Public protector's office dealt a blow as inquiry hears damning evidence from former Sars executive

13 July 2022 - 21:48
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg on Wednesday testified before the section 194 inquiry looking into suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office.
Former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg on Wednesday testified before the section 194 inquiry looking into suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office.
Image: Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Deaan Vivier

The office of the public protector was on Wednesday dealt another blow when former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg revealed to a parliamentary inquiry that he had provided the office with evidence of state capture which was ignored.

The third day of the section 194 inquiry into public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office heard lengthy testimony from Van Loggerenberg, who gave details about Mkhwebane’s Sars 'rogue unit' report released in 2019.

Van Loggerenberg told the committee he had approached the office of the public protector to blow the whistle in August 2016 at their Hatfield offices. This was prior to Mkhwebane being appointed into office.

“I sat outside and met some people who took me through security and signed me in.  I sat there for a daylong interview wherein I expressed my concerns [about] state capture at Sars.

“I left having given the undertaking to provide certain documents to the office of the public protector, which I did ...”

Effectively, Van Loggerenberg said, what he tried to explain was that “a fake and fraudulent so-called ‘intelligence dossier’ — which we all knew was compiled by, in the main, a former Sars official who had been dismissed for being involved in rhino poaching and possession of illicit firearms — dated to around 2009 or 2010.”

He said: “The document was bandied about politically at some point and Sars responded to the document in 2009 and again in 2010 in a detailed fashion, including to MPs ...”

The document, titled Project Snowman, was subsequent to another document which referred to the activity of compiling the Snowman document and detailed the names of those involved.

“My concern was that by 2014 into 2015 and 2016, it was as if what Sars did, in dispelling the nonsense Snowman, had never occurred, nobody had ever heard of it and nobody had ever come to Sars about it to question the nonsense.

“It was as if Project Snowman was brand new and served as confirmation of an existence of evidence that implicated that small investigative unit.

“What I provided the office of the public protector was more than sufficient evidence that had it been taken into account then, I doubt that we would have seen report No 36 of 2019, the way we would have seen it in the end.”

He said in her executive summary report, Mkhwebane said she tried to get documentation from him but was unable to because she could not find him and therefore had elected to use her subpoena powers.

“I say now, today, that she had in her possession reams of evidence which I had provided to her office, which included my contact details in full, such as my email address and mobile number. I actually provided the office with a lot more.”

He said he did not know of the address on the subpoena, adding that “it was non-existent.”

Van Loggerenberg said he found it unfathomable that Mkhwebane could not find him because he had written to her through his lawyers asking her to please stop saying that he was part of a rogue unit and to stop saying that they had killed people — saying this amounted to defamation.

“It was before report 36 was concluded,” said Van Loggerenberg. 

He told the inquiry that he had not changed his home address since 2010 and his phone number has been the same since the early 2000s.

Evidence leader advocate Nazreem Bawa during the proceedings asked Van Loggerenberg to explain why he deposed the affidavit and what he meant when he said: “What I depose to in this affidavit has never been as a result of my own choice but rather because of state capture, various externally motivated events, situations and actions taken by various people which have had a direct effect on my rights, those of other innocent people, state departments and the nation as a whole.”

He responded by saying during the period when he worked for Sars, it had constantly been under attack by various nefarious forces.

“In the main, these people opposed components within the revenue service that were involved in law enforcement.”

Van Loggerenberg said as far back as 2009 it began to increase in “intensity and deviousness”.

“It culminated towards the end of 2014, around October onwards, in what I can only describe as a complex orchestrated propaganda campaign that focused on a very tiny investigative unit within the revenue service.

“It was extremely brutal and humiliating and personal on a whole lot of people and it became the pretext at that point to effectively capture Sars by getting rid of people, bullying people, preventing people from saying anything publicly that would contradict the propaganda.”

As time went on, Van Loggerenberg said, “it was the proverbial blood in the water because there were many other people who saw this as an opportunity to leap onto for their own agendas, which coincided with the enemies of the revenue services that had started this.”

“It was blood in the water and the sharks were circling. They all joined the fray and Sars’ ability to counter that disappeared completely. In fact, it capitulated and, as a consequence to that, we [sit] today with a weakened Sars.”

Van Loggerenberg said this affected his rights as he was made the “poster boy of supposed deeds these little units had committed over the seven years of existence but also loyal civil servants, their family members, the state departments and ultimately the nation as a whole”.

The externally motivated events played out on different platforms, including the media, courts, civil courts, the press ombudsman, the broadcast complaints commission, independent panels and committees.

“I am still so traumatised by this and many other people remain so and probably will for the rest of their lives. None of this, we elected. We weren’t offered to drink the poison that came and as a consequence this propaganda remained and just became expedient, politically and otherwise, for all in sundry to at any given point use it ... to advance something”.

Van Loggerenberg added that “it was a never-ending saga and as I sit before you as a whistle-blower, it’s eight years in, this drama. That was my motivation (to depose the affidavit).”

He said report 36 of 2019 of the public protector's office was a case in point.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now