Trevor Manuel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Trevor Manuel. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel has threatened to take legal action if the EFF does not retract its “racist and libelous” statement regarding newly appointed SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter.

The EFF on Wednesday, before Kieswetter was announced as commissioner, said it would reject his “unlawful” appointment and would explore legal options to invalidate it. 

The party complained about the “secret” interviews for the top Sars post, saying they went against the principle of transparency.

Manuel headed the interview panel for the post of Sars commissioner, which made a recommendation to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who made the final decision. The Sars Act states that the president appoints the commissioner for a five-year term. It does not prescribe a process.

The EFF also made a number of allegations regarding the new commissioner’s relationship with Manuel and public enterprise minister Pravin Gordhan, who the red berets have been attacking as part of a fightback against his clean-up in state-owned enterprises.

Kieswetter’s appointment was announced on Wednesday evening by the Treasury and takes effect on May 1. He is a former Sars deputy commissioner, who worked at the tax agency when Manuel was finance minister and Gordhan commissioner.

Manuel on Thursday said he would not be “abused by schoolyard bullies”. “Whilst they [EFF] are free to hold their warped political views about a Sars commissioner for whatever reason, they have no right to libelous or racist views,” he said.

Manuel demanded that EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi provide proof for the allegations he made about him. The EFF had claimed that Kieswetter was a relative of Manuel’s and that the two had business ties.

“The truth is that Edward and I have not even served on the same nonprofit organisation. He [Ndlozi] has made the claim and the obligation to explain is now in his court,” Manuel said, adding that he could direct the EFF spokesperson to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission database.

The third allegation against Manuel was that at the time he was finance minister he had “unlawfully” appointed Kieswetter as the deputy commissioner.

Manuel said if Ndlozi had read the Sars Act or even the report by retired judge Robert Nugent who led an inquiry into the revenue service, he would know that the finance minister possessed no powers to make such appointments.  

quintalg@businesslive.co.za