McBride vs Cele: Ipid’s probe into a probe fans the flames
Cop watchdog probes serious allegations as battle between Cele and McBride wears on in the background
Elements within the police’s elite political killings task team now find themselves in the crosshairs of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) after a regional ANC chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal accused unit members of trying to pin a murder on him.
Police minister Bheki Cele has also been drawn into the probe with allegations that his crack team of investigators has been co-opted to settle political scores. The claims are cast against a backdrop of a growing rift between Cele and Ipid head Robert McBride over the renewal of the latter’s contract, a matter set to play out in court.
On Tuesday, Cele wrote to parliament’s police portfolio committee, insisting it would be “irrational” to reappoint McBride for another five-year term at the end of this month because of allegations of serious misconduct levelled against him.
Cele reacted to a complaint filed with the public protector in 2018, claiming “maladministration, corruption, irregular recruitment and procurement procedures, abuse of power and purging of staff”, all of which have been denied by McBride.
Ipid’s new probe is investigating claims by the ANC’s Emalahleni region chair Nthuthuko Mahlaba that one of his political rivals, Arthur Zwane, had used a cosy relationship with Cele to steer a task team investigation and implicate him in the 2016 murder of ANC Youth League deputy chair Wandile “Manqasha” Ngubeni.
He was gunned down in a tavern in Madadeni, near Newcastle, in the central hinterland of KZN.
In an affidavit seen by Times Select, Mahlaba said he beat Zwane for chairperson of the region in 2014.
Now Mahlaba alludes this could be the motive behind Zwane’s attempt to implicate him in Ngubeni’s murder.
“I have been informed by my colleagues that Zwane has been constantly bragging that he will get me arrested by using his influence with his claimed close friend Bheki Cele,” the affidavit reads.
It also details how two of Mahlaba’s associates, Vusi Nkosi and Bongi Mazibuko, were allegedly questioned by police and coerced to implicate him as the mastermind in the killing.
“Nkosi and Mazibuko were arrested on January 24 by Hawks members, then taken to Madadeni and thereafter Port Shepstone to be detained. They were not taken to Port Shepstone as shown in police records, but were tortured and assaulted to falsely implicate me in the killing of Ngubeni.”
The two were later released after their attorney obtained an urgent high court order, compelling police to reveal where the pair were held.
“I have reason to believe the police officers have been involved in a conspiracy against me to create false charges and defeat the ends of justice to embarrass me politically,” Mahlaba wrote.
While Zwane acknowledged he had a longstanding professional relationship with Cele, he rubbished claims that he was pursuing a nefarious agenda.
“Claiming that I’m using him is disingenuous and seeks to undermine his work and his capacity to independently take decisions,” he said in response to questions.
“Secondly, I have no political rivals, as I have no interests in serving on any leadership roles in the ANC anymore, having served in elected positions within the movement since 1992 until I retired from active politics in August last year.”
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo declined to comment.
Cele’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, said the minister had “in no way or form” used his influence over the task team.
“He is satisfied with the work being done thus far by the team, and is confident that more investigations will be rounded by the team and ensure perpetrators are brought to book.”
He also denied that there was a rift between himself and Robert McBride. Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini confirmed Mahlaba’s allegations have been reported.
“We are investigating them. There are similar cases reported to the Ipid alleging torture and assault which fall within the investigative mandate of the Ipid.
“All police officers are required to do their work without resorting to assault or torture which are prohibited by the constitution and the laws of our country,” Dlamini added.