Two former Sars employees Ivan Pillay and Johan Van Loggenrenberg yesterday called the allegations by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (also known at the Hawks) baseless after a four-hour meeting.
They met at the Hawks offices in the General Piet Joubert Building on Visagie Street in Tshwane. Both men and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan were asked to present themselves at the Hawks so a warning statement could be obtained from them.
Pillay and Van Loggenrenberg’s legal representative Robert Levin said: “Our clients consider the allegation baseless and will follow due processes in accordance with their rights.
“Our clients wish to thank civil society and civil organisations for their support,” Levin said before he and his clients walked off.
‘This is not just about Pravin Gordhan and Ivan Pillay; it’s an issue about our country, and how we fight corruption.’
After the long meeting Van Loggenrenberg lit up a cigarette and said: “I had been dying for a smoke”.
“Keep calm and move on,” he said before walking off.
Neither Pillay nor Loggenrenberg said a word about what transpired in the meeting.
The men were accompanied by Advocate George Bizos, former Constitutional Court Judge Johann Kriegler, director of the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) Francis Antonie and various civil society and civil organisations.
Kriegler said they would support the men legally and that they would be conferring to discuss the way forward.
“We are used to fighting for social justice and good governance. We are used to picketing and fighting evil police,” Pillay’s wife, Evelyn Groenink told The Citizen.
She was accompanied by their daughter Devy to support her husband “and his co-accused”.
“I’m not just here as a wife today, I am also here to support him and his co-accused as an individual.”
She said her husband and Gordhan were being harassed and victimised, and that they were the victims of a smear campaign like others in Sars for the past two years now.
“He wants to fight for social justice and for good governance.”
She said the past two years had been bad for them, but even worse for the country.
‘A man like Ivan Pillay, who has given his life to the cause, is being victimised by petty little people.’
“I’ve known Ivan since 1989. All our lives we have been social activists. We are used to evil police,” she said.
The couple met in Lusaka and have been married for more than 25 years.
Gordhan was also asked to present himself, but he instead kept to his word and was a no-show. He has since taken legal counsel and was advised that he was under no obligation to present himself to the Hawks.
“Have you seen these individuals who walked in here today? Have you seen what the system has done to them? Ruined them financially, ruined them emotionally, and they have been left alone.
I think they are entitled as human beings to the moral support of decent South Africans who can stand up and say, enough of this!
“A man like Ivan Pillay, who has given his life to the cause, is being victimised by petty little people. It’s a disgrace that we have come to this in our fair land, South Africa.”
He said it was obvious that they called on the support of the rest of the country. “The only way that people like this will listen is when they have to be confronted by sufficient push-back by decent society.”
Advocate George Bizos said that was a concern for justice. “We are concerned about the justice system in South Africa. Judge Kriegler and I and the Helen Suzman Foundation have fought Apartheid for many years. We are concerned the events of the past are being repeated.”
“We find it strange that the Hawks are calling them here, while at the same time the minister of transport has closed down, or are trying to close an investigation at Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa] that involves billions of rands.”
He said he hoped the people of South Africa would stand by Judge Johann Kriegler.
“Months ago they broke into the Helen Suzman foundation in late March. [During] an armed incursion run like a military operation, only computers with sensitive material were taken. None of the other computers were taken,” Francis Antonie, director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, said.
He added: “We know that Sars was one of our superb institutions and so was the Treasury. As these institutions become hollowed out of personnel and become subject to political [misfortune] and are in effect held to ransom, then I think all South Africans must be troubled about this.”
Mark Heywood from Section27 said they would come back in their thousands to support Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Ivan Pillay.
He said it was a political vendetta against people in government who are fighting corruption inside departments.
“This is not just about Pravin Gordhan and Ivan Pillay; it’s an issue about our country, and how we fight corruption. We find it strange that the Hawks are calling them here, while at the same time the minister of transport has closed down or are trying to close an investigation at Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa] that involves billions of rands,” he said.