SARS Rogue Unit becomes Rogue Spy investigation – Thamm

A classified report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence into the so-called rogue unit at the South Africa Revenue Service has been an effective stick used by the Public Protector and the EFF to beat Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, former taxman Ivan Pillay and former SARS executive Johann van Loggerenberg; the people who were trying to make sure that the Revenue Service did not become another “captured” state entity in the Zuma years. And now the full details of the report is in the public domain after the EFF decided to publish it. The 49-page relies on interviews with Belinda Walter, a spy for the State Security Agency who is also a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, an SSA operative Chris Burger and Madisa Mokwena a SARS official who also spied for the SSA, and a discredited memorandum titled Project Snowman. The report normalised the idea that there was a rogue unit at SARS and enabled the state capturers to get rid of people who were standing in their way at the taxman. But the EFF’s decision to release the full details of the report, may ironically be the report’s death knell. As Marianne Thamm writes in the Daily Maverick, republished with permission, it also reveals a couple of EFF skeletons and evidence not included in the 2014 report will now be revisited and the role of SSA-spies will be investigated. – Linda van Tilburg

Endgame: Classified IGI report on SARS – new investigation into rogue SSA agents promised

By Marianne Thamm

Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind;
the others have left and gone to Olympus.
Trust, a mighty god has gone, Restraint has gone from men,
and the Graces, my friend, have abandoned the earth.
Men’s judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted, nor does anyone
revere the immortal gods; the race of pious men has perished and
men no longer recognise the rules of conduct or acts of piety.”

– (6th century BC Greek poet, Theognis of Megara)

To those unfamiliar with the Greek myth of Pandora and her little box, a short synopsis of the significance of the enduring cautionary tale is called for.

Back then, Prometheus, a Titan, was known as a trickster. We know the sort, they still live among us. Commander in Chief and No 1 at the time was Zeus, god of all, who had kept hidden the secret of fire from the mere mortals.

One day, the celestial NEC met and decided to have a braai. Prometheus was invited, but he arrived with an agenda: to steal fire and return it to humankind. So Prome (as they used to call him) conned No 1, and instead of offering a prime cut, disguised some fat and bones as Woolies top grade.

As punishment for this trickery, Zeus got his Minister of FireHephaestus, to fashion a woman out of clay, Pandora, and for her to be sent to earth bearing an alluring Gucci box with a solid lock and a disclaimer for it never to be opened.

Pandora was a sort of Kim Kardashian of the times and took the fancy of Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus, who married her. So smitten was Epimetheus he forgot warnings that Zeus was so pissed off with his brother that he would try to take revenge.

Pandora, who probably harboured secret aspirations of becoming an investigative journalist (or a CI or State Security Agent) opened the box against the express instructions of No 1.

And out flew all the evils of the world – Telkom, slow WiFi, shopping malls, sickness, death, turmoil, politicians, corruption, medical aids and the Department of Home Affairs.

The only thing that remained in Pandora’s box was hope, hence Theognis of Megara’s musings on that most essential of human emotions.

Read also: See how they’ve fallen – a State Capture rogue’s gallery

What we, the citizens of South Africa, can hope for now that the EFF has opted to place, in the public realm, a classified Inspector General of Intelligence (IGI) report by the late Faith Radebe into alleged breaches by the SSA at SARS, is for the truth to finally be brought to light and for all the nasty beasties that have been trapped in the State Capture box to come flying out.

These are over and above the jinns that have been uncorked at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.

Joining the myriad dots that add up to the industrial-scale capture of the state and many of its institutions during the Zuma years, it is evident that this IGI report forms the bedrock of later witch-hunts of officials at SARS and of current Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.

The genesis of the now-discredited “rogue unit” narrative can be traced back at least to this report which the EFF and the Public Protector have relied on in various court actions.

The IGI report was attached to EFF responding affidavits in an Equality Court matter brought by Gordhan in two hate speech matters against EFF leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu.

This matter relates to Malema’s comments outside the Zondo Commission in November 2018 that Gordhan is “a dog of white monopoly capital” and that EFF members should prepare for “war” with Gordhan.

While the IGI report clearly has no bearing on the hate speech charges, the EFF sought this avenue to make the classified IGI report public and to quote selectively from its findings.

