An unemployed, dope-smoking Rastafarian has emerged as a key source for public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s explosive report on public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
Mkhwebane’s report, which asserts that Gordhan was the mastermind behind an illegal South African Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit”, has unleashed a storm in SA’s politics.
Gordhan has described the report as “fake news”, saying in court papers that Mkhwebane wants him removed from office.
Her “findings”, which until now have been described as “damning”, have triggered an ugly open war between the two senior public figures, providing fuel for the opposition EFF, which this week tried to stop Gordhan from addressing the National Assembly.
Yet, far from the report being damning, the Sunday Times can today expose a litany of blunders and missteps in how Mkhwebane arrived at her findings and her call for President Cyril Ramaphosa to act against Gordhan, the spearhead of Ramaphosa’s bid to clean up state-owned entities at the heart of the state-capture project.
Today’s shock disclosure is certain to intensify criticism of Mkhwebane, who appears to have mishandled her post to further hidden political agendas.
Foremost among Mkhwebane’s blunders is her labelling of unemployed Rastafarian Keletso Bizoski “JahRa” Manyike as a former Sars “specialist agent” who received paramilitary training in order to spy on taxpayers and politicians and bug their phones.
‘I THINK SHE GOT CONFUSED’
Manyike said this week that Mkhwebane must have been “confused” when she said he was a member of the Sars “rogue unit”.
“I was never part of that unit,” Manyike said. “I have no idea why the public protector said that. I think she got confused.”
When the Sunday Times contacted Manyike this week, he wasn’t aware he featured in the public protector’s report. “She is completely wrong. I am only aware of vague rumours about this rogue unit. I have no real knowledge. I was never involved in any of that. She is completely wrong,” he said.
Manyike’s Facebook page says he manages the “unification of the Jah people”. He said he is an “unemployed music artist” and was born a Rastafarian. He lives in Mahikeng in the North West.
Manyike is a key witness in Mkhwebane’s report, in which she uses his “evidence” over two pages to conclude that Sars unlawfully created a “rogue unit” implicated in a host of dirty tricks and criminality.
But Mkhwebane got it horribly wrong. Though Manyike worked for Sars for almost 11 years, his employment record — which the Sunday Times has seen — shows he was a law interpreter in the legal administration & policy division, and later in debt collection. He was also the trade union Nehawu’s fulltime Gauteng shop steward at Sars.
It also emerged this week that though Mkhwebane had Manyike’s contact details, she failed during her investigation to interview or question him to test his “evidence”.
FIVE-YEAR-OLD PAPER TRAIL
Manyike confirmed he was once a law interpreter at Sars and said he was never an “agent of any sort”. He was also never part of any “rogue unit”.
He said he submitted a complaint to then public protector Thuli Madonsela in 2014 about being demoted at Sars. He attached to this a 2010 “dossier” compiled by disgraced former Sars official Michael Peega, which made claims about a “rogue unit” at Sars.
Madonsela advised him to seek relief at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, where he later lost his case before resigning.
Madonsela also decided to investigate allegations around the recruitment of agents for the “rogue unit”. She requested an explanation from Sars, which supplied her with detailed answers and documentation.
It appears she was satisfied with the response from Sars and the case was closed — until Mkhwebane, for unexplained reasons, decided to revisit the matter.
Manyike is a vital part of Mkhwebane’s report. Although she mentions the names of more than 30 “rogue unit” agents, there is no indication she subpoenaed any of them.
The Sunday Times sent a six-page e-mail to Mkhwebane this week, setting out the misrepresentations and manipulation of evidence in her report. She was asked to respond, and to say who else had submitted evidence for the report.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwa, said on Friday: “The public protector is functus officio [has performed her duties]. Anyone who is unhappy with or questions the content of her report can join Minister Gordhan and others’ court bid as interested parties or amicus curiae to have [it] reviewed and set aside.”
He said Mkhwebane will “defend the matter in court, where reviews of her decisions are dealt with, and not in the newspapers”.
