And whose name was on Rampedi’s copy? Who was the origin of the abbreviated version he received? It was Tom Moyane himself. That was confirmed for me by someone who saw Rampedi’s photo of it with the watermark. It indicated  that Zuma’s appointee as the new SARS commissioner who was systematically attacking the ‘rogue unit’  and using the Sunday Times reporting to dismantle SAR’s investigative capability, was working hand in glove with members of the Sunday Times investigations unit.  

Anton HarberSo, for the Record – Behind the headlines in an era of State Capture (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2020)

The SARS evidence is a clear example of how the private sector colluded with the Executive, including President Zuma, to capture an institution that was highly regarded internationally and render it ineffective. SARSinvestigatory and enforcement capacity presented a hurdle to those involved in organised crime, and was, therefore, a target for those engaged in state capture. The involvement of the media in perpetuating false narratives which discredited targeted people as well as providing grounds for their removal was a notable feature of the evidence led in regard to the capture of SARS

Point 321 Page 711 of the Zondo Commission’s first report

On 4 January, Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo handed the first part of the State Capture report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It comes as no surprise that it identifies former President Jacob Zuma as the architect and main driver of state capture during the ‘nine wasted years’ of his tenure as leader of the African National Congress.

He is mentioned more than 150 times and he features in 92 pages of the 874-page first section of the report.

From a media perspective, the finding by the Commission that Zuma had collaborated with the private sector in general and the media in particular to eviscerate SARS of its crime investigation capabilities, comes as no surprise because that has long been an accepted truth by the South African public. 

As the Zondo hearings revealed, Tom Moyane was the man selected by Zuma to nullify the SARS investigation of his income tax avoidance.

On pages 663 and 664 of the report, the Commission says that within weeks of taking control in September 2014, Moyane, had started his purge of the senior staff by forcing out the Chief Operations Officer, Barry Hore and, in a few months thereafter, other senior executives became his victims:

  • Johann van Loggerenberg – Group Executive: Enforcement Investigations;
  • Adrian Lacksay – Spokesman for SARS;
  • Ivan Pillay  – Acting Commissioner;
  • Peter Richer – Acting Chief Officer – Strategic Planning and Risk;
  • Gene Ravele – Chief Officer – Tax and Customs Enforcement Investigations.

Within a year he had ripped the heart out of a world-class tax compliance enforcement team and he leveraged the lies of a three-man Sunday Times team and more than 30 ‘Rogue Unit’ articles – all devoid of truth – to do so. The adverse impact on SARS was immense.

Here are the Commission’s findings about the ‘Rogue Unit’ lies propagated by the current editor of the Pretoria News, Piet Rampedi, when he was at the Sunday Times – lies for which that newspaper subsequently apologised as did one of Rampedi’s colleagues.

They detail how Tom Moyane used this corrupt reporting – subsequently discounted in a series of court judgments – to victimise the ethical gatekeepers at SARS to the detriment of their continued employment and the functioning of the organisation:

In addition, two weeks after taking over in September 2014, Mr Moyane disbanded SARSs entire Executive Committee on the basis of an apparent Sunday Times exposé about a so called Rogue Unit”. The Rogue Unit” saga was hugely damaging to SARS and many of its people.

Point 159 Page 664

In what he described as the final attack, Mr van Loggerenberg told the Commission that a dossier appeared on 12th October 2014 alleging that senior investigators at SARS, located in the SPU, were part of what was styled a “rogue unit”, a label to which Mr van Loggerenberg took grave exception. Among other things it was said that members of the Rogue Unit were illegally spying on President Jacob Zuma and that they had bugged his home. Poor journalism at the Sunday Times allowed these allegations to appear in more than 30 articles published between August 2014 and April 2016. They have since been retracted

Point 202 Page 674

The tenor of these allegations, which were published as fact, were that the Rogue Unit members had broken into the former President’s home and following this, listening devices had been found in his home.

Point 203 Page 675

Mr Moyane never questioned the veracity of these claims. In fact, Mr van Loggerenberg said that the attacks on SARS and the specific individuals implicated suited him perfectly. He immediately began to target SARS management by suspending the Executive Committee in November 2014 following the “fake news” about the brothels being run by SARS

Point 204 Page 675

Despite the serious allegations appearing in the Sunday Times over an extended period of time and allegations being made against senior officials within SARS, Mr Moyane never approached any of those officials against whom allegations were made in the press to establish their response to the allegations. This was strange behaviour on Mr Moyanes part as the Commissioner of SARS because, it would be expected that, if he knew nothing about the allegations in those articles, he would have raised the issue with the individuals concerned. One would not have expected him as the leader of SARS, concerned with the image and reputation of SARS to just keep quiet when there were so many articles in newspapers which were negative about SARS. The fact that he kept quiet suggests that he knew well where the allegations were coming from. In addition, despite the institution being under significant attack, there was no response from SARS itself. That, too was strange behaviour on Mr Moyanes part.

Point 205 Page 675

The six members of the SARS High-Risk Investigations Unit (the so- called rogue unit”) wrote to Mr Moyane and other senior SARS officials on 16 October 2014. They indicated that all the claims in the newspaper were false, and they requested that an investigation be initiated. There was a number of requests which they made to Mr Moyane, including that SARS bring legal action against the Sunday Times. They offered to be polygraphed and made other suggestions aimed at demonstrating their innocence.

