The tale of Robert Mcbride is actually like from the movies. It began with his father, Derrick John McBride, who was born with the darkest complexion in a Coloured family of 4 boys and 1 girl. McBride senior had seen the hate his mother had for him because of his complexion since he was a child.
The third child in the family of five, elder McBride was made to take care of the house chores whenever there was no maid. This began when he was only 8. This made him hate his mother so much that he wouldn’t attend her funeral in the future. It also affected him enough to extend his hate to white people, and make his son aware of segregation.
As a result of Derrick’s experience, one could rightly expect that his son would be a hard man. The son came in 1963 when Robert McBride was born in a racially segregated Wentworth suburb, in Durban South Africa.
As Robert grew up, he continued to experience the racial discrimination that had chewed the soul of South Africa at the time. At the early age of 8, he was bullied by a white boy of about 18 years old.
It was however when he was 11 that his father fully began bringing to his notice the exact picture of things when he made him read Coloured: A profile of 2 million South Africans, by Al J. Venter. The book pointed out the contributions of Coloured people in the anti apartheid struggle. It also opened him up to the lives of people like his uncle, Rev. Clive McBride, James April, Don Mattera, Jakes Gerwel, and Basil February.
Robert attended Fairvale High School in Wentworth after which he proceeded to University of Natal where he gained admission to study Mechanical Engineering in 1981. He however dropped out because he failed his courses.
McBride developed thirst for the struggle against apartheid rather very early, as a result of his father’s experience and influence as well as a result of his personal experiences and the things he read. Soledad Brothers: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, was a big influence on him.
Believing that violent struggle was the best way for the struggle towards the freedom of South Africa, Robert McBride whose father had taught him karate since he was a child after he was bullied by some boys, and a friend, Gordon Webster decided to bring in their contribution.
In 1986, McBride led the arm wing of African National Congress (ANC), uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) cell to bomb a restaurant and bar in Durban. The attack left three white women dead and 69 others injured. It was however said that the attack was targeted at the police.
He was arrested for the attack and sentenced to death, however the sentence was reprieved while he was on death row. In 1992, his actions were considered politically motivated, hence he got back his freedom. Also, he later got amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for complete disclosure of politically motivated acts. This came after ANC which at first denied any involvement in the bombings claimed it ordered the attacks.
During his trial for the bombings, David Gordon who was his advocate invented a story that Irish republican revolutionary, Major John MacBride, was the great grandfather of Robert McBride. Major John MacBride fought with the Boers during the second Boer War.
The story caused wild reaction in Ireland and McBride received massive support from the Irish who felt it a responsibility to save the life of the great grandson of the country’s hero who was executed by the British for his role in the Easter rising of 1916 in Ireland. The rising was aimed at ending the rule of the British in the country and ushering in an independent Irish republic.
Major John MacBride’s grandson, Tiernan MacBride wrote a letter to South African President at the time, P. W. Botha towards ensuring that the descendant of one of the heroes of Ireland is saved.
Robert McBride held various positions in South Africa including serving as the Chief of Ekurhuleni Metro Police, as well as the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). His appointment as head of IPID was seen by so many people as highly controversial as a result of his history, including being arrested by the Mozambican police in 1998 on charges of gun running. Also, he had been accuse of assault and was charged for drunken driving and obstruction of justice, even though he was acquitted of both crimes.