Robert McBride's fate in hands of MPs
He had reached an agreement with Police Minister Bheki Cele and the portfolio committee on police regarding the appointment of the new Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head.
In terms of the agreement, made an order of court, the portfolio committee, instead of the minister, would decide before the end of this month on whether or not to renew his contract.
McBride approached the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday after Cele informed him last month that he would not renew his contract.
The Ipid head said it was not for the minister to decide but the decision lay with Parliament.
He asked the court in papers filed to find Cele’s decision to be unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid. He wanted the court to set it aside.
At the start of the court proceedings, Advocate Steven Budlender, acting for McBride, told Judge Wendy Hughes the parties had reached an agreement.
In terms of this all the parties agreed that the decision on McBride’s appointment rested with the portfolio committee and not the minister.
It was further agreed that the committee would make its decision by February 28.
In terms of the agreement, the committee would issue an affidavit on February 22 regarding its progress on the matter.
The parties would be allowed to make submissions on February 26 on whether the portfolio committee should be given more time to make its decision and whether McBride’s term should be temporarily extended.
The Helen Suzman Foundation, added as a party to the proceedings, however, vehemently objected to the agreement.
Advocate Max du Plessis said the court should hear the arguments regarding the merits of the case, and the parties should not be allowed to rush matters by coming to an agreement which was not practical.
One of his concerns was that given the limited time until the end of the month, the portfolio committee would be pushed into making a decision.
“They can’t do this in a rush. If you allow this, they will find themselves in a review application,” Du Plessis said.
He further argued there was a need to carefully protect Ipid’s independence, especially when it came to the renewal of appointments.
Judge Hughes, however, dismissed the opposition to the agreement and made it an order of court.
McBride, who attended the proceedings, afterwards said this was a constitutional matter and about ensuring the independence of Ipid. “It is to see that the independence is not trampled upon not about my contract. It is about the independence of Ipid.”
Asked whether he was going to reapply for his job, McBride refused to comment other than to say: “It’s a bit premature.”
Head of the Helen Suzman Foundation Francis Antonie said that he noted the ruling and once they received the reasons, they would consider their options.
He said the independence of bodies such as the Hawks and Ipid must be guaranteed. It was thus vital that there was no political interference in appointing its head or renewing these positions.
He said the interference of Cele in this case was definitely unlawful.
Antonie said a committee, along the lines of the judicial services committee, should be tasked to make a nomination and then to forward it to the president for an appointment.