McBride the 'ideal candidate' for IPID head?

If social media is anything to go by, most South Africans are shocked by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's nomination of Robert McBride for the executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

Once the news had sunk in and I accepted that this would not be the last unimaginably unfortunate appointment decision made by the security cluster ministers, it was time to analyse why this decision is so dismaying.

The IPID Act unfortunately contains a very brief description of what the ideal candidate for its executive director should be - merely somebody who is suitably qualified for the position.

The burning question remains, is Robert McBride suitably qualified for this position?

His history relevant to this position includes the former Chief of Police at the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and a B Tech Policing (Honours). The latter was enough for some ministers and civil servants to declare that he is the "ideal candidate" for the job.

The candidate also has no legal qualifications which should be a prerequisite for this position because one of his duties will be to provide guidelines for the investigation and management of cases by officials.

The politicians who came to the "ideal candidate" decision used a form of moral redefinition - much the same as saying it is fine to use R2 million from public funds to buy a vehicle purely because some little book says so.

In this case, because none of McBride's previous convictions remain on paper, he qualifies. These decisions remain unethical. The overriding factor that should have immediately disqualified him from getting this position is that he is an ethically compromised individual. This makes him wholly unsuitable to head the IPID.

Not to detract from the severity of the candidate's past criminal events; of concern at present are the remarks made by Magistrate Peet Johnson when sentencing him for drunken driving and defeating the ends of justice: "Instead of coming clean, you did everything possible to cover your tracks - you are indeed an evil person who has shown a disturbing arrogance and disregard for the law".

Concerning the assault charge that was dismissed due to lack of evidence, the _City Press _reported in March 2011 that the now deceased underworld boss Cyril Beeka and a Russian man were beating up a 40-year old woman in a brothel while McBride sat "quietly in a corner". The victim had a nervous breakdown before the trial started and did not testify. Another female witness was released from the witness protection programme while she was still testifying and was murdered in her home soon afterwards. The trial subsequently collapsed.

It would appear Beeka knew McBride when Beeka was an informant for Umkhonto we Sizwe. Having friends from the criminal underworld, past or present, should also be a red flag for decision makers who are choosing someone to head a police investigative agency.

Is this the "ideal candidate?" Someone beyond reproach?

The IPID is the only effective external oversight and investigative agency left to investigate South African Police Service (SAPS ) corruption and criminality, since both the Scorpions and the Anti-Corruption Unit were closed down for being too effective in bringing down politically-connected individuals and corrupt cops.

IPID's mission statement reads: "The aim of IPID is to ensure independent oversight over the SAPS and the Municipal Police Services, and to conduct independent investigations of identified criminal offences allegedly committed by members of the SAPS and the MPS, and make appropriate recommendations."

This highlights the thorny issue of politics. If McBride gets the position (if determined by a vote in Parliament's Police Committee he will be approved because ANC MPs are in the majority and they will vote as instructed), his will be another case of cadre deployment.

One only has to be familiar with the Richard Mdluli saga to understand the lengths cadres will go to in order to protect each other from scrutiny. In the latter case, the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority have filed an application for leave to appeal the ruling by Judge John Murphy who instructed them to reinstate criminal charges against Mdluli. Why don't they just let the "law take its course", as they are always proposing?

The question that needs to be asked is if a docket similar to Mdluli's lands on Mr McBride's desk, will there be any political interference? Will he have the requisite integrity, independence and ethical backbone to see the investigation through to the recommendations?

You be the judge.

Dr Liza Grobler is a consulting criminologist and author of 'Crossing the Line: When Cops Become Criminals'.