When Gordhan applied to have it struck from the record, Equality Court judge Roland Sutherland on 30 September ruled that it remain part of the record.

So there it is.

The IGI report also mysteriously found its way to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office, who included it in her investigation into SARS and Gordhan.

In her final report, Mkhwebane found that the SARS high-risk investigations unit had been established “in violation of South African intelligence prescripts”. She also found that the unit had spied illegally and specifically recommended that the findings of the IGI report be implemented — that is, charge Gordhan.

Since then, there have been significant developments, the most important of which is the revelation that the current Inspector General of Intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe, will be revising 34 complaints the former SARS executive at the centre of the rogue unit saga, Johann van Loggerenberg, lodged with Radebe back in 2014 when she first conducted the investigation.

While Radebe had, in her conclusion, relied on the testimony of a long list of now discredited and duplicitous SSA officials, she appears to have deliberately ignored input by SARS officials who had warned of an attack on SARS by rogue SSA operatives.

SARS, of course, was investigating the tax matters of a variety of politicians, connected businesspeople as well as the multi-billion-rand tobacco industry.

The revelation that Dintwe is revisiting the investigation is contained in a more-than-300-page affidavit with attachments, filed by former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and supported by Van Loggerenberg.

Pillay and Van Loggerenberg are supporting Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo’s interlocutory application to the Pretoria High Court where she seeks to interdict the dissemination of the 2014 IGI report.

Mkhwebane, illegally in possession of the report, has opposed Dlodlo’s application, saying the IGI report was “a central part” of her ongoing investigations and findings.

In July 2019 Pretoria High Court Judge Sulet Potterill suspended Mkhwebane’s remedial action against Gordhan pending a review of the public protector’s report. A month later, in August 2019, Mkhwebane withdrew her Constitutional Court application for leave to appeal against that ruling.

Dlodlo’s application was due to be heard by the Pretoria High Court this week, but the process has ebeen delayed to November after Mkhwebane objected to Judge Potterill presiding.

Potterill has been removed from hearing the matter as she is the subject of a complaint lodged by Mkhwebane to the Judicial Services Commission for her disparaging findings against the public protector in suspending her remedial action.

Included in the list of those the current Inspector General of Intelligence has committed to investigate are former Sunday Times investigative journalists Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi wa Afrika, as well as SSA operatives who were named as key instigators in the campaign to discredit SARS.

These include former SSA Special Operations Unit head Thulani Dlomo, triple agent and SSA spy, Pretoria lawyer Belinda Walter, SARS SSA spy Mandisa Mokwena as well as members of the Tobacco Task Team, Chris Burger, Ferdi Fryer and Casper Jonker and others.

Van Loggerenberg, in his affidavit in support of Dlodlo, said it was “evident” that Radebe had, at the time, “disregarded complaints, evidence and facts provided by me during 2014 which were of a material nature to such alleged ‘findings’.”

He said it was also apparent that the 34 complaints, with a list of 64 “persons of interest”, had been ignored by Radebe.

“It is most significant, based on Mr Malema’s allegations of what the report contains and the media reports, that the very persons and entities that I implicated at the IGI, appear to have been uncritically relied upon.”

Van Loggerenberg said his complaints to Radebe “pointed directly to instances of attempts to undermine SARS, its officials and investigations, and various other matters I believe directly related to State Capture.”

He said he had “no doubt that what should have been exposed during the Inspector General of Intelligence process in 2014, but which was clearly ignored, will completely alter and contradict all of the purported ‘findings’ in their totality.”

The court papers reveal a few other surprising nuggets, notably that Walter, who acted as an attorney for Malema’s benefactor, Adriano Mazzotti’s and Kyle Phillips’s tobacco company, Carnilinx, had in fact been party to registering the trademark of the EFF’s logo in 2014. Emails from Walter to this effect have been attached to the affidavit.

Malema, in his answering affidavit to Dlodlo’s application, had described Walter, who lodged the original complaint about SARS, as “a member of the public and a lawyer for tobacco companies”.

“Mr Malema has not taken the court into his confidence and set out the facts known to him regarding Ms Walter. In fact, they go back a long way,” said Van Loggerenberg.

