Sunday Times Online JULY 12 — 07/12/2007
If anyone of you co-operates with the police or gives any statements which directly incriminate me in any criminal activities I will rape your wives before I kill them, kill your children, and thereafter kill everything that moves at your homes, including your cats and dogs’.
A South African court was told this week that the police chief of Ekhuruleni Metro (East Witwatersrand), Robert McBride, made this threat to police officers who were investigating allegations that he rolled his car while under the influence of liquor.
Judge Moroa Tsoka ordered McBride to stop threatening, harassing and intimidating three senior colleagues who allegedly gave damning evidence against him. Judge Tsoka granted a temporary interdict against McBride. Chief Superintendent Stanley Sagathevan, Chief Superintendent Patrick Johnson and Superintendent Itumeleng Koko had applied for the order after claiming they had been harassed.
Police chief was anti-apartheid bomber
McBride, 44, was an African National Congress activist convicted of the 1986 bombing of Magoo's Bar in Durban, which killed 3 and injured 69. He is currently Chief of the Metropolitan Police for Ekhuruleni. There is speculation that he may take over as the country’s National Police Commissioner, replacing Jackie Selebi, who has been involved in alleged corruption.
In 1984, during the apartheid years, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC's military wing, attempted to sabotage the oil refinery near McBride’s home.
McBride was soon recruited into the ANC and became an active member. On April 26, 1986, he carried out a daring act and freed a wounded MK commander in a shootout with the police at Edendale Hospital.
He commanded the ANC cell responsible for the June 14, 1986, car-bombing of the "Why Not" Bar and Magoo's Bar in Durban. The bar was often frequented by police officers. The bombing turned McBride into an heroic figure among many ANC activists. Later, McBride was captured and convicted for the Durban bombing, but reprieved while on death row. In 1992, he was released, and later granted amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (which provided for amnesty in return for disclosure of acts of politically-motivated violence).
“Cut out their lying tongues”
Chief Superintendent Sagathevan described in court papers how McBride told them: ‘‘The only way to deal with traitors was to cut out their lying tongues, but this was too good for us and that our families would be dealt with first so that we could see first-hand the wrongs of our ways”.
This was after they refused to corroborate McBride’s version of the car accident in which he was involved. Chief Superintendent Johnson and Sagathevan have apparently testified against McBride in the investigation into the December accident. They and Superintendent Koko reportedly at first removed the police chief from the accident scene.
McBride able to carry out threats
In court this week, the police officers recounted the threats (above) allegedly made by McBride. Advocate Marné Strydom, representing the applicants, said: “They [McBride and 13 other respondents] have the resources to make good on these threats.” Sagathevan described a meeting between McBride and the trio, at which the police chief allegedly said he would have no hesitation in killing them. Sagathevan said: “I anticipated, and I have no doubt that the first respondent [McBride] would assault me if he managed to get his hands on me, as I have on many occasions ... observed him assault suspects, bystanders and even fellow Ekhuruleni Metro Police department officers.”
Sagathevan said he was ‘redeployed’ in May. “I immediately considered my redeployment to be highly questionable in that I was deliberately being placed in a dangerous and volatile situation in that I was instructed to report to officers whom I have, on the first respondent’s instructions, investigated in the past.”
Sagathevan said McBride and the deputy chief of police security and loss control in Ekhuruleni, Ash Boodhoo, threatened to “silence” him and his two colleagues and make their lives a “living hell” if they gave statements that contradicted McBride’s version. Advocate Nazeer Cassim SC, acting for McBride, said the metro police officers were being selective with facts and were trying to prevent his client from putting his version forward.
As a schoolboy, McBride was beaten by a much older boy and his father taught him martial arts. When he was 13, he was arrested for questioning by the police regarding the beating of a youth. He developed political views at an early age. He was particularly influenced by two books: one described the efforts of coloured (mixed race) political activists, and the other was written by a founding member of the American Black Guerrilla Family.
Arrested in Mozambique
On March 9, 1998, (Four years after the ANC had taken over the government of the country), McBride, then a high-ranking official in the Department of Foreign Affairs, was arrested by the Mozambican police in Ressano Garcia, Mozambique, for allegedly smuggling weapons from Mozambique to South Africa. He maintained he was working with the South African National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and was later released by the Mozambican authorities. McBride was appointed Chief of the Metropolitan (metro) Police for Chief of Ekhuruleni Municipality in 2003. He defended the ANC's new gun laws in 2006 in a one-hour gun-politics documentary, “Live Fire”, commissioned by Gun Owners of South Africa.
On December 21, 2006, McBride rolled his vehicle at high speed on the R511 near Pretoria while returning from a metro police year-end function. According to witnesses, McBride was under the influence of alcohol, but metro police on the scene assaulted the witnesses and threatened to shoot them if they telephoned the South African Police (SAP). McBride was quickly removed from the scene by Ekhuruleni metro police, even though the scene was more than 40 km out of their jurisdiction. It is not known whether he received medical treatment on the night of the incident, and whether blood samples were taken by the metro police, or a medical facility, to determine his blood-alcohol level.
Investigators gave "damning evidence"
Following the accident, three of the metro police involved in removing McBride from the accident scene (Johnston, Segathevan and Koko) gave "damning statements" to the South African Police. On July 4, 2007, McBride and about 10 cars with metro police detained Johnston at a petrol station, on the pretext that he was driving a car with tinted windows, which is against South African traffic law. Segathewan joined Johnston, and members of a nearby SAPS Task Force arrived at the scene.
McBride is alleged to have instructed his metro police officers "to shoot all the SAPS members (including members of the Task Force) in the head if they touched their firearms". He is also alleged to have called senior police officers present at the scene "baboons and pieces of shit". McBride later justified his instructions to shoot police officers by saying they were senior to his officers, and were being "stroppy". Johnston and Segathevan were arrested by the metro police, but Henk Strydom, a senior public prosecutor, declined to prosecute due to "insufficient evidence and a case totally without merit". Johnston and Segathevan then decided to seek a court interdict to protect them from McBride and the Ekhuruleni Metro Police Department, as they feared for their lives.