Robert McBride. Picture: SOWETAN
Robert McBride. Picture: SOWETAN

ANC MPs have thrown their weight behind police minister Bheki Cele, in his bitter battle not to renew the contract of Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) boss Robert McBride.

Taking a firm political stance‚ one ANC MP even went as far as to call for the party to take disciplinary steps against McBride for challenging Cele.

“The leader of Ipid will need to be disciplined by the party that he belongs to‚ whether it is ANC or DA or whatever. He must be disciplined for what he has caused us to be doing. We are drinking juices and so on‚ wasting time‚” fumed ANC MP Livhuhani Mabija on Monday.

“He knows ... The mere fact that he started running around saying‚ 'hey this-and-this‚ my contract must be renewed'‚ he knows he is not fit to go on in that position. Therefore he needs to be disciplined‚ wherever he belongs‚ because this is fruitless expenditure of parliament. [We are] busy dealing with things he has caused‚” she added.

Parliament's police portfolio committee‚ to which both McBride and Cele are accountable‚ held a special meeting on Monday to process submissions received from both men.

Cele stated the reasons for not renewing or extending McBride's five-year contract‚ which ends on Thursday.

McBride‚ in his response‚ warned MPs that Cele's determination not to renew his appointment was based on political considerations. He claimed that if the committee confirmed Cele's recommendation and his contract were not renewed‚ there would be "an undoubtable risk that several high-profile and politically sensitive investigations would be impeded or obstructed”.

The thrust of McBride's argument is that Cele is not competent to decide whether or not his contract should be renewed. He wants the parliamentary committee to make that decision on his future, instead.

The Ipid Act makes provision for the extension of the Ipid executive director's five-year contract with another five-year term.

ANC MPs noted that McBride had a fixed five-year contract‚ which ends on February 28‚ saying he had no legal right to an automatic extension or renewal of his contract. They suggested that if he wanted to remain Ipid head, he should apply when the position was advertised‚ like any other interested candidate.

“If ever he is interested in continuing‚ he will continue if he is interviewed‚ selected and given an appointment letter of that position. Then he will continue. If there is an applicant that is more competent according to how the interviews have gone‚ he will have to seek a job somewhere else‚" Mabija said.

“The leader of Ipid is not the first leader to lead Ipid. They came and they are gone. They will come when he is gone and go on with the work‚” she added.

Another ANC MP‚ Martha Mmola‚ called on Cele to appoint somebody else to act as Ipid boss after Thursday. Mmola did not think McBride deserved reasons for his contract not being renewed‚ as it was ending anyway. "If I was the minister‚ I would have said‚ 'Contract expires February 28‚ thanks.'"

Mmola said she found it ridiculous that there was even a discussion about a possible renewal of McBride's contract. “Why are we talking renewal? What is it that he is fighting for? For me this contract must not be renewed‚” she said.

“We are not going to waste time. It's Monday today and we are supposed to be in our constituency offices doing work. There are lots of contracts [ending] — even our contract expires this year on May 7.”

Some MPs reflected on the tense relationship between Cele and McBride‚ saying it was clear that the two men could not work together. “There seems to be a break in trust between the two. If we have that type of situation‚ it means these two people can't work together‚” the ANC's Jerome Maake said.

“As public representatives‚ our duty is to ensure that government departments function optimally. It is our duty to correct certain situations. Whether the facts go this way or that way doesn't matter to public representatives‚ as long as that type of situation disturbs the smooth running of government departments and service delivery.

“Whatever the minister said and what McBride said doesn't matter. The bottom line is that these two cannot work together‚” said Maake.

DA MPs warned that the committee would be making a mistake by endorsing the nonrenewal of McBride's contract.

Dianne Kohler Barnard criticised Cele for trying to “usurp” the committee's powers‚ saying she was concerned that ANC MPs were under pressure to not contradict Cele.

“It's like I'm sitting in the same Rendition movie: the targeting of top guys‚ who then leave but later come back [after being cleared]‚" she said.

Another DA MP‚ Zak Mbhele‚ likened the ANC's approach to the disbandment of the Scorpions‚ saying they would regret it years down the line.

The IFP's Mzamo Buthelezi said the trust deficit between Cele and McBride should not compromise the latter.