Robert McBride is arrested in Mozambique

Robert McBride Image source

Monday, 9 March 1998

Robert McBride, at the time a high-ranking official in the South African Department of Foreign Affairs, was arrested by the Mozambican police in Ressano Garcia. It was alleged that McBride was on a fact-finding mission regarding allegations of gun smuggling from Mozambique into South Africa.

McBride's arrest fuelled suspicions held by several South African political parties regarding his involvement in gun running. They called for a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of McBride's complicity in the illegal arms trade. Theories on what he was doing in Mozambique varied greatly. Some people suggested that he was buying arms for the East Timorese guerrilla movement; some believed he might have been smuggling arms to former ANC guerrillas then involved violent crimes; others alleged that the guns were used to arm Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) members. Dr Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front (FF) said a fair investigation of this matter would assist in restoring South Africa's international credibility and put to rest allegations that the weapons were being used by former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) soldiers to commit bank robberies.

The South African government responded to the situation by sending a delegation to Mozambique to discuss McBride's arrest. The team comprised of Sydney Mufamadi, Minister of Safety and Security, Billy Masetla, Director-General of the South African Secret Services, Welile Nhlapo, South Africa's ambassador to the Organisation of African Unity, George Fivaz, South African National Police Commissioner and Suiker Britz, National Special Investigation Unit Head Commissioner. The delegation pledged South Africa's cooperation in dealing with the case. It also requested that the case be handled with some speed. The delegation reported to President Nelson Mandela and his deputy Thabo Mbeki.

• Peace Appeal Robert McBRIDE [online] Available at: [Accessed on 4 March 2013]
• Daley S. Official's Arrest Puzzles South Africa from The New York Times [online] Available at: [Accessed on 4 March 2013]

Last updated : 09-Mar-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.