Point 206 Page 676

 Instead of engaging with the implicated people who called for his assistance, Mr Moyane used the reports instead to launch an investigation into rogue” activities at SARS and to suspend the former Acting Commissioner, Mr Ivan Pillay, as well as most of the agencys investigative staff, led by Mr van Loggerenberg. A large number of people was affected.

Point 207 Page 676

The sequel to the Rogue Unit saga is that each and every component of what turned out to be the false narrative in relation to the High-Risk Investigative Unit has been dismantled and there have been definitive judicial findings in respect thereof. The Sunday Times withdrew their allegations unconditionally and issued an apology. Mr van Loggerenberg said that the newspaper also admitted that they had been used as part of a project to cause harm to state institutions

Point 208 Page 676

  Most significantly, the Full Bench of the Gauteng Division of the High Court handed down a judgment in 2020 in relation to the lawfulness of the unit. The court said it could “…find no factual or legal basis upon which it can be concluded that the establishment of the unit was unlawful.”

Point 209 Page 676

The Zondo Commission has called for Tom Moyane to be prosecuted for perjury.

Anton Harber‘s research has shown (page 235)  how Moyane had leaked  a watermarked and confidential summary of the interim and subsequently withdrawn KPMG ‘ SARS spy unit’ report – one of only eight – to Piet Rampedi .

Harber’s evidence that Moyane was ‘working hand in glove with members of the Sunday Times investigations unit’ has never been challenged or denied. 

In April 2019, Iqbal Survé employed two members of that team, Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi wa Afrika.

When he appointed Rampedi, Survé said:

“Piet is a courageous journalist who boldly and truthfully reports the news that needs to be told. We have watched his development through the Group and have been enthused by his progress and his adherence to journalism’s highest tenets. We look forward to his editorial leadership at Pretoria News.”

‘Gross actions of corruption’

After receiving the first Zondo Commission report on 5 January, President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement calling on all South Africans to accept its findings and to ‘rid our country of the gross actions of corruption we have seen in the past.’

We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the Commission not only mark a decisive break with the corrupt practices of the past, but that they provide the foundation for greater transparency, accountability and ethical conduct within all state institutions and across society.

Furthermore, in response to the report, Corruption Watch has called for accountability and action.

Excoriating denunciation

I would argue that the Zondo Commission’s excoriating denunciation of the Sunday Times’ role in state capture makes it clear that never again can the reporters responsible be regarded as credible employees by any news organisation of stature and repute.

All of this is a matter of profound public interest given how the Sunday Times ‘Rogue Unit’ reporting adversely impacted on all of us:

To the benefit of criminal syndicates, hundreds of dedicated and technically qualified staff members left SARS as a result of the nefarious collaboration between  the disgraced Tom Moyane and reporters like Piet Rampedi.

Hundreds of lives devastated.

Hundreds of careers disrupted.

To the immense detriment of the fiscus and the country as a whole.

As reported internationally, whistle blower Athol Williams fled the country fearing for his life.

In my opinion, Piet Rampedi is not a fit and proper person to be editor of the Pretoria News:

  • In February 2015 Pearlie Joubert resigned from the Sunday Times without other employment in prospect because she did not want her name associated with the ‘unethical and immoral’ reporting of its ‘Rogue Unit’ fake news journalists, which included Piet Rampedi;
  • A year later, Business Day  editor Songezo Zibi resigned for the same reason and subsequently trashed the reporting of Rampedi and his co-conspirators;
  • Rampedi’s SARS reporting  while at the Sunday Times was found by then SA Press Council ombudsman, Johan Retief, to be a ‘serious breach’ of ethical journalism norms;
  • The Sunday Times  apologised for his ‘Rogue Unit’ reporting which was also harshly criticised  by  the panel headed by retired judge Kathleen Satchwell in the SANEF-sponsored Inquiry into Media Ethics and Credibility;
  • The Citizen claim that he is being investigated in a state capture context by Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe the Inspector General of Intelligence, has not been denied;
  • Rampedi’s Sunday Times claims and CR17 election funding corruption claims have been dismissed by our courts – see  here and here and here and the NPA;
  • The evidence uncovered by Anton Harber that he was ‘working hand in glove’ with the disgraced Tom Moyane to decimate the crime investigation ability of SARS has not been denied;
  • To avoid cross-examination under oath, Rampedi chose not to testify before the Nugent and Zondo commissions;
  • In June 2020 our courts finally buried the iniquitous and enormously damaging Sunday Times  ‘Rogue Unit’ reports;
  • The conclusion reached by the Zondo Commission about the nefarious intent of the ‘Rogue Unit’ reporting and its devastating impact on our tax collecting agency would, in any reputable news organisation where ethical journalism is an institutional norm, result in dismissal. Up to now, Survé has dismissed two respected editors with impeccable career credentials, Alide Dasnois and Wally Mbhele, the latter for publishing a totally factual article which annoyed the anti-reformist faction within the ANC.

All this in contravention of a claim a year ago by the newly-appointed Internal Ombud at Independent Media, Yogas Nair, that ‘accountability is sacrosanct’ at the company.

All this in contravention of and in conflict with a basic tenet of ethical news reporting – do least harm.

Van Loggerenberg has justifiably called for those implicated in the subversive sabotage of the revenue service to be prosecuted and former president Thabo Mbeki has described it as ‘counter-revolutionary’  and deserving of ‘harsh consequences’

The findings of the Zondo Commission add substance to that call.


Ed Herbst is an author and veteran journalist.