ConCourt slams Nhleko's handling of Ipid matter

The court ruled that the way Nhleko dealt with McBride showed how invasive the minister’s powers are.

Suspended Ipid boss Robert McBride addresses the media at the Constitutional Court. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

PRETORIA - The Constitutional Court has found that the unilateral manner in which Police Minister Nathi Nhleko dealt with Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride destroys public confidence that the watchdog body should function without political interference.

The highest court in the country yesterday confirmed that several laws empowering the minister are unconstitutional and has ordered Parliament to amend them within two years.

Nhleko suspended McBride 16 months ago after accusing him of altering an investigation report in the Zimbabwe rendition matter in order to exonerate senior Hawks officials.

The Constitutional Court ruled that the way Nhleko dealt with McBride demonstrated just how invasive the minister's powers are.

McBride said it has been a long road, but he knew the independence of Ipid was at stake.

"If you let Ipid become dependent on the minister's whims and fancies and capriciousness, you would then have knock on effect where the police will become the tool of the minister, much like the Hawks."

Nhleko's office says the minister is reflecting on the implications of the judgment.

"The court emphasises the need to protect the directorate from undue influence or political pressure by ensuring that appropriate mechanisms for accountability and oversight are in place."

The court found that legislation as it was, allowed for the police minister to potentially invoke partisan political influence to appoint someone as Ipid head who would be likely to pander to his whims.

The court believes this poses the risk of Ipid becoming politicised and being manipulated.

At the same time, Parliament's police oversight committee says it's noted the Constitutional Court's decision that the suspension of McBride was unlawful.

Committee chairperson Francois Beukman says the committee also noted the court's ruling that McBride's disciplinary process needed parliamentary oversight.

"Since the matter will be referred by the minister of police and National Assembly to Parliament, we'll await the outcome of the relevant processes."