Robert McBride (police officer)

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, in an attack that killed three people.

In February 2014 McBride was appointed as Executive Director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.[1] In March 2015 he was suspended from this position by the Minister of Police. The decision was set aside by the Constitutional Court of South Africa in September 2016.[2] He has been appointed as head of the Foreign Branch of the State Security Agency from 1 July 2020. [3]


During apartheidEdit

McBride was born in Addington Hospital to Derrick McBride 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.[4]

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.[4]

McBride was 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.[5] The South African government, at the time[when?], 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."[6] McBride and others were granted amnesty for the attack, although the commission did find the bombing to be a "gross violation of human rights",[7] 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.[citation needed]

After apartheidEdit

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,[8] despite an attempt to run for the border.[9] He was about to receive 50 AK-47 rifles and 100 Makarov pistols.[10] 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.[11]

In 1999, McBride faced an assault charge after he, underworld figure Cyril Beeka, and another man with whom they were visiting an escort agency allegedly assaulted an employee.[12][13]

McBride was held up by IRA/Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness as an example of a former combatant who moved up into a leadership role following the political changes in South Africa.[14][15]

In 2003, McBride was appointed Chief of the Metropolitan Police of Ekurhuleni Municipality (formerly East Rand).[16][17]

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.[18][19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22][23] McBride was charged with drunken driving, fraud and defeating the ends of justice following the car accident.[24] 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.[25]

In 2011 the Constitutional Court found in The Citizen 1978 Pty (Ltd) and others v Mcbride 2011 (4) SA 191 (CC) that Mcbride may be called a Murderer.


Two authors have written biographies on the life of Robert McBride:

  • Rostron, Bryan (1991). Till Babylon Falls. Coronet. ISBN 978-0-340-54061-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Mokae, Gomolemo (2004). Robert McBride: a coloured life. South African History Online in association with Vista University. ISBN 978-0-620-32181-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


  1. ^ McBride appointed as head of Ipid, 28 February 2014
  2. ^ McBride v Minister of Police and Another, (CCT255/15) [2016] ZACC 30 (6 September 2016)
  3. ^ Naledi Shange, Former Ipid boss Robert McBride to head State Security Agency foreign branch, TimesLive,, 16 July 2020. Visited on 16 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b "South African History Timelines: Robert McBride". South African History Online. Retrieved 20 March 2008.
  5. ^ "The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd v McBride (277/08) [2010] ZASCA 5; 2010 (4) SA 148 (SCA); [2010] 3 All SA 46 (SCA) (26 February 2010)". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  6. ^ What Robert McBride did, and who was harmed,; accessed 1 December 2015.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "South Africa: Robert McBride is Formally Charged". 22 April 1998 – via AllAfrica.
  9. ^ Daley, Suzanne (16 March 1998). "Official's Arrest Puzzles South Africa". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 10 February 2005. Archived from the original on 10 February 2005. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  11. ^ Neilan, Terence (11 February 1999). "World Briefing". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Independent Newspapers Online (10 July 1999). "McBride off the hook in escort fracas". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Beeka in murky underworld deals". 22 March 2011. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  14. ^ Anderson, Brendan (14 September 2006). "From prisoner to peace officer?". BBC.
  15. ^ "McGuinness pays tribute to ANC's role in NI". 28 April 2004. Archived from the original on 19 August 2005.
  16. ^ "Robert McBride, chief of police". Mail and Guardian. 30 October 2003. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  17. ^ "From death row to SA police chief". BBC. 4 December 2003. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
  18. ^ "Police probe McBride reckless-driving claims". Mail & Guardian. 23 December 2006. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
  19. ^ "McBride 'received medical care'". News24. 17 January 2007. Archived from the original on 20 January 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  20. ^ "MPs vote for Robert McBride as IPID head". News24. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  21. ^ amaBhungane (8 April 2019). "AMABHUNGANE: SAPS Wars Part 3: Bheki Cele, Robert McBride and the mysterious Mr Marimuthu". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Who the f*** are you?". IOL. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2007.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "EDITORIAL COMMENT: McBride should be suspended until his name is cleared". The Times. 13 July 2007. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2007.
  24. ^ "McBride was drunk, second witness says". The Times. 18 March 2008.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "McBride's doctor case postponed". News24. 7 February 2008.[permanent dead link]