Explosive testimonies by former senior staff at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) revealed a worrying picture of how it has allegedly been managed under suspended Sars commissioner Tom Moyane.
Their claims revealed possible reasons for a mass exodus of senior staff on Moyane's watch. It also shed light on — and disputed — claims that there existed a "rogue unit" within Sars that spied on senior government officials.
Now, however, South Africans will have to wait until Monday to see if the inquiry will continue, after a request was made on Friday by Moyane's lawyer for it to be called off.
Earlier, witnesses had alleged that Moyane and his then right-hand man, Jonas Makwakwa, ruled with an iron fist, instilling fear in employees, overseeing disinformation campaigns, and rooting out anybody who stood in their way.
The testimonies were given in front of Judge Robert Nugent and his panel tasked to investigate issues with governance and tax administration at Sars. Their focus is on the mass exodus of senior staff members during Moyane's tenure from 2014.
So clear after three days of #SARSInquiry that SARS was very nearly completely captured. If ANC conference in December didn't turn out how it did, that capture would have been complete.— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) June 28, 2018
Everything was fine under Gordhan, apparently
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, who served as Sars commissioner between 1999 and 2009 before being shifted into the finance ministry, was expected only to provide a detailed description of how things were run at the revenue collector until 2014, when Moyane took over. This period was to be used as a benchmark for comparison to the current state of affairs at Sars.
These people have all been through hell. #SARSInquiry— Ranjeni Munusamy (@RanjeniM) June 28, 2018
Gordhan described various fiscal, tax, and administrative policies that were put in place to ensure the effective running of the institution. He also outlined a number of projects undertaken in the same period and put emphasis on the work environment at the revenue collector.
Gordhan maintained that deputy Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay's early retirement payout was above board. This payout led to Gordhan, his successor Oupa Magashule and Pillay being charged with fraud in 2016 (the charges were dropped soon afterwards).
How Makwakwa and Moyane reportedly ran Sars with an iron fist
Former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, the institution's former spokesperson Adrian Lackay and other senior officials were some of the employees, both current and former, who told their stories over the seven hours for which the inquiry sat on Thursday.
Makungu Mthebule — former group executive of corporate legal services and former acting chief officer of strategy enablement and communication at Sars — said employees feared Makwakwa.
Mthebule alleged that Makwakwa, who was only a group executive at the time, would harass both her and staff in her unit for information regarding high-profile taxpayers. She testified that Makwakwa tried in many instances to instruct her on how to handle the tax affairs of various high-profile people, which she claimed she refused to do.
Ivan Pillay's testimony has begun to unearth the shadow state in SARS. How the revenue service became too successful, hurt too many illicit economies and was turf for a deadly power struggle. #SARSInquiry— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) June 28, 2018
Former Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay claimed Moyane ran a "disinformation campaign", making false statements to the media without Lackay's knowledge. Lackay alleged that information was deliberately being withheld from him, resulting in him issuing wrong or factually incorrect statements to the media.
He said other media statements, including that which announced Pillay's resignation, were sent without his knowledge
Pillay spent most of his testimony defending the high-risk investigations unit, which arguably was the starting point from which Moyane launched his attack on senior Sars officials. We know now that numerous reports which implicated Pillay and a number of senior officials have been proven incorrect.
"There is a pattern of behaviour. They determine that someone is to be removed, and then they go after them. They hire professionals, most times, who are prepared to do these things. They just let nothing get in the way of what they want to do," he said.
Moyane wants the inquiry stopped
Speaking to the panel on Friday, with Moyane in attendance, his advocate Dali Mpofu alleged that there were a number of biases that exist within the inquiry, and that Moyane was not given an opportunity to respond to allegations made against him during hearings throughout the week.
The mob is reorganizing itself around #SARSInquiry #TomMoyane #JonasMakwakwa because people they don't like are giving their side of the story today. I want #TomMoyane gone but not through unfair politically motivated processes masquerading as law or legal processes.— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) June 29, 2018
Mpofu argued for:
- A discontinuation of the commission of inquiry pending the outcome of disciplinary processes against Moyane;
- All the evidence of the past three days to be expunged from the record; and
- Michael Katz recusing himself from Judge Robert Nugent's panel because of his affiliation with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Judge Nugent has indicated that he will rule on the relief sought in Mpofu's submission on Monday at 2pm.