Letters

Dear Editor:


The SARS ‘naughty list’

I run a small accounting practice. Rest assured that this level of tax evasion is nothing new.

The worst is that SARS on most levels has individual staff members with whom a taxpayer, and particularly certain attorneys, can arrange the writing-off of tax debt for a fixed fee of 10% of the debt. (Even VAT and PAYE can get written off.)

It is therefore okay to owe SARS a lot of money. If you don’t owe them a lot, you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble because then the 10% is not worthwhile for these crooks.

CG Cloete
Cloete Accounting and Tax Services Inc
Parys, Free State

Gwen Ngwenya: bitter truth


Pity that Noseweek, to which I subscribe, claims to care about issues of probity but the profile in nose223 of Gwen Ngwenya (now head of research for the DA) fails to mention the incident of IRR’s sugar tax research sponsored by Coca-Cola. Different strokes for different folks?

Sean Muller
Via Twitter

• That was sweetheart journalism at its worst. Bad pun! Also no mention of Afriforum funding of IRR.

Shuaib Manjra

UCT, Cape Town

An interesting point we failed to notice; so we are human after all.  Thanks for reminding us.Ed.

• I have been consistently impressed by the articles written by Gwen Ngwenya when she was COO of the IRR. She is indeed a brilliant rising star and I am convinced she will go very far in her chosen career.

Larry Palk
Betty’s Bay

• Ms Gwen Ngwenya’s lament that Parliament is not “a place for really in-depth engagement on policy” strikes a chord. To change this we must outlaw the idiotic practice of caucus voting. When party caucuses decide in advance how they will (or must) vote, then the debate that follows is redundant, amounting to little more than rationalisation of the chosen line. This leads to the mudslinging, childish interjections, and generally unruly behaviour that now characterise our parliamentary sessions: few members feel any need to listen; some go to sleep.

These habits are learned in school debating societies, where the competitiveness encouraged by teachers leads to petty point-scoring rather than rational discussion. Perhaps fruitful debate is possible in some of our parliamentary sub-committees, but it will remain absent from the main chamber while caucus voting persists.

If our politicians were sincere in their desire to serve the people they would not punish the likes of Dr Makhosi Khoza for voting according to their consciences; instead they would insist that voting according to conscience becomes a constitutional duty.

John Brodrick
Bedfordview

Africa’s Unesco City of Literature

Your report on how issues of race and exclusion are threatening Durban’s status as Africa’s only Unesco City of Literature – as bureaucrats throw the book at the committee over race quotas – brings to mind these words inscribed on Kwame Nkrumah’s memorial in Accra, Ghana: “Get thee the political power and all things shall be added unto thee.”

Alain Leger
(via Facebook)
St Martin de France, Pontoise, Paris

A Steinhoff puzzle

Food for thought: Why would PSG have sold all their Steinhoff shares (apparently seven million) only a few months prior to “meltdown”?

Why would Steinhoff “strip” solid South African assets and insulate/ringfence same in STAR (Steinhoff Africa Retail) – even closer to “meltdown”?

Genius? Coincidence? Just asking.

Luvuyo Mncanca
By email

Nedbank’s lies

Why would Nedbank take such a huge risk by lying for small change (nose223)?  There is a bigger story there, look at the people more carefully.

Rudd van Deventer

Johannesburg.

We are watching closely.
Ed.

• In Jersey they still practise the “Clameur de Haro”. Beat that, Nedbank! If someone pisses you off, you go to the Royal Square (your pic) and kneel down facing the statue of the Duke of Normandy, Our Liege; then say “Haro, Haro, Haro, A l’aide, a l’aide Mon Prince. On me fait tort. (Hear me! Hear me! Hear me! Come to my aid, my Prince, for someone does me wrong.)”  Then the offender must either desist or face immediate arrest and prison. Would be cool here.

Renee Paul Gosselin
Johannesburg

• I have learned that, subsequent to the appearance of “How Nedbank lied” (nose223) the bank rushed copies to their lawyers in Jersey who, pretending outrage, then asked the Jersey court for a contempt of court order against 83-year-old Dorothy Brakspear – who they assumed was the source of the story, since the Bankers Book evidence was supposed to be kept confidential.

The Jersey court is yet to rule on the matter. Fortunately, back in South Africa, the Constitution guarantees (in S16[b]) our “freedom to receive and impart Information and Ideas”.

Nedbank and its lawyers’ ongoing outrageous conduct in the Brakspear matter brought to mind some quotes from Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel. First, on speaking out: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Then, on indifference: “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”

Wiesel concludes his argument with a wrenching memory: “Bomb the Rail Line leading to the Concentration Camp …Just once. (We believed that Auschwitz and Treblinka were closely guarded secrets; that the leaders of the free world did not know what was going on behind those black gates and barbed wire; that they had no knowledge of the war against the Jews that Hitler’s armies and their accomplices waged as part of the war against the Allies.

