police Minister Bheki Cele to assist with the unlawful classification of documents. 

Cele’s office referred him to the inspector general, whose office has the authority to obtain various classified documents. 

He said it was only with this partnership with the Inspector General that his office was able to get access to classified documents where they found numerous cases of corruption and abuse of resources. 

“Ipid and the Inspector General signed a cooperation agreement to combat resistance. We looked at the abuse of the fund (secret account fund) within crime intelligence. A litany of corruption was brought to our attention. We found that there were complaints on the use of the secret service account and there were no steps taken on the matter. Some would employee members of their families as agents and draw salaries on the crime intelligence fund,” said McBride.

McBride said he was not aware of these cases being successfully prosecuted. 

The inquiry continues.

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