Helen Zille. Picture: THE TIMES
Helen Zille. Picture: THE TIMES

Another crisis involving Western Cape premier Helen Zille is brewing in the DA after the party distanced itself from her calls for a tax revolt, which attracted a sharp rebuke from the head of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

Zille is again at odds with the party leadership, this time over her threat, which Sars acting commissioner Mark Kingon said was unwise and could incite criminal activity.

She previously plunged the party into controversy with comments that her opponents said endorsed colonialism, risking alienating the DA from black South Africans and threatening its chances of growing into a force that could genuinely challenge the ANC in elections.

Zille on Monday defended her call for a tax revolt if those implicated in corrupt dealings and state capture were not prosecuted soon.

The DA said on Monday that her threat was not official
party policy, and described it as "ill-informed".

Party leader Mmusi Maimane weighed in on Monday, saying, via Twitter, that he did not support her stance.

"I do not support a tax revolt. Let’s win the elections and demonstrate proper management of resources of our people’s money. Let’s use them for the benefit of all citizens. We will ensure the criminals end up in jail. Use your vote."

DA director of communications Mabine Seabe said that
the party was not putting any resources into a campaign involving a tax revolt.

"The ballot box should be used to tackle corruption. She has no authority to pronounce on policy," Seabe said.

Responding to e-mailed questions on Monday, Zille stood by her threats.

"I said if government did not apply the law to the corrupt and powerful, I would resort to encouraging a tax revolt to force it to do so," she said.

Business Day understands that the DA was taking the threat by Zille seriously and would discuss the issue with her.

The DA previously sanctioned its former leader for her tweets on colonialism, which were at odds with the views of the party leadership under Maimane.

Zille said in response to questions from Business Day that the very purpose of a tax revolt was to call to account a power-abusing government so that it stopped stealing and
there would be more money for legitimate purposes.

In an interview with Business Day, Kingon said it was "inadvisable and very unwise" to begin debating a tax revolt in a country with developmental needs such as SA’s. About 17-million people received social grants from the government, and a tax revolt could have dire consequences for those in need, he said. "I believe it would damage democracy.

"It is inadvisable to propagate for nonpayment. In fact, it is advocating for taxpayers to commit criminal offences,"
Kingon said.

Helen Zille took to Twitter to say if those implicated in the state capture inquiry aren't prosecuted in a sensible amount of time, she would lead a tax revolt. Social media, however, did not look favourably on it, taking to Twitter to slam her tweets.

Nonpayment would have a knock-on effect on the economy. Businesses would suffer should they elect to withhold their taxes. For instance, they would battle to receive tenders or do business as they would not receive tax-clearance certificates.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said it might not be that simple to organise a tax revolt.

The bulk of SA taxes came from three main sources: value-added tax, personal income tax and company tax. This meant that a formal tax revolt would require the active participation of businesses.

"The fact that national security will no longer be paid for, fuel reserves, water supplies, plus other strategic aspects of every day societal living will grind to a halt, needs to be more seriously contemplated before a tax revolt can start to be applied," Outa said.