BELOW is an internal memo from one of the members of the Sars intelligence unit to an executive member of Sars. The memo was part of several that were handed to Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC as part of his investigation into the unit.
Fanie Bothma mentioned in the memorandum as the unit’s member who established a brothel as part of activities of the Sars unit, disputed claims that he ran a brothel. He said he had attended a braai with his fellow unit members where prostitutes were present.
Here is the memorandum.
The purpose of the memo is to brief the Executive and other interested parties on the author’s involvement in the NRG.
Around 2006, I was a team leader in the National Enforcement Unit (“NEU”). My line manager was Eric Khwela (“Jabu”). Jabu indicated that time that he does not want to continue as a manager. He then approached Mr Ivan Pillay (“IP”) to convey his wish to step down as a Manager. IP informed him about the new Unit that will be formed soon and asked him to submit his CV. Jabu requested my CV and submitted it with his. Both of us were called in for an “assessment “in Pretoria with 38 other candidates. About 23 candidates (including myself and Jabu) were selected to form a new unit called Intelligence Operations Unit (“IOU”). As the name suggests, we were responsible for collecting intelligence on behalf of SARS. I was appointed as a Specialist .Pieter Steenkamp/Andries Janse van Rensburg (“Skolie”) was in charge of the Unit. I still don’t know Skolie’s real name. Skolie was reporting directly to IP. The team started operating in January 2007.
The IOU team subsequently changed its name to the Tiger Team, then Special Projects Unit (“SPU”) and finally National Research Unit (“NRG”). The unit had its own emblem when it was operating as a Tiger Team. When the Unit started, the team was divided into cells. I was reporting to Gerrit Jute (Jute). Jute was recruited from Defence Intelligence (Counter intelligence). Jabu also reported to him. Skolie was very uncomfortable with Jabu and I as our CV came via IP and he suspected that we were spies; hence we were isolated from the team.
The first case allocated to me was Corropump and Equipment CC (1987/28228/23). I was tasked to handle the source (Andre Leichner-Cell: 0826535964) with Jabu. A debriefing session was held with the source and we discovered that the source and Jute were related/friends. The source wanted SARS to intervene in his fight against Corropump director (Vorster). The source wanted SARS to close down Corropump so that he can get their machines and stock. Jute instructed me to make sure that NEU deal with the case Asap. I asked him to put the request in writing. He then gave me an unsigned memo. The source also handed over a file with Corropump documents via Jute. I refused to action the case. Prior to leaving the NRG I took the file to Jute and he denied any knowledge of the file or the case. I still have a copy of the file.
The majority of the tasking that we received was mainly to conduct surveillance.
The second tasking that I received from Jute was to secure fraudulent customs acquittals from Beit Bridge for his source. I told him that I will only do it with there is a section 252 of CPA permission to do it. He never came back to me and I did not make any follow up.
I was then tasked to handle Alcohol projects. The tasking was to conduct surveillance on the targets and their entities. The targets included the following:
- Brian John Neary
- Michael Caldiera
Jabu was increasingly becoming frustrated with the team and requested to be transferred to KZN. His transfer was approved. I am not sure about the date. A few days before Eric left, I met Skolie and he asked me who must be the next president in 2009 and the reason thereof. I informed him that Mr. Jacob Zuma should be the next president based on the ANC hierarchy as it will also avoid messy succession fights. The following day he told me that I cannot do field work and must be an analyst. I then started reporting to Sipho Nkomo(“Nkomo”). Nkomo was previously a Pretoria Metro Traffic cop. I was thereafter moved to Itumeleng Leeuw‘s (“Itu”) team as an Analyst. Itu was recruited from the DSO intelligence collection unit.
Around 2008, Skolie had fallout with IP. It was after Skolie arranged fake SARS cards for the units. He asked Frans van Niekerk to arrange two cards per member. One card had our real names and ID. The second card had false names and Id numbers. The second issue had to do with the Slush fund which was used to pay sources (contrary to SARS policy). The issues at hand were not only limited to the two mentioned above.
