A husband and a new book
On 10 April 2018, Ivan Pillay was faced with criminal charges. He was accused of having led a spying operation at the National Prosecution Authority’s offices in Pretoria in 2007, in his then capacity as head of an investigative unit in the South African Revenue Services (SARS). At the time of the charges in 2018, the ‘Rogue Unit’ saga had already haunted him and other employees of the tax agency for four years. The smear campaign was eventually debunked, but by then over 2000 employees had either left, or had been chased out of, a ruined and dismantled SARS: now a shadow of what once was an exemplary tax authority in the new South Africa.
The charges were finally dropped in February 2020; months later followed the withdrawal of a litany of lies on the ‘Rogue Unit’ that had been drawn up by a South African Secret Service which served not so much South Africa as a criminal syndicate led by a certain J. G. Zuma. Still some time later followed an offer of reparations by KPMG, that had also, for unfathomable reasons, served Zuma’s agenda by producing a ‘Rogue Unit’ report that was, in the words of media professor Anton Harber, ‘an amateurish, badly drafted, error-ridden, often incomprehensible, self-contradictory mish-mash that didn’t pass the most cursory assessment.’
So what is there left to say?
Plenty. For example about how individuals like Ivan, who once braved apartheid security police and soldiers by participating in underground resistance inside South Africa and in Swaziland, found a new calling in setting up a tax agency that was meant to fund and enable a developmental state with services for all; a state that would help realise the ideal on the Freedom Charter of a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.
Linked to that is the larger story of the scourge of misuse of state institutions by politicians serving their own agendas, a scourge that crippled idealistic plans for a new country already way back, long before said J. G. Zuma even rose to power.
What failed? How did the new South Africa, like so many previous revolutions in the world, -in spite of a firm conviction among many that this time that would not happen,- start to eat its own children?
More importantly, what can be done now to repair the damage and make a new beginning?
I wrestle with these questions, like so many do. Only in my experience they are personal, since they are inextricably linked to the story of Ivan Pillay, who is my husband.
So here is a new book. I call it The Unlikely Mr Rogue.