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Plot to discredit Gordhan with Zuma

Feb 25 2015 10:00

Johannesburg – Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was the target of a secret misinformation campaign aimed at bringing him into discredit with President Jacob Zuma as well as destabilising the taxman, sister publication Beeld reported on Wednesday.

Beeld newspaper, part of netwerk24, reported that the bitter fruits of this campaign, already six years under way, are clear from the past few months' chaos at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Project Broken Arrow, an "organised effort" by ousted Sars employees, involved the spreading of rumours of a "covert and surreptitious investigation unit" within Sars, documents seen by Beeld show.

Gordhan, the former tax boss, has been accused of approving the establishment and running the “covert” unit.

Broken Arrow's goal was to "destabilise and disorganise” SARS “and to eventually create chaos to target the reputations and stability" of certain officials.

The so-called Peega file, which flowed from Broken Arrow, had to "prove" that a "covert investigation unit" within SARS would have supposedly spied on former Zuma loyalists like Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula.

Mike Peega and the late Leonard Radebe, the dissatisfied and discarded SARS employees, were fingered in a confidential 2009 report as the alleged conspirators.

Peega was a member of the SARS National Research Group (NRG) and on leave when he was arrested on Christmas Day 2008 as a suspect in a rhino poaching syndicate.

Radebe was chief operating officer and resigned after his ties with Dave King and Glenn Agliotti came to light.

A sidekick of Peega, whose name is known to Beeld, revealed in a confidential report to Johann van Loggerenberg, former chief of investigations, and suspended deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay that:

• Broken Arrow was an organised effort to portray the NRG unit as "covert" and "devious";
• Five disgruntled former SARS employees, some of whom were part of the NRG, were identified to set up a "dossier" to discredit their colleagues;
• The dossier was meant for the eyes of Zuma and former national police commissioner Bheki Cele;
• The staff members aligned to Broken Arrow were "very dissatisfied" with the appointment of Gordhan as minister of finance; and
• Broken Arrow was managed as a secret project with a budget, a "safe house", borrowed cars and equipment.

The Peega document was widely leaked to the media and was therefore informally and formally investigated by the State Security Agency (SSA). But documents seen by Beeld show that the investigation amounted to nothing because no proof was found.

Gordhan, then minister of finance, was accused in a document whose source Beeld cannot divulge of approving of the "undercover" investigation unit within SARS.

The plot to sow suspicion finally succeeded last year after Gordhan was transferred and lost his political clout.

A spokesperson said SARS was “not aware of the project (Broken Arrow) or the fact that the SSA had already investigated the allegations".

This despite the fact that the documents were submitted to the Sikhakhane panel, which had to investigate alleged irregularities and charges against Van Loggerenberg.

* For the full article and more news in Afrikaans, visit netwerk24.

sars  |  pravin gordhan  |  tax

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