Busi Mkhwebane will not apologise for 'rogue unit' remarks: 'It boggles the mind'

Busisiwe Mkhwebane's public battle with two former Sars officials shows no signs of ending.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane's public battle with two former Sars officials shows no signs of ending.
Image: Esa Alexander

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will not apologise for statements she is accused of making about former Sars officials Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg – because they are “neither false nor defamatory”.

That is what Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told TimesLIVE on Tuesday.

“Nowhere in her statements does she mention Mr Pillay and Mr Van Loggerenberg. It boggles the mind how reference to the so-called ‘rogue unit’, in the view of Mr Pillay and Mr Van Loggerenberg, imputes their involvement when in fact the unit employed a number of people,” said Segalwe.

“It is also a mystery how Mr Pillay and Mr Van Loggerenberg conclude that the public protector’s statements - that there are threats to arrest and poison her - are false and defamatory. She was talking about information that is factual and falls within her personal knowledge.”

Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane will serve Minister Pravin Gordhan with a notice in terms of Section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act, relating to her investigation into alleged breach of the Executive Members' Ethics Code and issues around the Sars "rogue unit".

This comes after The Citizen reported on Tuesday that Pillay and Van Loggerenberg sent a lawyer’s letter to Mkhwebane demanding that she “immediately remove the defamatory statements from all media platforms, including all publications under [her] control - and not limited to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook”. 

The duo’s letter referred to a video on YouTube in which Mkhwebane said: “When it comes to issues of the rogue unit, people have lost lives, people have been tainted and I think that is still going to happen”.

The letter also referred to a recent Facebook post, tweets and a statement Mkhwebane made during a gala dinner.

City Press reported that Mkhwebane said on June 7 in an address to a South African Sheriff Society event in Mpumalanga that she had been personally targeted with “threats of arrest for money laundering” and that she may be investigated for the “poisoning” of her late husband since she “started investigating the so-called rogue unit”.

The Citizen reported that Pillay and Van Loggerenberg’s lawyers said these allegations were false and defamatory and implied that the two of them had broken the law. Pillay and Van Loggerenberg also reportedly believe that Mkhwebane's comments suggest that the pair were part of a Sars unit that operated unlawfully and dishonestly.

According to The Citizen, Pillay and Van Loggerenberg demanded an apology and full retraction by mid-morning on Tuesday.

Approached for comment, Van Loggerenberg referred SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE to his lawyer, who had not responded by the time of publication.

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