Prior to leaving, Skolie indicated that he received some payout from SARS and was going into cattle farming on a fulltime basis. He also encouraged some members to seek payouts as it will be embarrassing for SARS if it became public that they were employed by the organization. If I recall, the payouts were made available to everyone but we were informed by Charl Fourie that we should not take the offer as it was offered to entice Skolie to leave SARS. It was general knowledge within the team that Skolie received R3 million payout. Johann van Loggenberg (“JvL”) was then appointed to run the Unit. He indicated that we should run parallel investigations with NEU without them knowing. We started working on project based investigations. JVL also introduced some control measures as there was no oversight under Skolie.
During my tenure at the NRG, I came across the following issues that made me uncomfortable:
The NRG team members were encouraged by Skolie to create a cover as we were working from home and the neighbours were suspicious. I informed my neighbours that I was on suspension with full pay. Fanie Bothma (“Fanie”) opened a club/Brothel. I came to know about it as he was pestering one of our colleagues, Mike Peega(“Mike”) for the “two blondes money”. It transpired that Mike took two prostitutes from Fanie’s club to his hotel and did not pay. Fanie also arranged prostitutes for other members when they visited Durban. I was very much unhappy about the brothel as a SARS employee was also pimping young woman. Some of the NRG members also had companies that were doing business with SARS/Government.
- Psychological profiling on NRG Members
The NRG team members were subjected to psychometrics testing by two of their colleagues, Johannes Muller (“Muller”) and Charl Fourie (“Charl”). Psychological profiling was also done on the members. The purpose of the Psychological profiling is to gain an understanding of a subject’s dominant needs, identify how these needs are integrated in his personality structure and exploit these needs to suit a particular agenda. The assessment and the profiling were done by the two psychologists (“Muller and Charl”) in the team not by an independent party. This is not only illegal but unethical as they can use the result against the members. The result of the test was also shared with some members. It was mentioned to me for example by one of the psychologist that Skolie “failed “the test. This practice also extended to taxpayers that were being investigated by SARS.
- NRG Members working as VIP bodyguards
Some of the NRG members were working as VIP bodyguards for some politicians while working for SARS. At least one individual did not have the experience or even a firearm to work as a bodyguard. The members were also not registered with the security industry regulatory body. One member who worked as a VIP bodyguard indicated that, the cover allowed them to eavesdrop on some of the politician’s conversation. During one of the car racing meeting in Kyalami, some of the NRG team members were protecting senior ANC members during the event.
- Mike Peega
Mike was fired after he was arrested for Rhino poaching. Mike claimed that he was asked to infiltrate the Rhino poaching syndicate but SARS denied any knowledge after he was arrested. Mike was also of the view that SARS denied any knowledge as they have no mandate to infiltrate syndicate. As stated early, I was also asked to arrange false Customs documents from Beitbridge but I refused. I had a feeling that if I was caught with false documents, nobody was going to come to my rescue. Mike’s claim was never investigated and my personal experiences within the NRG suggest that his claim was credible (not necessarily true). If the members who were operating as bodyguards were caught, nobody was going to take responsibility for their action.
- Was NRG a cover for something?
While I was at the NRG, I was under the impression that we were gathering intelligence for NEU. When I later joined the NEU (now called National projects), I made a follow up on the cases that I worked on while at the NRG. None of the evidence/intelligence that I collected reached the NEU. For example, I was tasked to work on John Bredennkamp and prepared a dossier on his cigarette smuggling and Arms deal commission.. I later suspected that the reason that I was allocated the case was to get access to the enigmatic Fana Hlogwana. I used two of the team members in the NRG to debrief him as he knows them. We solicited information on the Arms deal and commission paid to John Bredenkamp.
I also worked on a counterfeit DVD syndicate in the Johannesburg CBD. We managed to locate a flat that was used to make more than 100 000 counterfeit DVDs per month. The information was packaged for NEU and later when I joined the counterfeit media team in NEU; it transpired that the information never reached the team.
- Prominent Journalist
While working on the John Bredenkamp matter, I was struggling to get an interview with the Journalist who was working on the Arms Deal story. One of the NRG team members volunteered to assist me and told me that he’s got the journalist by “his balls”. The journalist flew to Pretoria to meet me after my colleagues intervened.
