Police watchdog head Robert McBride is fighting three of the police’s top bosses in court for information about a meeting where senior officials allegedly discussed inflating the price of a procurement contract he believed would have been used to launder money to buy votes at the ANC’s elective conference in December 2017. 

In his court application, McBride said police commissioner Khehla Sitole and his two deputies breached their duties by failing to give the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) information and documents it requested for three investigations into contracts between the police and a company trading as I-View Integrated Systems.

One of the three probes involved an aborted contract Ipid suspected was going to be used to launder money to buy votes at the ANC’s highly contested elective conference in December 2017, where Cyril Ramaphosa narrowly beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to become the party’s next president.

The aborted deal was allegedly to buy a cellphone grabber, which is used to spy on cellphone users, at a highly inflated price of R45m. According to an affidavit filed by McBride in the Pretoria high court in December, the payment was halted after Ipid contacted Sitole and recommended it be stopped with immediate effect.

The grabber contract was allegedly discussed at a meeting attended by I-View; Sitole; his two deputy police commissioners, Lieutenant-General Lebeoana Jacob Tsumane and Lieutenant-General Francinah Ntombenhle Vuma; former acting head of crime intelligence Bhoyi Ngcobo; and former ministerial adviser Bo Mbindwane.

Mbindwane was adviser to then police minister Fikile Mbalula, who was an avid supporter of Dlamini-Zuma in the run-up to the ANC conference.

McBride said it was suspected the money would have been laundered to buy votes at the ANC conference.

McBride detailed the allegations investigated by Ipid in the counter-application lodged by Sitole, Tsumane and Vuma. The three police bosses have asked the court to review and set aside subpoenas that ordered them to hand over the information that could help Ipid finish the investigations.

They also argue that the information sought by Ipid could only be obtained from and disclosed by parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence. Ipid disputes this, as the watchdog believes the information and documents requested do not constitute intelligence information.

McBride argued that the documents had been “unlawfully and improperly classified to cover up the commission of suspected crimes”.  

Ipid has asked that the court issue a declaratory order that states the three officials breached their duty under the Ipid Act, and also wants the documents declassified.

“They have willfully obstructed Ipid in its investigation of I-View, with complete disregard of their duties to assist Ipid and co-operate in its investigation,” McBride said.