Former Ipid boss Robert McBride at the Zondo commission in Parktown, Johannesburg, April 11 2019. Picture: MASI LOSI
Former Ipid boss Robert McBride at the Zondo commission in Parktown, Johannesburg, April 11 2019. Picture: MASI LOSI

Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) boss Robert McBride has described the controversial “Zimbabwean rendition” case which led to the suspension of senior Hawks officials as a “conspiracy from start to finish”.

This was the first high-profile case McBride, who was testifying before the state capture inquiry on Thursday, was confronted with when he was appointed in March 2014.

The case was widely seen as a political manoeuvre to have former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and his Gauteng commander Shadrack Sibiya removed. It was the same case that resulted in former police minister Nathi Nhleko wrongfully suspending McBride a year after his appointment.

Sibiya and Dramat both stood accused of planning and executing an operation in 2010 that led to the illegal repatriation of five Zimbabweans wanted by that country’s police for the murder of a senior officer.

An investigation by Ipid, conducted before McBride’s arrival, recommended that the pair be prosecuted criminally on charges of kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.

Former head of the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (Ipid) took to the state capture inquiry on April 11 2019 to reveal the forces at play in an attempt to ‘capture the state’.

McBride said when he arrived at Ipid he requested an update on all high-profile cases the institution was working on. He was briefed on the rendition case by Matthews Sesoko (then acting Ipid national head of investigations) and Innocent Khuba (then acting provincial head of Ipid in Limpopo).

Quoting Khuba in a conversation they had, McBride said: “Khuba said to me, ’boss, let me be open with you from the beginning. I was concerned and scared about this case from the day it was given to me’.”

McBride said he was told there were outstanding statements and a cellphone records analysis which needed to be added to the docket as evidence.

“In the initial weeks I didn’t know there existed a report … from the report given to me by Khuba, there was a clear understanding who the suspects were and the roles they played. I asked who was involved, at what stage and what crime was committed at the various stages … It indicated a conspiracy from start to finish,” McBride said.

“I was under the impression that the investigation’s integrity had been compromised.”

He requested all the evidence to be reviewed.

After the review, Ipid drafted a second report which recommended that there should be no prosecution of  Dramat or Sibiya because there was a lack of evidence.

But months later, after Nhleko was appointed, he set up a reference group whose members approached Ipid for a briefing on its high-profile cases. Members of the team, according to McBride, requested a copy of the entire docket on the rendition saga, along with all the exhibits in the case. Their request was backed by a letter from Nhleko demanding compliance.

McBride handed over the file and just days later Dramat was suspended.

A statement from the police ministry, McBride recalled, said Dramat was suspended as a result of the recommendations contained in a report by Ipid. It appeared to McBride that the ministry had based its decision on the initial report which was finalised before he arrived at Ipid and, which by his own account, was signed off by Khuba.

McBride said Ipid released a statement clarifying that it had not recommended Dramat’s suspension.

Nhleko suspended McBride in March 2015 on allegations that he had altered the initial report to clear Dramat and Sibiya.

McBride took the decision to court and won the case.