Robert McBride (police officer)
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Robert McBride (born 6 July 1963) is the former chief of the metropolitan police for Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. During the apartheid era he was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, and was convicted of terrorism after he bombed a busy night club.
McBride was born in Addington Hospital and grew up in Wentworth, a racially segregated suburb about 11 km from Durban, where his parents were schoolteachers. He attended Fairvale High School in Wentworth and participated in extramural activities like rugby, karate, boxing, chess, hockey and soccer. After he was beaten by an older boy in the neighbourhood, his father taught him martial arts.
He developed political views at an early age due to influence of his father. He was particularly influenced by two books: A.J. Venter's Coloured: A Profile of 2 Million South Africans, which describes the efforts of coloured political activists such as James April, Don Mattera, Jakes Gerwel, Basil February, and his uncle, Rev. Clive McBride; and Soledad Brothers: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, written by a founding member of the American Black Guerrilla Family.
Best known for his leadership of the cell that bombed the "Why Not" Restaurant and Magoo's Bar in Durban on 14 June 1986, an attack in which three white women were killed and 69 people injured. He was captured and convicted for the Durban bombing, and sentenced to death, but later reprieved while on death row. In 1992, he was released after his actions were classified as politically motivated. He was later granted amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which provided for amnesty in return for complete disclosure of acts of politically motivated violence after the ANC changed its early denials of involvement to a claim that they ordered the bombing. The South African government, at the time, had portrayed the attack as being targeted at innocent civilians.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa) report stated, "It seems that not many, if any, of the victims in this incident were members of the South African Police. Furthermore, the criticisms directed at the quality of reconnaissance of the "Why Not Bar" might very well be valid. It may be, as was argued, that he ought to have ensured at the relevant time that the primary targets of the attack were present and therefore the concept of the proportionality of the attack and its results must be considered." McBride and others were granted amnesty for the attack, although the commission did find the bombing to be a "gross violation of human rights", as well for other offences including those arising from the escape of Gordon Webster. In 2006, McBride received the Merit Medal in Silver and the Conspicuous Leadership Star from the South African National Defence Force for his service and combat leadership in Umkhonto We Sizwe.
On 9 March 1998, McBride, then a high-ranking official in the Department of Foreign Affairs, was arrested by the Mozambican police in Ressano Garcia on charges of gun running from Mozambique to South Africa, despite an attempt to run for the border. He was about to receive 50 AK-47 rifles and 100 Makarov pistols. He maintained he was investigating the arms smuggling trade while working with the South African National Intelligence Agency (NIA). After a period in detention, all charges were dropped. Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) head Mangosuthu Buthelezi suggested the weapons had been meant for assassins to target IFP leaders.
On 21 December 2006, after a Christmas party McBride was involved in a single car collision near Centurion. According to witnesses, McBride was under the influence of alcohol. Ekurhuleni metro police quickly arrived even though the scene was more than 40 km out of their jurisdiction. According to witnesses the Ekurhuleni metro police assaulted witnesses and threatened to shoot them if they phoned the South African Police Service (SAPS). McBride was quickly removed from the scene by the Ekurhuleni metro police. It was unclear whether in accordance with standard police procedure blood samples were taken by the Ekurhuleni metro police, or by a medical facility, to determine his blood-alcohol level.
Three of the Ekurhuleni metro police involved in removing McBride from the accident scene, Patrick Johnston, Stanley Segathevan and Ithumeleng Koko initially supported McBride but subsequently gave "damning statements" to the South African Police. Thereafter, it was reported that on 4 July 2007 McBride and a number of cars of Ekurhuleni metro police detained and intimidated Patrick Johnston at a petrol station, on the pretext that he was driving a car with tinted windows which is against South African traffic law. Segathevan joined Johnston, and members of the Boksburg SAPS Task Force arrived at the scene. McBride is alleged to have abused the SAPS members.
Johnston and Segathevan were arrested by the Ekurhuleni metro police, but Henk Strydom, Boksburg's senior public prosecutor, declined to prosecute due to "insufficient evidence and a case totally without merit", and Johnston and Segathevan obtained a court interdict to protect them from McBride and the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department, as they claimed McBride had made death threats against them, which McBride denied. McBride was charged with drunken driving, fraud and defeating the ends of justice following the car accident. In his defence he produced a medical certificate stating that he was suffering from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). The doctor who gave him the certificate is facing charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice with regard to the certificate.
