Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Former president Jacob Zuma has backed up axed South African  Revenue (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane’s legal challenge in the Constitutional Court, against the recommendations of a commission of inquiry, which led to his dismissal. 

Zuma has given sworn evidence that he never intended that the Sars commission of inquiry “deal with employment contracts of individual employees”.

This pits the former president directly against President Cyril Ramaphosa, his successor, who is the first respondent in Moyane’s application in his fight to get his job back. 

Ramaphosa set up the Sars inquiry, though it was initially announced last year after the revenue shortfall for 2017 once again ballooned, culminating in a R100bn hole in tax revenue over four years, by then finance minister Malusi Gigaba. It was not implemented by Zuma, who sat on it until his removal in February.

Ramaphosa fired Moyane earlier this month, after judge Robert Nugent, who heads the Sars commission, submitted an interim report recommending that he be dismissed, for the good of the tax body and SA. 

In a four-page affidavit filed at the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, Zuma said: “It was never my intention or within my contemplation that the Sars commission would ever issue interim recommendations before gathering all the evidence. To that extent, the Sars commission has deviated  [from] its originally intended purpose.

“Finally, I also wish to confirm that at all material times thereto, President Cyril Ramaphosa diligently served as my deputy president and he would have been familiar with the most important and relevant decisions made by the cabinet and/or the presidency.”

Zuma’s submission of evidence comes a day after public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture that the former president had been hell-bent on appointing Moyane to lead Sars in 2014.

Moyane wanted to take the stand

Moyane’s lawyers are expected to apply to cross-examine Gordhan, with the proviso that Moyane take the stand and address accusations that he was a crucial player in the Gupta family’s alleged state-capture machinations.

Moyane has denied any wrongdoing and describes himself as the most successful Sars commissioner in democratic South African history — a claim that Ramaphosa has suggested is founded on misrepresentations, as well as the deliberate withholding of refund payments to taxpayers.

The president has told the Constitutional Court he fired Moyane in a bid to restore faith in Sars, and prevent further catastrophe for the embattled South African economy. “If the problems facing Sars are not addressed as a matter of urgency, there is a real risk of a further revenue shortfall in the current financial year, which would likely result in a further ratings downgrade, by international rating agencies, for the country. This would have potentially catastrophic consequences for SA’s fiscal sustainability and must, accordingly, be avoided at all costs,’’ Ramaphosa said in his affidavit to the Constitutional Court. 

“The resolution of the problems currently facing Sars requires the installation of effective, credible and permanent leadership and cannot be achieved while charges of serious misconduct hang over the head of the suspended commissioner of Sars, a matter which, in itself, seriously undermines public confidence in the institution.”

Zuma’s evidence will be used by Moyane’s legal team to bolster their argument that the Nugent inquiry does not have the authority to make such recommendations, and so acted unlawfully.

The former president has stressed that the Sars commission is not mandated to deal with employment issues “especially where such contracts were already the specific focus of a separate presidentially initiated process”.

Ramaphosa suspended Moyane in March and initiated an inquiry into misconduct charges against him, but following Moyane’s challenges to the Nugent inquiry, it stalled, pending the outcome of Moyane’s cases against Ramaphosa. 

Moyane maintains he is innocent of all the charges against him.