Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa awakened a storm of protest in November with the announcement that the former Umkhonto we Sizwe cadre had made the short list of candidates for the position of executive director of the Ipid.
McBride has a controversial past. He was responsible for the Why Not Magoos bombing in Durban during apartheid, was convicted of drunk driving following a lengthy and controversial trial (which was later overturned), and as a high-ranking official in the Department of Foreign Affairs, was arrested by Mozambican police on charges of gun running from Mozambique to South Africa (which were later dropped).
In 1999, McBride faced an assault charge after the two men he was with, Cyril Beeka, an alleged associate of Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir, and Olaf Reucker, allegedly assaulted an employee at an escort agency.
McBride was head of the Ekurhuleni metropolitan police department when he was arrested for drunk driving.
McBride was granted amnesty for Magoos by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which also found the bombing to be a “gross violation of human rights”. McBride received the Merit Medal in Silver and the Conspicuous Leadership Star from the South African National Defence Force for his service and combat leadership in Umkhonto we Sizwe.
In a statement, Mthethwa said McBride was the most suitable candidate to head the Ipid and assured MPs that the directorate would remain independent whoever was chosen to head it.
“Our resolve to ensure that Ipid does what it is supposed to do will never be shaken by anything – and we went out to ensure that the kind of person who would be given that responsibility would have that understanding, would have that capacity,” said Mthethwa.
Dr Pieter Groenewald, spokesperson on Police for the Freedom Front Plus said in a statement “The approval of Robert McBride’s appointment as executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) by the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Police is a slap in the face of the public”.
Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police wrote McBride’s appointment was the last appointment that should ever have been made and called Mthethwa’s nomination of McBride “bizarre”.
“Robert McBride is not the right person for the job,” wrote Kohler Barnard. “Firstly, McBride is deeply embedded and loyal to the ANC. The head of Ipid must not be linked to any political party in order to investigate police officers, including politically-appointed top brass without fear or favour … We will not let this go unanswered without a fight.”
Crime Line head Yusuf Abramjee told The Citizen: “I suppose it is something we now have to live with. Now that he has been appointed there is nothing one can do. I can only hope he will keep up the heritage of keeping police accountable and that he will make sure the police are not a law unto themselves.”