Relationship to Major John MacBride
During McBride's trial in 1987 for the Durban bombing, his advocate (David Gordon) invented the story that McBride was a great-grandson of Irish Republican revolutionary, Major John MacBride. Major John MacBride had been a commander of the Irish Transvaal Brigade and had fought alongside the Boers during the Second Boer War and was subsequently executed by the British for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. Gordon later said, 'I discovered that there had been a "John MacBride" who came to South Africa and he fought on the side of the Boers during the Anglo-Boer war.... I knew that he was no relative - I know there was no blood relationship, but I thought that it was just ironic that John MacBride had come to South Africa at the time of the Boer war to fight on the side of the Boers.'
McBride became something of a cause célèbre in Ireland and he received the support of many Irish people to have his death sentence commuted and afterwards to be released. Major John MacBride's grandson in Ireland was one of them. Tiernan MacBride (1932-1995) wrote to President Botha: "My grandfather was Major John MacBride, who helped to organise and fought as second-in-command of the Irish Brigade against the British in the South African war of independence. It is likely that this activity was a factor in the British decision to execute him after the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. Robert McBride, who it appears is a great grandson of Major John MacBride, is now under sentence of death in South Africa.... It would be tragic if you did not take the opportunity to save this descendant of one of the heroes of your country's foundation."
In 1991, McBride's wife Paula said "the Irish people were very supportive. Robert received countless cards from people all over Ireland. It meant a great deal to him" and she hoped that F.W. de Klerk's visit to Ireland in April 1991 would hasten his release. McBride has visited Ireland several times since his release.
Two authors have written biographies on the life of Robert McBride:
- Bryan Rostron - Till Babylon Falls; ISBN 0-340-54061-3
- Gomolemo Mokae - Robert McBride a Coloured Life
- "South African History Timelines: Robert McBride". South African History Online. Retrieved 20 March 2008.
- "The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd v McBride (277/08)  ZASCA 5; 2010 (4) SA 148 (SCA);  3 All SA 46 (SCA) (26 February 2010)". Saflii.org. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- What Robert McBride did, and who was harmed, politicsweb.co.za; accessed 1 December 2015.
- "The Liberation Movements from 1960 to 1990" (PDF). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report (Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa)) 2: 333.
The consequence in these cases, such as the Magoo's Bar and the Durban Esplanade bombings, were gross violations of human rights in that they resulted in injuries to and the deaths of civilians.
- Daley, Suzanne (16 March 1998). "Official's Arrest Puzzles South Africa". The New York Times.
- "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 10 February 2005. Archived from the original on 10 February 2005. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Neilan, Terence (11 February 1999). "World Briefing". The New York Times.
- Independent Newspapers Online (10 July 1999). "McBride off the hook in escort fracas". IOL.co.za. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "Beeka in murky underworld deals". Citizen.co.za. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Anderson, Brendan (14 September 2006). "From prisoner to peace officer?". BBC.
- "McGuinness pays tribute to ANC's role in NI". BreakingNews.ie. 28 April 2004.
- "Robert McBride, chief of police". Mail and Guardian. 30 October 2003. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
- "From death row to SA police chief". BBC. 4 December 2003. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
- "Police probe McBride reckless-driving claims". Mail & Guardian. 23 December 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
- "McBride 'received medical care'". News24. 17 January 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
- "Who the f*** are you?". IOL. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2007.
- "EDITORIAL COMMENT: McBride should be suspended until his name is cleared". The Times. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2007.
- "McBride was drunk, second witness says". The Times. 18 March 2008.
- "McBride's doctor case postponed". News24. 7 February 2008.
- Robert McBride – A Coloured Life.
- Gomolemo Mokae, Robert McBride: a Coloured Life, p. 221; ISBN 0-620-32181-4
- The Irish Times, 18 April 1991
- Leading ANC figure attends opening Dáil session, anphoblacht.com, 4 May 2006.
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