The attempts of journalist Stephan Hofstatter to launch his new book License to Loot were met with disruption from protesters seeking to take him to task over his role in documenting an alleged Sars “rogue unit.”
His reporting was found not to be fully accurate and some felt it saw him side with those allegedly responsible for state capture. The “rogue unit” allegations are believed to have been used as a pretext to appoint Tom Moyane at Sars and saw many valued members of staff resigning.
Hofstatter was one of several journalists who documented the alleged “rogue unit” in 2014 and 2015.
Hofstatter was met at Love Books in Melville with protesters holding placards with slogans such as “when did you switch from pro-corruption to anti-corruption” and “State capture crony. Profits from helping capture the state. Then dishonestly profits from state capture resistance”.
Then, in case Hofstatter didn’t get the message, he was also confronted by a former Sars executive who demanded an apology for his role in the reports.
Pete Richer, who resigned from Sars in 2015, told Hofstatter that he had done massive damage to the lives, careers, and families of those implicated in the “rogue unit” saga through his reporting in the Sunday Times.
Richer said the Sunday did not ask him for comment on the stories and alleged that the journalists relied on information from a rhino horn smuggler.
“I lost my job at SARS. You set up scurrilous unethical journalists to set up a fiction to get rid of hard-working civil servants,” Richer told Hofstatter.
“I apologise if anything I did hurt you personally. That was never my intention. I always tried to stand up for the downtrodden and expose corruption,” Hofstatter responded.
Journalist and author Jacques Pauw also doesn’t seem ready to forgive Hofstatter, tweeting that he must be made to “reveal who was behind the nonsense that was fed to him and the Sunday Times.”
It's time for Stephen Hofstatter to reveal who was behind the nonsense that was fed to him and the Sunday Times. Moyane himself? Makwakwa? If a source abuses and lies to a journalist, he/she is not entitled to any protection. Zondo is waiting!
— Jacques Pauw (@Jaqqs) September 21, 2018
Reports in The Sunday Times regarding the “rogue unit,” several of which were co-authored by Hofstatter, were found to be “inaccurate, misleading, and unfair” by the press ombudsman and the newspaper was forced to apologise.
In 2015, the press ombudsman ruled that the Sunday Times must retract all stories on the “rogue unit saga” and to apologise to Pravin Gordhan as well as others implicated after Gordhan, former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, and former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg lodged a complaint.