“If they knew, we thought, surely those leaders would have moved heaven and earth to intervene, would have spoken out with great outrage and conviction. They would have bombed the railways leading to Birkenau… just once?”

The moral of my story: If you are a South African and you support our rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as to Freedom of Speech and Lawful Action that are threatened by certain Banks and Lawyers, then you cannot, at the same time be a client of those Banks or those Lawyers. You can’t say you did not know.

“We must always take sides.” Choose, are you for Nedbank and its lawyers or are you for the Constitution, Mrs Brakspear – and Noseweek?

Atholl Canterbury

Durban

Over-rated Joburg advocates


These lawyers are the class of people I hope never to have to deal with or employ; they are totally disgusting. I comment as a graduate, professional mechanical and aeronautical engineer with local and international qualifications plus 50 years’ international professional experience, who charges absolutely nothing like those ridiculous rates charged by the lawyers whose sense of self-importance leads them to “over-rate” themselves. Reasonable rates lead to good relationships with my clients – and to future business.

Bruce Prescott
Benoni

Vodacom thieving (continued)

I have enjoyed the services of Vodacom for many years. Only recently, after reading about the problem in Noseweek, did I notice that in respect of my cell phone substantial amounts, reflected as “Content Services”, have been debited to my account.

These are apparently debited in respect of unlawful data charges generated by unknown entities identified as: Zip, Bmobil, Gamezz, Jamba, Get the Result, Buzzy Life, Wasp, Andro Games.

Upon enquiry at Vodacom, Brooklyn Mall, they accessed an SMS number, 31050, with a message to “delete all”. This instruction via SMS apparently ensures that data reflected as “content services” are cancelled. I was also advised to file a formal complaint via email to complaint@waspa.co.za and info@waspa.co.za for a refund of the amounts illegally debited to my account, which I did on 21 February.

I have traversed the debits in respect of the relevant cell number and compiled a detailed list of all those amounts illegally recovered from my account, which I forwarded to those Waspa addresses, together with my request for a refund in the amount of R12,768.52. Both emails were returned “undeliverable”. Subsequent to the last date listed, I established that a further R144.99 was debited to my March account, despite the SMS instruction to delete all content services.

Kindly forward the contact details of any Vodacom directors that you have, so that I can refute the fraudulent charges debited to my account. I have every intention of proceeding against them to recover my losses and thus be of assistance to those who have suffered the effects of this organised fraud.

Ferdie Ziondagh
Attorney
Pretoria

We have had a call from Vodacom’s PRO pleading with us to remove the telephone number of their CEO Mr Saki Makozoma from our website as he was being overwhelmed by complainants’ calls. It’s still there if you need it. – Ed.

Last Word in laughter

Ha ha ha! The last word by Harold... Drop dead funny, I could hardly finish reading, I laughed so much... Eish, die madala!

Mosa Damane
Sydney, Australia

Those  SARS ‘rogue unit’ charges

The “super-secret equipment” referred to in the 2015 charge sheets as having been acquired illegally by the SARS “rogue unit” is a farce – all of it. All of it can be bought over the counter or on the internet by anyone.

Paul Kirk
Durban

That might be so, but this lot is said to have come as a hand-me-down from US government sources. And while the accused say it was intended for use by SARS customs officials at border posts, was it in fact used there?

Was it used legally to intercept private conversations; ie, did the users have the necessary warrants? Was this the same equipment that was used to “bug” the NPA offices? What equipment was used to record the now notorious “spy tapes”?
Ed.

Noseweek, you have been well and truly suckered. What a load of bollocks.

Michael MacCarthy
Rooi Els

We were not “suckered” by anyone. Noseweek chanced upon copies of the 2015 disciplinary hearing charge sheets in a bundle of documents “discovered” (handed over) by SARS in another, unrelated criminal trial we are investigating.

Whether the charges contained in them are valid or spy-inspired malicious invention, they provide interesting context for the criminal charges recently brought against Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg and Andries “Skollie” Janse van Rensburg. As simple as that: no plot, no conspiracy.

What has me intrigued, however, is Van Loggerenberg’s claim that he resigned rather than defend the disciplinary because it “would have the unintended consequence of also exposing other aspects concerning the state not relevant to my matter”.

He added that a senior State Security Agency representative he had consulted felt the country “couldn’t afford more scandals”. What was that all about? What serious state scandal/scandals is he hiding?

Was that comment a loaded threat to his bosses and the prosecuting authorities? There is a great deal more to this story than meets the eye. See below
Ed.

Dark secrets haunt ex-SARS man

A disturbing exchange on Noseweek’s Facebook page

After reading Rogue by Johann van Loggerenberg and The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw, it is clear that the so-called “rogue unit” had substantial successes, especially against organised crime. This is highlighted in both Angelique Serrao’s book Krejcir: Business as Usual and in Mandy Wiener’s latest book, Ministry of Crime. It was thanks to this unit, and a statement by Van Loggerenberg, that Krejcir was finally brought down.

