McBride is a free man – R1.7m later

Former Ekurhuleni metro police chief has had his name cleared, but it’ll be a while before he’s back on his feet

On Friday, Robert McBride walked out of court a free man, but he is “heavily indebted” and needs to start looking for a job.

“I owe lots of people money. I had to sell lots of my things. Fortunately, some of my family, friends and comrades assisted me.”

Six years and R1.75 million in legal fees later, the former Ekurhuleni metro police chief feels vindicated. But he is angry.

“It’s good to win, especially when you know it’s a personal issue against you and not a matter of law.

“But despite the judge’s findings of police manipulation and evidence fabrication, there seems to be a lack of interest in the real issue behind the whole saga – the involvement of the SA Police Service in violent crime,” he told City Press.

On Friday the North Gauteng High Court refused the National Prosecuting Authority’s application for leave to appeal McBride’s acquittal on drunk-driving charges.

Last month Judges Cynthia Pretorius and Lettie Malopa-Setshosa overturned McBride’s conviction and five-year sentence by Magistrate Peet Johnson of the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court.

McBride crashed his official Chevrolet Lumina in December 2006 after a metro police year-end function.

Three of his former colleagues testified for the state that he consumed alcohol at the function and drove under the influence at the time of the incident.

But the judges found that they were “liars” and no value could be placed on their evidence.

McBride, who is diabetic, has always maintained that he was not intoxicated at the time of the accident.

The only option now left the for the state is to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal, which prosecutor Petronel du Plessis indicated she would do.

On Friday Pretorius and Malopa-Setshosa ruled that the state had not raised any questions of law and that no other court would make a different finding based on the facts of the case.

“The legal system is the one that exonerated me ultimately, but I’m really concerned by the level of injustice experienced by normal citizens in the lower courts.”

McBride struggles to hide his disdain for Johnson. “During his judgment, Johnson said: ‘You are indeed an evil man.’ Where did it come from? I crashed a car!”

The Umkhonto weSizwe veteran says he knew from the start it would be a lengthy legal battle.

“He (Johnson) has messed up my life for the past five years ... At least I know he will never be a judge on the Bench. But there should be some level of accountability for judicial officers in lower courts, even public censure.”

McBride had to borrow money from friends to fund his legal bills after the Ekurhuleni Municipality stopped paying for his lawyers.

He recalls how a group of metro police constables who supported him raised R80 000 to help him fund his case.

He insists that the police hounded him after the Ekurhuleni metro police clamped down on police involved in cash-in-transit heists on Johannesburg’s East Rand.

“The public is unaware of the extent to which syndicates have infiltrated all levels of society. They have control over policemen, who in turn have control over businesspeople,” said McBride.

“There can be no compromise with those elements that subvert the justice system. They must be completely defeated.”

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