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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 17:00 GMT
From death row to SA police chief
Robert McBride leaves prison
McBride left Death Row in 1992
Former convicted bomber Robert McBride has defended his appointment to the post of Chief of Police in Johannesburg's East Rand district despite criticism from the opposition Democratic Alliance.

Mr McBride - who was sentenced to death for his part in the bombing of Magoo's Bar in 1984, which killed three people and wounded 69 others - was appointed at the end of October.

The move has brought condemnation from the opposition Democratic Alliance, who said they were "shocked and disgusted".

But in an interview with BBC World Service's Outlook programme, Mr McBride said that the opposition was primarily the result of party politicking.

"The timing of the appointment perhaps was unfortunate, because it's 3-4 months away from an election," he said.

"Political parties will create issues which they can then rally their supporters around."


Mr McBride was one of the most famous of the African National Congress saboteurs, operating underground, and was a hero to many other black people during apartheid.

He argued that his background gave him the skills to tackle the problems in one of the most crime-ridden cities in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela has backed McBride's appointment
"My background is one of liberation struggle," he said.

"The area I'm appointed in is one of the hardest hit by the surrogate forces of apartheid.

"So it's the people who really know my work, who I've defended and physically put my life on the line for - they know my work.

"People have welcomed me specifically because of my background."

Mr McBride was released from death row after being granted amnesty in 1992.

He went on to become a senior official in Department of Foreign Affairs - and he said that there was never a "squeak" from the opposition over his being in that post.

"There's a bit of hypocrisy on the side of my detractors," Mr McBride said.

"These are the same people who want to embrace former President Nelson Mandela.

"Incidentally, Nelson Mandela congratulated me on my appointment.

"Another aspect is that they seem to selectively forget that Nelson Mandela was the Chief of Staff and the leader of our liberation army."


Mr McBride rejected the suggestion that his appointment was inappropriate as he was so linked to the Magoo's Bar bombing.

McBride blames the row on politics in Johannesburg
"They wish to tie me to one single event, but we actually ran a campaign and the only reason why they tie me to this event is because white people died.

"There are other people who have committed a lot of acts in South Africa.

"Our first commissioner of police in South Africa was a person from the old order. I didn't hear anybody making a noise about that."

He added that he did feel remorse for the victims of the bomb, but that it was as part of his regret for much of South Africa's past.

"I cannot feel the remorse in isolation to the remorse I feel and the sadness I feel for all the other people that have died during our period of conflict," he stated.

"So I cannot only feel sadness or remorse for one aspect of our unfortunate past... we've renounced violence, all of us, that's why we've moved towards democracy.

"We had a democratic election and our transition was constitutional.

"Why we went for violence initially was because they refused to accept that we are human beings."

SA opposition coalition emerges
03 Nov 03  |  Africa

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