Treasury mum on Mastenbroek issue

There’s still silence to questions about whether the findings of the Kroon Commission will still stand.

Sars. Picture: Sars.

JOHANNESBURG - There's still no clarity from the Finance Ministry on whether it will investigate the role of advocate Rudolf Mastenbroek, in allegedly sparking spy unit stories about the South African Revenue Services (Sars) and then sitting on the Kroon Commission which investigated the stories.

It emerged this week that former Sunday Times journalist Pearlie Joubert had said Mastenbroek tried to plant stories in the paper against former Sars deputy head Ivan Pillay and the unit's leader Johan van Loggerenberg in 2013.

There's still silence from the Ministry and no answer to questions about whether the findings of the Kroon Commission will still stand or if it will investigate the role of Mastenbroek.

On Tuesday, at the Press Ombudsman hearing, it emerged former Sunday Times reporter Pearlie Joubert had said under oath that Mastenbroek had claimed back in 2013, he wanted to place stories claiming Pillay and van Loggerenberg were protecting the African National Congress (ANC).

Mastenbrook was then appointed to the Kroon Commission by Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

There is also no explanation about why Mastenbroek was appointed to the commission or who recommended his appointment.

Meanwhile Wits University Journalism professor Anton Harber said this is not good for the Sunday Times.

"This doesn't reflect well on the newspaper, its relations with its journalists. As to the accuracy of the story, I think that's up in the air, lots of questions have to be asked."

The paper's then editor Phylicia Oppelt has denied Mastenbrook played a role in her coverage of Sars despite being her ex-husband.

At the same time, the newspaper said Joubert was removed from the story because she had said she believed van Loggerenberg would not be involved in any wrongdoing.

The paper said her belief doesn't make it a fact that the unit was acting legally under his leadership.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times said Mastenbroek is not the source of its claims about a rogue spy unit at Sars.

Joubert said she was first approached by Mastenbroek about trying to plant stories in the paper from 2013.

She said he wanted to implicated Pillay and van Loggerenberg in protecting the ANC.

The Sunday Times however said its reporting team avoided dealing with Mastenbroek because of its prior relationship with Oppelt.