Mkhwebane says in her report, on page 89 and 90, that Manyike was a “Specialist Agent with CBCU”. This unit — the Customs Border Control Unit — is identified by Mkhwebane as the “rogue unit” on the strength of Manyike’s “evidence”, among others.
Mkhwebane says Manyike provided evidence that members were “trained” at a private location in “tracings, tracker installation, weapon handling, bugging systems, sleep deprivation, surveillance (physical, mobile and electronic), systems breaching, house penetration and cryptology”.
Her report provides no evidence of this apart from Manyike’s “revelations”.
Mkhwebane says Manyike provided her with “evidence” that the unit “operated by collecting intelligence on taxpayers by
I am only aware of vague rumours about this rogue unit. I have no real knowledge. She is completely wrong Keletso Manyike Cited as a former agent in protector’s report
means of covert tactics”. She says that, according to Manyike, these tactics included “stealing mail from residences (dumpster diving), interception of e-mails, mobile and land lines, extraction of bank statements and installation of tracker systems”. Again, her report provides no evidence.
According to Mkhwebane, Manyike also supposedly “confirmed” that the unit was used for “political meddling”. They supposedly “tracked a senior Sars official because he visited Jacob Zuma. They also tapped his telephone.” Mkhwebane provides no evidence to substantiate the claims.
Mkhwebane states as fact that Manyike, when he lodged a complaint with the public protector in February 2014, submitted documents “detailing operations and functions of the intelligence unit”.
But Manyike confirmed this document was written in 2010 by Peega, a former South African National Defence Force soldier who was a specialist agent at the Sars Special Projects Unit, a unit tasked with investigating smuggling and organised crime groups.
The unit went through restructuring and a series of name changes, and ultimately became known as the “rogue unit” after a series of media articles that began to appear in October 2014 after Tom Moyane was appointed Sars chief.
While on annual leave in December 2008, Peega was arrested for illicit rhino hunting and possession of illegal firearms and ammunition. He confessed under oath to police, identifying other syndicate members, meetings, venues and operations.
Sars dismissed Peega in May 2009 following a disciplinary hearing.
After his dismissal, Peega approached colleagues who had similar disciplinary problems at Sars and sought to persuade them to make negative statements against the service, claiming to be “acting on behalf of the presidency”.
The prosecution of Peega’s poaching syndicate came to a halt when the case docket and key evidence mysteriously vanished from police custody in 2009.
In the meantime, Peega compiled a dossier in which he made allegations of criminality and wrongdoing against the unit. He claimed that the unit “targeted and bugged Jacob Zuma” and various other politicians associated with the former president.
In early 2010, Peega handed his dossier to then ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, then still a vocal Zuma supporter. The dossier also found its way to various state agencies and the media.
Sars discredited the Peega allegations by releasing meticulous files and annexures over the following years and briefing journalists and politicians,
Peega’s dossier would, in 2014, form the basis of the Sars “rogue unit” reporting.
In one of the “rogue unit” dossiers, Manyike is identified as a key ally of Peega. He was supposed to have attended a meeting about the marginalisation of black employees at Sars but didn’t pitch up.
Manyike told the Sunday Times the public protector’s office contacted him about a month ago because they were looking for contact details for Peega.
“This person asked me if I have his contact details. I said I had lost touch with him. They didn’t ask me anything else and I never heard from them again,” Manyike said.
In her report, Mkhwebane copies and pastes word for word some of the allegations Peega made in his dossier — but ascribes them to “specialist agent” Manyike.
It is almost impossible for this to have been a bona fide mistake as Peega’s allegations are readily available on the internet and have been exhaustively refuted by Sars and reported on.
“The public protector got confused and mixed Peega and myself up,” said Manyike. “That is all I can think of.” Mkhwebane doesn’t mention Peega in her report at all.
The Sunday Times asked Mkhwebane for access to any Manyike statement to her, but she refused. Segalwa said: “A copy will be availed to the court should there be a request in terms of Rule 53 of the court, thereby becoming a public document.”
– Sunday Times