The feud between Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and the Chief of Police Watchdog Robert McBride came to a head in Parliament on Tuesday. Both men appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Police as MPs attempted to get to the bottom of the public spat between the two. McBride has accused Phahlane of interfering in IPID’s investigation against him, while Phahlane alleges that McBride’s office isn’t independent at all and is in fact captured by private investigator Paul O’ Sullivan.
by Paul Herman, News24
McBride vs Phahlane: Mudslinging match in Parliament
IPID head Robert McBride and acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane exchanged barbs over alleged interference in the watchdog’s probes, during a meeting at Parliament on Tuesday.
McBride and IPID investigations head Matthews Sesoko wasted no time in making allegation after allegation against the embattled commissioner.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate and SAPS were summoned to Parliament’s police committee, after McBride testified two weeks ago about alleged police interference in their investigations.
Sesoko said Phahlane set up a special investigating unit based in North West, filled with police officials currently facing IPID probes, to begin counter-investigations.
“The team he appointed is under investigation for various offences, including murder, torture, assault and defeating the ends of justice,” Sesoko said.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions has already decided to prosecute them on the torture cases dating back to 2010.”
Sesoko said the unit, headed by Major General Ntebo Mabula, was intimidating IPID investigators.
While IPID was not above the law, there was a conflict of interest when police officers currently being investigated, were allowed to launch counter-investigations, he said.
“Any reasonable person can see that there can never be any objectivity in that situation.”
He said Phahlane should be suspended or placed on leave, to prevent him from interfering in IPID probes.
‘IPID has been captured’
Phahlane, who sat stone-faced through Sesoko’s presentation, said the president had appointed him and if there was a reasonable reason for him to be placed on leave, he would do so.
“Chair, it’s an insult for members of the service to be referred to as torturers and murderers while they do not have a single conviction behind their names,” he told committee chairperson Francois Beukman.
“Just as IPID are empowered to investigate, the police are empowered to investigate, and we are not going to be spectators when there is an allegation somewhere.
He claimed the police watchdog had been “captured” by private investigator Paul O’Sullivan.
“It would be better to call it OPID: O’Sullivan’s Police Investigative Directorate. It has been captured.”
Phahlane claimed O’Sullivan was behind many IPID investigations, and that he had implicated every police official currently being investigated in wrongdoing.
“I would like to congratulate IPID and O’Sullivan for a well-orchestrated propaganda machine. They have been excellent. Nothing that is being investigated by IPID hasn’t ended up in the media.”
Acting commissioner Gnl Phahlane & Robert McBride both present to discuss alleged inteference with IPID investigations by police.
Police officials presented evidence of over 30 smses sent between IPID officials and O’Sullivan in the last year.
They said a vehicle owned by O’Sullivan was used during the IPID’s raid on Phahlane’s R8m home, near Pretoria. He is under investigation for how he was able to afford this home.
Phahlane said he and his wife earned R2.5m per year together and he did not need handouts.
McBride said O’Sullivan only helped with six of the 67 statements they had in Phahlane’s case.
At one point, FF Plus MP Pieter Groenewald interjected and reminded the two: “This is Parliament! This is turning into a mudslinging match.”
“This is an absolutely unprecedented and absurd situation we find ourselves in,” an exasperated DA MP Marius Redelinghuys said.
“To have two Constitutional organs of state both tasked with incredibly important Constitutional mandates at each other’s throats in a public forum like this. It’s shocking that we have gotten to this point.”
Beukman, pressed for time, had to conclude the testimony before lunchtime, with not much resolution between the parties.
Beukman said Police Minister Fikile Mbalula would hopefully be called in to help restore relations between the warring units.
The SAPS would present its budget votes to the committee later this week.