Mbete versus Nhleko versus McBride

2016-10-23 06:00
Baleka Mbete

Baleka Mbete

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The war of words between National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and Police Minister Nathi Nhleko has put the latter at odds with Parliament for the second time in a month over top policing appointments.

In September, the Constitutional Court set aside a decision by Nhleko to institute a disciplinary hearing against the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), Robert McBride, and declared McBride’s suspension by Nhleko to be invalid.

However, the order was suspended for 30 days to allow for the National Assembly and Nhleko to exercise their powers.

But Mbete told Nhleko that his request for Parliament to discipline McBride could not be processed before the expiry of the 30-day deadline.

Nhleko, a former ANC chief whip, previously missed deadlines legally set for him to inform the National Assembly of the appointment of Berning Ntlemeza as national head of priority crimes unit, also known as the Hawks.

Ntlemeza was appointed on September 10 2015. Not only did Nhleko inform Parliament of this more than a year later – on September 14 – but he also requested the House to condone his tardiness.

The matter is still pending.

Sandile Ngidi, Nhleko’s spokesperson, told City Press this week that, regarding the McBride matter, there had been “an impasse”. He suggested dereliction of duty by Parliament.

When McBride returned to work on Wednesday following the 30-day expiry, Nhleko wrote to him saying that, in light of his conduct during his suspension and the utterances he made about the minister, it was clear that the employment relationship between them had “irretrievably broken down”.

Nhleko advised McBride to approach Mbete for clarity on where he should be reporting under the prevailing circumstances.

He also slammed Parliament for failing to deal with the matter on time.

Parliament and the ANC did not take kindly to this.

Mbete noted Nhleko’s statement “with grave concern”, saying it “raises serious concerns and casts aspersions on parliamentary processes”.

She called Nhleko’s statement “unprecedented, unwarranted and unfortunate”, and vowed to take the matter up with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as the leader of government business.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Nhleko’s statement was disrespectful towards Parliament, adding that his posture and tone – including certain inferences he made against the ANC caucus’ internal structures – were unnecessary and unwarranted.

The National Assembly’s Cedric Frolick told City Press on Friday that Parliament received a legal opinion on September 12, the day before it adjourned, and this was forwarded to the police ministry.

“We were advised that a House resolution was required... [For this to occur], certain procedures and political consultations need to be done first.

That is why the police committee could not proceed – because there was no House resolution on how to proceed with the matter,” said Frolick, adding Nhleko was informed of all this.

Ngidi disagreed. “It took almost 33 days for the first response to come from the Speaker.

It is unfair to say he [Nhleko] was kept abreast of the process,” he said.

“The minister genuinely feels affronted by his colleagues, who do not seem to have taken this matter seriously,” said Ngidi.

“It is a very unfortunate situation and creates an impasse ... because the minister [Nhleko] had thought that, through a parliamentary process, there would be a just and fair relook at the matter. The Constitutional Court did not look into the content of the case, but rather, at the powers of the minister to institute disciplinary action against McBride,” said Ngidi.

“The impasse continues and one hopes that collective or mature leadership from all parties concerned will bring sanity to the saga,” he added.

McBride was suspended in March 2015 for allegedly altering an Ipid report to protect former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and his Gauteng counterpart Shadrack Sibiya, who were accused of illegally deporting a group of Zimbabweans wanted for murder.

McBride denied the allegations.

The Constitutional Court set aside Nhleko’s decision to suspend McBride, declaring it invalid on September 6.

However, the order was suspended for 30 days for the National Assembly and the minister of police to, “if they so choose, exercise their powers”.

The next day – September 7 – Nhleko wrote to Mbete requesting her to constitute a committee of the National Assembly or authorise the police portfolio committee to initiate disciplinary proceedings against McBride.

But Nhleko’s letter and referral to the police committee was only published in Parliament’s official documents on October 12 – less than a week before the 30 days to act lapsed.

As expected, on Tuesday – which marked the last day for Parliament to act against McBride – the police committee resolved that it could do nothing without a resolution of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly’s last plenary was on September 13 and it would only meet again next Tuesday, October 25.

Meanwhile, McBride has lifted all the suspensions made by his former successor at Ipid, Israel Kgamanyane.

Those suspended included acting chief director of corporate services Nomkhosi Netsianda, Gauteng Ipid head Felicia Ntshangase, spokesperson Moses Dlamini and head of legal services Pule Maoka.

City Press has learnt that McBride was reviewing all appointments made by Kgamanyane while he was fighting his suspension.

Additional reporting by Abram Mashego

Read more on:    nathi nhleko  |  baleka mbete  |  politics  |  constitutional court

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