President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Edward Kieswetter as the new commissioner for South African Revenue Service (Sars) with effect from 1 May 2019 for a term of five years.

Kieswetter’s appointment was guided by the recommendations of the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at Sars, as well as the recommendation to Ramaphosa by finance minister Tito Mboweni, that the independent selection panel‘s preferred candidate be appointed.

He was one of a preliminary shortlist of nine candidates, and in the end, was the panel’s unanimous choice as “by far the best and preferred candidate”.

In its report on the selection process, the panel noted that in its considered opinion, Kieswetter has the strongest likelihood of achieving success in the following endeavours:

  • Restoring revenue collection;
  • Restructuring Sars in a coherent and efficient manner;
  • Direct Sars operations toward innovation and a strong future-orientation;
  • Developing and nurturing future leaders for the organisation;
  • Making firm and tough decisions timeously and holistically, while maintaining strong relations with stakeholders;
  • Restoring Sars’ credibility and integrity.

Kieswetter is highly qualified and experienced in the field of commerce, and is also a well regarded academic. He obtained a master’s degree in commerce from the North West University, and also holds an MBA from Henley in the UK, a master’s in science education from the University of the Western Cape, a BA Education in science and maths, and an engineering diploma from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

His most recent position was group CE at Alexander Forbes, which he held for just over six years. He has also worked as a senior GM at Eskom and a senior executive at the FirstRand Group, before being appointed as deputy commissioner and COO at Sars.

According to his CV, he is experienced in governance, and has “extensive experience at leading diverse organisations at executive and governance levels”. He has a proven track record as an ethical leader able to deal with strategic complexity and operational efficiency.

He has been acknowledged as an ethical leader and a teacher, having collected numerous awards to show this, and is committed to stewardship as the ultimate leadership purpose.

Corruption Watch has welcomed his appointment. “We see this as an appropriate appointment, and are pleased that Kieswetter not only has prior Sars experience but also has a long history of probity and good governance,” said executive director David Lewis.”This is a positive step.”

Amongst others, the Nugent Commission recommended that the “candidate or candidates for appointment should submit to a private interview by a panel of four or more members selected by the President”, that the panel should make recommendations to the President and that the recommendations of the panel “should be made public”.

The independent selection panel was chaired by former finance minister Trevor Manuel, assisted by:

  • Ms. Angela Bester
  • Justice Dennis Davis
  • Ms. Sindi Mabaso-Koyana
  • Mr. Ismail Momoniat
  • Ms. Thandi Orleyn
  • Mr. Fezekile Tshiqi

The position was advertised on 16 December 2018 and applications closed on 18 January 2019.

Goodbye to Moyane

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.

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.