Sars #rogueunit row deepens amid fallout
Johannesburg - The fallout over the illegal spy unit at the South African Revenue Services (Sars) deepened on Tuesday, with the Congress of the People (Cope) calling for the law to take its course.
This came in the wake of a report by news magazine Noseweek, which revealed the charges that were faced by former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and former head of investigations Johann van Loggerenberg before they resigned from the institution.
The report came hot on the heels of adverse findings made by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in connection with the so-called rogue unit.
Mkhwebane had found that the establishment of the unit - with approval of former commissioner Gordhan - was in violation of the Constitution, among other things.
On Tuesday, Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the law should take its course on what came out of investigations into the Sars unit.
“Nobody is above the law. We don’t want anybody harassed, but fairness in the whole thing, that is happening,” Bloem said.
“Everybody must get a chance to put his or her side of the story. We must not judge anyone,” he added.
In its report, Noseweek reported on the history of the rogue unit, quoting confidential papers arising from an aborted disciplinary hearing against Pillay and Van Loggerenberg.
It said the 2015 internal disciplinary charges were never tested as both Pillay and Van Loggerenberg resigned rather than answer the accusations against them.
“The confidential disciplinary papers recount how the rogue unit saga began, with a memo from Pillay, dated February 2, 2007, to then-minister of finance Trevor Manuel which sought and obtained permission to establish a special investigations unit within the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). But it seems there was deception from the start,” the magazine said.
The magazine said at Sars a decision initiated or supported by Pillay was said to have “misrepresented and misled” Manuel, resulting in the National Research Group (rogue unit) being established not within the NIA, as directed, but within Sars.
“There it fell under the leadership of Andries Janse “Skollie” van Rensburg, who “misdirected” ministerial-approved funds to equip the new unit with cellphone jammers, eavesdropping equipment, vehicle trackers, night-vision binoculars and covert recording equipment implanted on car keys and pens.”
Noseweek also reported that when former Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane arrived in 2014, he asked Pillay about any covert units that might exist. “According to the disciplinary papers, Pillay disavowed their existence in full knowledge that this response was untrue.”
Noseweek also reported about several charges Van Loggerenberg had faced in connection with the rogue unit. These included operating covert intelligence operations outside the legal framework of Sars, and being involved in unlawful covert intelligence operations within Sars.
Neither Pillay nor Van Loggerenberg could be reached for comment.
Their attorney, Bernard Hotz, could also not be reached as he did not respond to messages left on his phone before publication deadline.
Contacted for comment, Manuel said: “Please do not tell me about this because I don’t want to talk... I’m a private citizen, not a public representative.”