- The Ex DSO members
About eight members of the NRG came from the DSO intelligence collection unit. The members previously raided the house of JZ in Forrest Town when they were with the DSO. One of the members was also previously caught by law enforcement agencies conducting surveillance on former police commissioner, Jackie Selibi. These members had a history of targeting senior ANC members. The same members were offended when one team member attended one of the NRG meetings at a lodge wearing ANC shirt.
The ex DSO members were highly paid but were the least experienced in the team. When the African team members started revolting in the team, they were told to re-join another unit in SARS as the ex DSO members left SARS and the unit is being disbanded. The members never left and continued to work for SARS undercover.
- Race used as criteria to decide salary of the NRG Members.
All the white staff members of the NRG were appointed at a grade 7 level or above. Out of the six grade 8 positions in the NRG, five were white. The Human Resource Consultant (“HRC”) who handled our appointment is Muller, who was on a grade 6. He then appointed himself as a Specialist –Enforcement (Grade 7). Four of the African Team members who were also on a Grade 6 prior to joining NRG, were re-appointed at grade 6 level in the NRG despite having the necessary experience. I personally asked Muller about the discrepancies in the salary of the members. He indicated that the white team members will never get another opportunity to get promotion and the African members should not worry as affirmative action will “sort them out”. Despite various promises to address the anomalies, nothing was done. The salary discrepancies were one of the reasons that some members of the NRG were asked to leave the team and join another unit in SARS. The African team members started revolting in the team as they were used for “fishing expeditions” and underpaid.
- Counter intelligence.
All the computers in the team were first issued to Frans van Niekerk (“Frans”) to “clean” before they were allocated. It later transpired that he was installing spyware on the SARS computers after one of the members confronted him. Frans did not deny it. Frans also had access to SAPS profiling system that is used by crime intelligence. He was using the Germiston organized Crime unit to access the SAPS database. The unit was using the police database without the proper authorisation.
- Disturbing stories that were circulating in the team
-The NRG team members indicated that Johan de Waal (JDW) and Sipho Nkomo were present when Leonard Hadebe (who was tipped to be the next Commissioner of SARS) met Dave King at a restaurant in Muldesdrift. It was also alleged that the footages used to confront Leonard Hadebe about the meeting and his unceremonious exit from SARS was orchestrated by the NRG. At that time it was stated that CCTV footages of the restaurant were used to confront Hadebe. Although I did not see the footages, but CCTV cameras are normally mounted on the top and the angle will also be different if the footages were taken by a person sitting opposite you. Should it be proven that both JDW and Nkomo took the footages, the next question to be asked is: Was Hadebe phone bugged or how did they two know about the meeting?
-It was also alleged that, Jute and JDW arranged a meeting with Mo Shaik( via Fanie) , to offer him the file on the psychological profiling of a “star witness” in the Jacob Zuma corruption trial. The witness mentioned is the secretary of an Arms deal company who was due to testify about the encrypted fax. The plan was to offer the file and record the transaction, which could either be used against JZ or help him beat the corruption charges. It was also alleged that IP was not aware but Skolie was behind the move. I am not aware if the transaction took place.
– There were also some strong anti JZ sentiment in the team (especially ex DSO members) .One of the members once indicated that he was aware of certain politicians profiles being given to a certain politician who was perceived to be anti JZ by an NRG member prior to the ANC Polokwane conference of 2009. Some of the NRG members who were in the MK and were supporting Zuma were not even allowed to attend NRG meetings .
The NRG was doomed from the Start and it should have been disbanded after Skolie left. There was no oversight on Skolie and most of the damages happen under his watch. With regard with the media article about the bugging of JZ’s house, I do have any knowledge about it. However, it could have happened when the DSO raided the same house mentioned previously as they had the opportunity and capability that time. I am also aware that NRG procured some “equipment” to be used on surveillance. The people who can shed more light about the equipment are Helgard Lombard (now with Acas), Frans and JDW.