I tweeted in 2013, 2016 and again in 2018 commending SARS for their role as well as that of  Van Loggerenberg and Paul O’Sullivan. (I have had personal differences with both these men but I have never hesitated to give credit where credit is due.)

Getting back to the Noseweek story, it is in the public interest to be told all versions of events available – especially relating to such a high-profile case. The fact that the State is pursuing a criminal case against Van Loggerenberg et al under a new president, no longer fits the narrative of Zuma’s trying to neutralise specialist investigation units and the NPA.

In light of the recent failed prosecution of Glynnis Breytenbach, it would be surprising if the state would pursue another case involving an ex senior member of the law-enforcement fraternity and risk of further embarrassment. The state must believe that they have a provable case.

The original SARS rogue-unit story polarised the media once before and led to major embarrassment for a newspaper and certain journalists.

Why would Martin Welz run the risk of this same embarrassment? He obviously believes in the authenticity of the documents he has. Let the court decide on the charges brought.

This is the perfect opportunity for Van Loggerenberg’s defence to lead evidence of the entire narrative at play and for the court to decide whether or not there was or is a conspiracy.

Chad Thomas
IRS Investigations
Johannesburg

Van Loggerenberg’s reply

My instinctive thought in reply to Chad Thomas was to acknowledge the point, with the benefit of hindsight. At first glance, it seems a fair point. But sometimes, life isn’t as simple as one would wish it to be. This is a case in point.

But it made me think back to those days: how ignorant we were about what precisely was unfolding; how battered and bruised I was; muzzled and unable to defend myself against the media onslaught; the realisation that even if I did win, my “new” employer [new SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane]had made it clear I was unwanted; and not trusted; losing my dad; worrying about my mom’s health. Other issues included my concern about potential harm to ongoing investigations; not being heard or given a right of reply by no fewer than three “panels”; an audit firm ignoring me once again and my being denied access to their “reports” yet which were leaked to the media.

I remembered how puzzled both I and the intelligence official I consulted were at the “disciplinary charges”. Effectively they contained verbatim extracts from my own whistleblower report. I can confirm it was made in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act and handed to my employer, the Hawks, the State Security Agency and the Inspector-General of Intelligence.

I realised, as did he – and I happen to have a recording of the discussion – that I’d have no choice but to enter into the record a complete data dump of three handsets and a data-cloud given to me by a crooked spook. The dilemma that I struggled with, was that: 

a) the spook, having denied giving  me this, tried instead to discredit it by saying I had “unlawfully intercepted” it, and challenged me to produce photos of the handsets and written authority given me (which I can do with ease) and;

b) I couldn’t cherry-pick what I submitted lest it be challenged on that basis. I’d have to submit the complete data set.

I really struggled with the thought of having to do so at the time, because an unintended consequence would have been the exposure of genuine, hard-working and honest state-intelligence officers; some of their work and operations; their methods; financial aspects of their work; and their informants. It was among the most difficult decisions I had to make in my life, under the circumstances, and for reasons totally outside my control.

Collectively, between the state intelligence officer and I, we debated the legalities, the moral and ethical dilemma I faced, and the reality that no matter what happened at the intended disciplinary, harm would be caused to innocent people (and guilty ones), and the state – and that I’d have to leave my employ in any event on the basis of no trust.

I asked to sleep on it. I was told, in any event, since I made some internal disclosures to this effect, and to the Hawks, and SSA and Inspector-General of Intelligence, those dastardly issues would be dealt with (which they ultimately never were, but I couldn’t have forseen this).

So I slept on it, consulted with high office, and someone whom I trust implicitly, and then made the decision that I wasn’t going to do so, on account of the harm that would follow.

It was time to hang up my hat, and go. Which is exactly what I did. My letter of resignation specifically deals with this issue in so many words.

I also, as strange as it may seem, did not seek to embarrass the crooked spook by making public matters of a personal nature, despite the aggression directed at me.

I thought I’d maintain the moral high ground, take the lessons my parents taught me, to remain a gentleman regardless of circumstance, and not direct aggression back at this person.

At the time I honestly believed that in doing so I would bring calm to my employer, calm to the media storm and calm to government. I also didn’t wish to cause disharmony with certain families with children, who no doubt would’ve also suffered as a result of, shall I say, “indiscretions”.

Sure, I misjudged the entire back-story to what was really unfolding. Now, with benefit of hindsight, maybe some would argue I shouldn’t have cared, and gone in guns blazing. But you know what? If faced with the same choice now, knowing much more than what I did then, I’d most likely choose the same path. Because of a crooked spook, others shouldn’t be damaged, nor the state and its good parts.

So, Mr Thomas, it is a bit more complicated than what you suggested. I understand your point. At one level, yes, you are right. But, at deeper levels, it’s a choice I made, and I don’t regret it. In any event, the “disciplinary charges” were withdrawn. And the “situation” would have “escalated in the way it has” in any event – of that I have no doubt. And that’s about as much as I’m prepared to say on this.

Johann van Loggerenberg
Via Facebook
 

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