🔒 Journalist Malcolm Rees: How Johann van Loggerenberg got falsely labelled a police spy

South Africans who lived through the apartheid era are keenly aware that there are few accusations worse than being called a policy spy. Back in the 1980s it was a moniker that could easily cost your life. The best known case is probably the murder of Stompie Moeketsi, accused of being a police spy at the age of 14, by a member of Winnie Mandela’s “Football Club” in 1989. In contemporary South Africa, it is still regarded as a disgrace to have served as an informer to the police in the former political dispensation because the police were the enforcers of racist legislation. Johann van Loggerenberg, an anti-corruption buster at the South African Revenue Services until 2015, has experienced the pain of the “police spy” label at the hands of The Sunday Times. One of its former journalists, Malcolm Rees, has apologised for the reputational damage and has started to explain how the false accusation made it into the pages of one of the country’s biggest print titles. But there are still more questions to be answered by the journalists working within the bosom of a big media company. And, although the Rogue Unit reports have been discredited, by late this week TimesLive was still carrying the 2014 piece, Love affair rocks SARS, that falsely labels Van Loggerenberg as a spy. -Jackie Cameron

Former Sunday Times senior journalist Malcolm Rees has issued a lengthy apology to former South African Revenue Services (Sars) executive Johann van Loggerenberg, the media has reported.

In his apology, Rees denies ever branding Van Loggerenberg as a former apartheid police agent, says Eyewitness News.

In a letter to Van Loggerenberg, Rees began his apology by saying that he had seen recent media reports surfacing claiming that Van Loggerenberg was an apartheid-era spy.

Speaking to Alec Hogg on BizNews Radio, Rees says he decided to issue the apology after The Citizen published an article re-surfacing the claim that Loggerenberg was an apartheid spy. A 2014 Sunday Times article contained the first allegation that Van Loggerenberg was a former apartheid police agent, he says.

“It did happen a long time ago, but what I have been able to verify is that the statement was not in the final draft that left the inbox of my former editor Rob Rose into the editorial process,” Rees tells Hogg.

“Somewhere in the editorial process, the statement was inserted,” alleges Rees.

The objective must have been to cast aspersions on Van Loggerenberg’s integrity, he reflects.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) is investigating the matter.

Rees says, after he wrote the “love affair” article, the newspaper put him into the investigative unit that did the “Rogue” series.

His byline appeared on a story entitled “Sars bugged Zuma”, he says.

“I developed a disillusionment to team dynamics and processes and resigned,” Rees explains of why he left the newspaper.

He adds that he is looking forward to an investigation by the South African Editors’ Forum into the media’s role in state capture.

The Rogue Unit reports entailed painting Sars corruption-busters as “rogue” at a time when they were piecing together details of widespread irregularities involving senior political and business figures.

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