Media should have 'exercised caution' in Zim rendition saga, Zondo hears
Johannesburg - Ex-Ipid boss Robert McBride has criticised the media for the handling of the leaked Werksmans report into the Zimbabwean rendition saga and says the Sunday Times should have ‘exercised caution’ when dealing with leaked reports.
McBride appeared at the Zondo commission on Friday for his second day of testimony into the corruption the besieged law enforcement agencies.
He spoke broadly about his suspension in 2015 and the investigation by Werksmans Attorneys into his handling of an investigation into the Zimbabwean rendition matter.
The law firm was appointed by former police minister Nathi Nhleko in early 2015. Nhleko had asked the firm to investigate McBride and other Ipid investigators role in altering a report on the Zimbabwean rendition.
McBride explained on Thursday that when he was appointed in 2014 he had asked that the Zimbabwean rendition investigation be reevaluated.
There had been a preliminary report compiled before he got into office. After further investigation on the matter, a final report was signed by McBride. This report differed from the earlier preliminary one.
The rendition case implicated former Hawks head Anwa Dramat and former Gauteng Hawks head Shadrick Sibiya who had been accused of unlawfully handing over Zimbabwean fugitives to the Zimbabwean police in 2010. The suspects later died in custody.
When Nhleko asked for all documentation related to the matter in November 2014, McBride reluctantly handed over the information.
A few weeks later Dramat was suspended in December by Nhleko. McBride also faced questions and accusations from Nhleko about why the two reports differed and he accused him of changing the report.
Nhleko then hired Werksmans to investigate the investigation that was conducted by McBride and his team on the Zimbabwean rendition matter.
That report made damning findings against McBride and two of his investigators. It recommended that they be charged. Nhleko then opened a case against McBride and the two for defeating the ends of justice. The report had also recommended that Sibiya and Dramat be charged.
McBride explained to the commission that even before he saw the report, it was leaked to the media. It was on this basis that he lashed out at the media’s handling of the report. He believes those who leaked the report to the media had done so to prove that the narrative on Zimbabwean rendition matter had been true.
The Sunday Times had run a series of stories on the Zimbabwean rendition matter since 2011. The journalists that worked on the case were awarded for their reporting on the saga.
“No caution was exercised when dealing with this matter,” McBride said.
McBride said journalists should have asked questions to their sources that leaked the report.
“The issue is that it was the Sunday Times that started the story in 2011 and the Werksmans report was used by people who had an interest in proving the accuracy of the initial stuff which they had leaked,” he said.
“Journalists should have healthy cynicism like an investigator should have. The Sunday Times, in this case, should have been suspicious about the leaks. Even by the time they broke the story they were aware that the story had changed from when the reported on it initially,” said McBride.
He said more scrutiny was warranted especially because anti-corruption fighting bodies were under attack.
“There was a lot going and a whole wiping out of the anti-corruption independent bodies, surely some caution should have been exercised as to the way in which firstly the report was handled before it was leaked to media, and the media should have asked ‘has this been considered by the minister?’, ‘can you back-up what is being said?’, he said.
“I know the media like a scoop, but you should have alarm bells ringing when you are seeing independent anti-corruption institutions being wiped out. Something should ask you to ask ‘what is happening?’. What was their agenda?” McBride said.
The former Ipid boss earlier told the commission how Nhleko attempted to influence the Werksmans investigation.
He told the inquiry on Thursday that Nhleko used the provisional report into the Zimbabwe rendition matter to suspend Dramat.
McBride returns to the stand on Monday.