Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The search for a new South African Revenue Service (Sars) head is on, with some reports saying that an appointment is “imminent”. Analysts believe the appointment could be made before the start of the new financial year on 1 April.

It was the job of a panel appointed by minister of finance Tito Mboweni and headed by former finance minister Trevor Manuel to come up with a shortlist of suitable candidates. The panel comprises seven individuals:

  • Trevor Manuel: Minister of finance between 1996 and 2009.
  • Angela Bester: Independent business consultant and former director-general in the Public Service Commission and Department of Social Development.
  • Judge Dennis Davis: Former High Court judge, currently serving on the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Structure of South Africa.
  • Sindi Mabaso-Koyana: Chairperson of the African Women Chartered Accountants, member of the board of directors of Eskom, former group CFO at Prasa.
  • Ismail Momoniat: Currently head of Tax and Financial Sector at the National Treasury.
  • Thandi Orleyn: Advocate, former Reserve Bank non-executive director, and member of the board of directors of BP Southern Africa.
  • Fezekile Tshiqi: Director and executive in the private sector, former group human resources director and executive director of Nampak Cartons & Labels.

In mid-February, the Constitutional Court threw out former commissioner Tom Moyane’s application for leave to appeal his dismissal. In a single biting paragraph the court held that, after considering the application, it “should be dismissed as it bears no reasonable prospect of success”. The court did not make an award as to costs.

The now-vacant position of Sars commissioner was advertised in a national newspaper in December 2018. The advert emphasised that the successful applicant will be “an individual who reflects the highest professional standards … with high levels of professionalism, integrity, accountability”.

The advert also stated that the successful candidate would be required to sign a performance agreement.

Applications closed on 18 January 2019.

The recruitment panel arises out of the final recommendations of the Nugent commission of inquiry into alleged governance irregularities at Sars, which advised the president to call for nominations or select candidates. The applicants should be interviewed privately by an apolitical panel of four or more members selected by the president, after which the panel would make non-prescriptive recommendations to Ramaphosa, and their selection should be made public after the appointment.

Long (and expensive) road of legal losses

Moyane and his legal team of Dali Mpofu and Eric Mabuza have not won a single court case since Moyane’s suspension in March 2018 – though not for lack of trying. Moyane was eventually dismissed in November as a result of the interim recommendations of the Nugent commission, which delivered its final report in December 2018.

President Cyril Ramaphosa served Moyane with disciplinary charges in May, and also announced the establishment of the Nugent commission. The disciplinary hearing was postponed in early October, after chairperson Azhar Bham granted Moyane’s application on the grounds that a Constitutional Court case challenging Ramaphosa’s decision to set up the commission and disciplinary hearing simultaneously, should be finalised first. Moyane argued that the two processes could not run at the same time

On 11 December the North Gauteng High Court threw out Moyane’s application to have his dismissal set aside. Handing down a scathing judgment, Judge Hans Fabricius strongly criticised Moyane’s conduct during the protracted court battle, calling it “particularly reprehensible. It’s vexatious and abusive. Both the President and Judge Nugent have been attacked, insulted and defamed without any reasonable cause.”

Moyane had also approached the Constitutional Court in November, asking for an interim order to set aside Ramaphosa’s decision to fire him – an application that the ConCourt turned down.

The country’s highest court swung into action again in February 2019, dismissing Moyane’s application for leave to appeal and effectively closing off legal avenues for his fight to get his job back. He will never return to Sars.

Holding the wrongdoers accountable

In recent years we’ve taken numerous steps to try to hold Moyane accountable for his role in protecting top Sars official Jonas Makwakwa from a proper investigation, following a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report implicating Makwakwa and his partner Kelly-Ann Elskie in suspicious transactions relating to money laundering and other criminal activities.

We laid criminal charges against Moyane in 2016, in connection with his role in protecting Makwakwa and Elskie. Moyane did not report the matter to the Hawks, as required of him in Precca, and he also gave the FIC report to Makwakwa and Elskie in breach of the FIC Act. This is a criminal offence in terms of that act. Read all our correspondence in the matter.

In December 2017 we were informed that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had declined to prosecute. Six months later the NPA announced that it would review that decision, following an outcry from CSOs and the public.

Appointed by former president Jacob Zuma, Moyane was Sars commissioner for four years. In that time he purged the revenue collecting agency of skilled employees and hired lackeys to replace them, he weakened the investigate capacity of Sars drastically, and under his watch Sars failed to make target for three years running. This latter situation is a direct reason for the 2018 increase in VAT from 14% to 15%, a move that has hit all South Africans hard, especially the poorest residents.