“Mr Malema’s attorney, Mr Tumi Mokwena, informed me, when he sought to consult with me between March 2015 and May 2015, that he and his client had been consulting with Walter with respect to a dispute that Mr Malema had with SARS. I reported this to SARS and the SSA at the time.”

He added, “it is public knowledge that Carnilinx Tobacco Company is a benefactor of both Mr Malema and the EFF. Mr Malema is friendly with Mr Mazzotti and he has received a R1m loan from another of its directors, Mr Kyle Philips.”

It was also widely known, said Van Loggerenberg, that Walter was the attorney for Carnilinx “while spying on Carnilinx, its directors and their private lives for a multi-agency Tobacco Task Team [which consisted of Jonker, Burger, Schlenther, Niemann and former SARS operative Mike Peega] along with British American Tobacco and an entire spy network” operated by its private security division Forensic Security Services.

“It is inconceivable that Mr Malema has forgotten that it is in fact Ms Walter who unlawfully and illegally spied on his benefactors and that this led to a major fallout between me and this multi-agency Tobacco Task Team and Ms Walter.”

Van Loggerenberg also revealed that Malema, through Mokwena, sought to engage his [Van Loggerenberg’s] services after he resigned from SARS in 2014.

The former SARS executive said that Mokwena, Malema’s attorney, had contacted him in March 2015 concerning Malema’s ongoing dispute with SARS.

Mokwena and Van Loggerenberg had met three times at Mokwena’s insistence, but Malema’s attorney had not been willing to “accept my normal business practice of providing invoices for services rendered”.

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

Van Loggerenberg had formally reported Mokwena’s approach to him to SARS and the SSA.

The two men had also met, said Van Loggerenberg, in 2010 after Peega, later arrested for poaching, had handed a “dossier” to Malema alleging that SARS was targeting politically exposed persons and was operating a “rogue” covert unit. At that meeting, said Van Loggerenberg, he had taken Malema through each of Peega’s allegations.

The IGI report is our little malevolent Pandora’s box. It has never been closely scrutinised or tested in any court. Reading it, it is clear Radebe placed an inordinate amount of importance on the testimony of the SSA operatives and expended very little attention on other serious allegations and evidence that the state was under attack – from the inside.

While hope still lies trapped in this particular Pandora’s box, most of the malevolent spirits are out and about.

Lancing the boil that is the “rogue unit” saga will inevitably lead to some sort of endgame. It has featured at the centre of South Africa’s political narrative for more than six years, used as a blunt instrument in relay, to beat those who have stood up to State Capture. Its days now are surely numbered. DM

Comment from Willem F Liebenberg

Hi Alec,

I object strongly to the inclusion of Telkom in the  SARS Rogue Unit becomes Rogue Spy investigation – Thamm 8th October 2019 by Linda van Tilburg article in Biznews.

I quote from the article: And out flew all the evils of the world –Telkom, slow WiFi, shopping malls, sickness, death, turmoil, politicians, corruption, medical aids and the Department of Home Affairs.

I like the article but by adding Telkom and slow WiFi as part of the evils coming out of Pandora’s box makes me believe the author is not objective and this brings what I thought was a good article, into total disregard.

I have a Telkom Broadband LTE service and it is excellent: No interruptions, not one in the last two years. Accurate billing. Only service My Telkom where I not only can see detailed billing on all my services, I can see remaining any-time and night-time data. Also they have free call service centre with trained operatives. My one cell phone has been with Vodacom since 1987. End of the year I am downgrading to prepay and will put the sim in my already procured Telkom smartphone. Got the phone for free with my broadband upgrade. You can see that Telkom understands how to compete. The phone has a dual sim facility. I can maintain my Vodacom number and make calls via Telkom network. Anytime on par with Vodacom.

No the Telkom of old in your pandora’s box is gone. The new Telkom is here with better and cheaper service than the Vodacoms, MTNs and Cell Cs.

So tell Linda van Tilburg: Like the skelm EFF get your facts straight before you knock them (Telkom) in the press. The broad  sweeping inclusion of Telkom in Pondora’s evil in your article shames the press unnecessarily. You owe Telkom and all the Biznews readers an apology!

Willem F Liebenberg

Extremely satisfied Telkom customer.