Mark Kingon. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Mark Kingon. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Two loyalists of suspended South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane were on Thursday removed from the top positions he had elevated them to back to their original posts. SARS is seeking to turn around public perception after years of allegations of mismanagement and state capture.

The restructuring also saw an appointment made in the portfolio of customs. Customs is a crucial area of revenue collection for SARS. The ongoing commission of inquiry into governance at the tax agency heard last week how the customs capacity was weakened, potentially resulting in an increase in the illegal tobacco trade.

Research firm Ipsos released a study on Thursday indicating that trade in illegal cigarettes flourished during the “SARS crisis” between 2014 and 2017. The study showed that SARS lost about R7bn in revenue to the illegal tobacco trade in 2018.

SARS is also reviving enforcement units to tackle the illicit economy — many of these were neutralised during Moyane’s reign. Moyane is publicly fighting attempts to uncover what led to revenue shortfalls of between R50bn and R142bn in recent years. Tebogo Mokoena and Luther Lebelo, two senior executives said to have been loyal to Moyane, were moved back to posts they had previously held.

Mokoena was appointed acting head of customs and excise after Jed Michelos left in January. He was hired by Moyane in 2016 during his four-year stint at the head of SARS, which was cut short by his suspension in March 2018.


According to an internal staff notice, Mokoena has been replaced by an executive in customs at SARS, Beyers Theron, who has been appointed acting chief officer for customs and excise, while Mokoena returns to his previous post as chief officer for human capital and development.

Lebelo, previously the acting chief officer for human capital and development, shifts back to his previous post as the executive for employment relations.

The changes are among the first by acting commissioner Mark Kingon to address the weaknesses at SARS. SARS did not respond to questions by the time of going to press on Thursday. Kingon said on Monday that the tax agency was assessing its investigative capacity and reviewing the governance and legislative processes required to establish “additional structures”.

The commission of inquiry into governance and administration at SARS heard last week that Moyane had instructed its enforcement division to halt inspections of tobacco companies, which had negatively affected the fight against the illegal tobacco trade.

Meanwhile, the Presidency on Thursday confirmed that it would respond to Moyane’s demand that President Cyril Ramaphosa should halt either the SARS commission of inquiry into governance or his disciplinary inquiry on Friday.

On July 21, chairman of the disciplinary process, advocate Azhar Bham, will hear arguments in the objection by Moyane to the matter being held in writing instead of orally and to former finance minister Pravin Gordhan deposing the affidavit listing the charges against him.