SARS Whistleblower JvL: De Ruyter’s ‘naive’ investigation; Pravin Gordhan; being mugged

Johann van Loggerenberg entered the public consciousness during the Gupta era of State Capture when fighting the defanging of an investigative unit he headed at SA Revenue Services. SARS’s best-known whistleblower chronicled his story in the co-authored 2016 bestseller “Rogue: The Inside Story of SARS’s Elite Crime Busting Unit”. In this interview, Van Loggerenberg discusses parallels with former Eskom CEO turned whistleblower Andre de Ruyter’s blockbuster new book; his experience of working for De Ruyter’s ex-boss DPE Minister Pravin Gordhan – and reflects on being jumped and beaten over the weekend by “four angry people”.

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 01:16 – Johann van Loggerenberg on being mugged over the weekend
  • 01:59 – On the violence and motive of his assailants
  • 03:18 – JvL reflects on the experience and how it impacted his view on South African society
  • 04:29 – On the aftermath of the mugging and his privileged medical experience
  • 06:49 – On the parallels between himself and Andre de Ruyter, and his hesitancy to read de Ruyter’s book
  • 15:02 – On working under Pravin Gordhan at SARS

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Excerpts from the interview

Johann van Loggerenberg on his mugging

It was it was quite harrowing. I think I just became a statistic as many of my fellow South Africans [become] on a daily basis. I went out cycling as I normally do on weekends, and I got jumped by four very aggressive, violent, bad people. And I got robbed. But I’m just thankful to be alive. That’s the main thing… They were angry people. They hit me with bricks and then one had a knife with him. They they really hurt me. Even after taking everything they wanted, they kept on hurting me for a while.

It helps me to also consider them as victims of a different kind. I think they’re products of our society. We are not born to be violent. Some things have occurred in their lives to make them that violent. And I think if anything, I think that’s a conversation to be had is why are we so violent as a society?

Read more: Hawks not yet probing politicians fingered in Eskom corruption

JvL on the parallels between himself and Andre de Ruyter

It would be a very difficult comparison to do for me. At an obvious superficial level, the common denominator would be that it appears to be that we are both people who were occupying a certain office in the state, in the broad sense, that happen to be entities that are under siege or were, in my case, under siege at the time. And that we both tried to do something about it and ultimately wrote books about it. I think that would be at the most superficial level, the commonality. I think beyond that, I wouldn’t want to compare the two of us at all. 

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On his hesitancy to read de Ruyter’s book

These things are designed to appeal to the emotion rather than the cognitive weighing up of fact and looking at fact clinically as court processes and investigations require one to do. And then the difficulty, of course, is because they are coined “intelligence” and they use terms like anonymous sources and so on, [then] you never have the benefit of pressure testing that. So unless you have a built-in counterintelligence methodology, you’re always going to simply recount what people want you to recount, and you will do it indiscriminately. So it deeply concerned me at the time that I also happened to know what these things were costing.

It just really concerned me that [de Ruyter’s “intelligence”] was the main source of direction in terms of the high level corruption that was supposedly going on at Eskom. Because it naturally undermines the real investigation and it creates space for the real crooks because it’s a distraction. And it confuses [the public] and it does what fake news does in the media world: it causes doubt and [people] just don’t know [what the truth is]. I actually have [de Ruyter’s] book, but I haven’t read it yet because I’m in two minds. I’m not certain if I want to read the book because I just won’t know what parts to believe and what [parts not to].

Read more: Gordhan slams de Ruyter, power struggles and accusations fly

On working under Pravin Gordhan during his time at SARS

In terms of my relationship with Mr. Gordhan, he was at best twice or thrice removed [from me] as direct line of management [at SARS], but I did deal with him from time to time… He is a tough boss and it’s because he’s tough on himself. He works like a machine and he expects people who work with him to also work like machines.

[It felt like] nothing would ever be good enough, until finally you come close to something that he may be able to work with, [but] that’s just in his nature. I can easily understand why some people will think that [it] is some form of a micromanagement. I think if you have a certain kind of personality, you would certainly experience that as somebody who interferes or isn’t happy with what you’re doing or who’s criticising what you’re doing. But you can look at it the other way, too, and that’s how we looked at it. He kept on challenging us, [so] we [were] going to show him we’re going to do this differently [and] we’re going to do it better than he thinks.

This is a man who really is formidable in his thinking. He can move between the strategic [future], like a 100-200 year lifespan – he thinks that far ahead in life – and then he can drop straight into the absolute tactical of right now, within the minute, or what’s the next steps that you’re going to do [or] what happened yesterday. It is kind of unsettling until you get used to his management style and then you realise that this man [has] just got a very good brain. And if you can connect with him in a working environment, then he does have this ability to make you want to do your best.

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