Shamila Batohi. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL
Shamila Batohi. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL

New national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi starts work in February  and making a call on whether the so-called SA Revenue Service (Sars) rogue unit case should go ahead will be one  of her first big decisions. 

Former top Sars official Johan van Loggerenberg has indicated in court documents that he wants Batohi, who was in December  appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as the permanent head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), to consider his representations on why the case cannot stand.

His lawyers are seeking a number of documents from the Sars, which they are expected to use in making their argument that the state has no reasonable prospect of successfully proving its case.

Sars was  on Wednesday unable to comment on this request.

Meanwhile, acting NPA head Silas Ramaite has defended the prosecutors who decided that Van Loggerenberg, former Sars officials Ivan Pillay and Andries Janse van Rensburg should be charged with the illegal interception of communications and corruption. The  charges are linked  to the installation of cameras at the offices of the NPA.

The three men stand accused of using this equipment to spy on the now defunct Scorpions and the NPA in 2007 — when the Scorpions were pursuing corruption cases against former police chief Jackie Selebi, and former president Jacob Zuma.

Ramaite claims the decision to prosecute was driven by a “key” statement made by “former SANDF [SA National Defence Force] electronic surveillance expert” Helgard  Lombard. 

Ramaite said: “Mr Lombard … tells of being instructed by Mr Pillay and Mr Janse van Rensburg to install the eavesdropping devices, and to procure for that purpose spy cameras and microphones, funded by secret accounts.  It is alleged that various DSO [Scorpions] communications were intercepted by this means, transcribed and handed over to Mr Pillay.”

Van Loggerenberg has denied all the allegations against him “in totality”.

He argues in court papers that the prosecution has been driven by fired Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. He contends that NPA advocates Sibongile Mzinyathi, Torrie Pretorius and Sipho Maema never sought to hear his side of the story on the charges he now faces — and says Pretorius and Mzinyathi lied under oath when they claimed in court that they had obtained this response in a “warning statement”.

He and Pillay have also stated that the NPA has “consistently demonstrated clear bias and malice‚ which appear to have been driven by the concerns of Moyane”.

Van Loggerenberg in 2018  asked the High court in Pretoria to overturn the decision by former NPA head Shaun Abrahams not to withdraw the “rogue unit” case.

But, in court documents, Ramaite says this application is “premature”, and further contends that the prosecutors involved in the case have done nothing to warrant the disciplinary action that Van Loggerenberg demands must be taken against them.

The “rogue unit” prosecution has been mired in controversy, which only intensified  after the NPA elected to charge then finance minister Pravin Gordhan in relation to its Sars investigations, and then later withdrew those charges.