Robert McBride’s head ‘rolls in vain’


Robert McBride’s head ‘rolls in vain’

The world of espionage is murky at the best of times. The recent ‘arrest’ of South African State Security Agency (SSA) operatives in Mozambique, and the subsequent suspension of SSA foreign branch chief Robert McBride, reveals that the truth is sometimes indeed far stranger than fiction. ERIKA GIBSON sheds some light on a strange tale.

Two weeks ago the details of a “doomed” SSA operation was published in City Press and other news platforms. In essence, it came down to four SSA operatives being arrested – with drones – and held in Mozambique for nine days. It was claimed that the operation was not sanctioned by the SSA, South Africa or the Mozambican authorities.

They were gathering intelligence in Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, where armed extremist militia have executed a reign of terror over the past four years. The attacks peaked in March 2021 when hundreds of ex-pats – including South Africans – were trapped in Palma. Most of them were in the construction sector, working for the Total gas plant in Afungi near Palma.

According to the reports, the SSA team was unable to reach their superiors in Pretoria for days, until one of the team, only known as “Robert”, was reportedly able to make contact. State security minister Ayanda Dlodlo apparently then had to intervene and plead with the Mozambican government to free her spies after their drones and passports had been confiscated. Meanwhile, Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders were gathered in Mozambique to discuss the deployment of a SADC intervention force...

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