Vlok Symington is not a whistleblower: SARS

14 September 2017 - 17:51 By Kyle Cowan
The Pretoria High Court. File photo.
The Pretoria High Court. File photo.
Image: Google

The Pretoria High Court on Thursday heard that Vlok Symington‚ a senior SARS official‚ was not a whistleblower‚ as he has claimed to be.

Arguments were heard on Thursday in the application Symington brought for an urgent interim interdict to halt internal disciplinary procedures against him following the ‘hostage drama’ that played out in a SARS boardroom in October last year. Symington was held against his will in the boardroom as members of the Hawks and Commissioner Tom Moyane’s bodyguard‚ Thabo Titi‚ attempted to force him to hand over an email handed to him in error.

The interim application forms part of a broader application seeking to prevent any disciplinary action against Symington‚ who maintains he made protected disclosures to police watchdog‚ the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID)‚ and the NPA.

The disclosures‚ Advocate David Unterhalter argued on behalf of Symington‚ resulted in the disciplinary charges being brought‚ albeit not directly.

He argued there was indeed a link between the disciplinary proceedings and the disclosures‚ which in court papers Symington said must have “caused great embarrassment” to senior SARS officials‚ including Commissioner Tom Moyane.

Counsel for SARS meanwhile‚ Advocate Kameshni Pillay focused the majority of her argument on whether or not the information Symington shared with IPID and the NPA constituted protected disclosures as outlined in the Protected Disclosures Act‚ with SARS focusing most of its energy arguing the disclosures were in fact not protected. Pillay argued at one point that because the Hawks were not employees of SARS‚ Symington’s disclosures did fall within the ambit of the PDA and that much of the information he disclosed was already in the public domain.

Unterhalter dismissed this argument‚ saying the disclosures could concern any person or employer and that Symington had provided details and context that was not publicly available at the time.

“The applicant has to make a prima facie case that a protected disclosure has been made‚” he said.

Once this case has been made‚ he said “SARS has a statutory duty not to cause occupational detriment” under the PDA.

Unterhalter also argued that the charges stemmed directly from the protected disclosures‚ as the information Symington gave IPID related directly to the events of October 18‚ from which the disciplinary charges stemmed.

Judge Hans Fabricius reserved judgment‚ saying he needed more time to apply his mind to the substantial issues argued.

SARS has agreed to stay disciplinary proceedings until such a time as judgment is handed down.