Suspended spook McBride in limbo

The name of suspended State Security Agency (SSA) foreign branch director-general Robert McBride is bandied about for the acting director-general job in the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DDMV).

McBride was suspended by former SSA minister Ayanda Dlodlo and has been out in the cold for 21 months because Dlodlo allegedly failed to follow proper process before acting against him.

Sunday World understands that prominent political figures in the governing ANC were pushing for McBride’s suspension to be lifted and to get his job back or be redeployed to the DDMV.

“They say McBride has been a loyal servant of the ANC and feel he has been treated unfairly,” said a source.

McBride is a former combatant of uMkhonto weSizwe. He also served as Ekurhuleni metro police chief and head of the police watchdog, Ipid.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has to give his approval before McBride’s suspension can be lifted. Consultation with Ramaphosa would also be necessary if McBride’s move to defence and military veterans is to see the light of day. He is also running against time because his contract at the SSA is expected to expire at the end of June.

Between now and then, his future employability in the public sector would depend on whether the SSA lifted his suspension, which would clear the cloud hanging over him and make his move to the cushy job at DDMV possible, which has been vacant since the suspension of acting director-general Irene Mpolweni last month.

The department said last month it could not disclose the nature of the allegations or charges against Mpolweni, who has been acting head since April 2021, citing “employer-employee confidentiality”.

Mpolweni’s allies claim Defence Minister Thandi Modise and her deputy Thabang Makwetla pushed her to avoid shouldering the blame for the government’s failure to spend millions of rands meant for liberation war veterans. Mpolweni’s allies claim she is the stumbling block to a plan to loot military veterans’ funds.

Sunday World understands the ministry failed to make the necessary submissions to parliament to unlock the disbursement of funds to war veterans.

Makwetla’s spokesperson Mpho Lekgoro said in a statement yesterday that Mpolweni was told about the urgency of the military veterans pension payout but paid no attention and never gave the impression that she was serious about her work and the payout.

“The minister and her deputy have also reported her behaviour to the oversight committees of parliament. Therefore, the failure to pay the pension payout to military veterans is squarely a result of the refusal by the suspended director-general, Irene Mpolweni, to implement the instruction of the political leadership,” said Lekgoro.

He said the regulations were tabled in parliament last December, and the 30 days needed to lapse after the regulations are tabled in parliament before the implementation passed. He said what needed to happen was the payment of the pension.

He continued: “But for some strange reason, each time the pension payment must start there is a new reason to explain why the payment cannot happen at the operational and administrative side of the department of military veterans.”

He said Makwetla had directed on countless occasions that the pension be paid out without delay and that any other challenge that arose would be addressed while the payments were going through.

“The ministry and government are committed to paying out the pension to ameliorate the plight of the eligible veterans. A lot of progress has been achieved on this journey, and soon the pension will be paid out,” Lekgoro said.

The amount comprises R37-million for the financial year ending this month, R102-million for the next financial year. About R109-million was set aside for the 2024-2025 financial year and R115-million for the following year.

Dlodlo iced McBride in July 2021 following a diplomatic embarrassment earlier that year when South African spies were left stranded after a failed operation in Cabo Delgado.

The Mozambican authorities were allegedly unaware of the operation and registered their displeasure with their SA counterparts.

At least four South African spooks were part of that bungled mission to locate insurgents in Cabo Delgado at the height of terrorist attacks in 2021. They were captured by Mozambican security forces, had their passports and equipment, including drones, confiscated and were left stranded for nine days in Maputo. The team lost contact with the SSA and their whereabouts were unknown. They returned home safe following Dlodlo’s intervention.

The SSA blamed McBride.

Modise’s spokesperson Cornelius Monama said he had no knowledge of the efforts to woo McBride.

SSA spokesperson Mava Scott and McBride did not respond to our questions.

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