EDITORIAL: Moyane’s postcard from the edge
Letter to Cyril Ramaphosa reveals just how tenuous Moyane’s grip of his own achievements really is
If you imagined that Tom Moyane, the suspended commissioner of the SA Revenue Service (Sars), is in utter denial about the slow puncture of the tax agency, his letter to president Cyril Ramaphosa this week will only set that impression in concrete.
Moyane was suspended by Ramaphosa last month after he refused to resign during a 30-minute meeting held at the president’s residence.
On May 2, he was then served with a notice of a disciplinary inquiry that centred on four central allegations. The notice said Moyane had, first, bungled the investigation into why his erstwhile deputy, Jonas Makwakwa, was caught stuffing cash into an ATM machine in suspicious circumstances; second, authorised R3m in "irregular" bonuses; third, lied to parliament about the Makwakwa investigation; and, fourth, instructed tax official Helgard Lombard to "feign illness" so as to avoid a KPMG probe in 2015.
It was serious stuff. Many a junior employee would have been axed in a heartbeat for just one of those infractions.
Yet, this week, Moyane’s lawyers wrote back to Ramaphosa, railing against the injustice of the suspension and offering to agree to an "amicable solution" — if Moyane is paid plenty of money.
Moyane wants payment for the rest of his contract — another 18 months, in other words. Considering he was paid R4.16m last year, that would equate to R6.2m.
But Moyane’s letter says he also wants "payment of any bonuses due to him in respect of the trillions of rand which he has successfully and sterlingly collected in the past three financial years". And he wants a "jointly agreed public statement", presumably one in which Ramaphosa attests to Moyane’s integrity.
Should he not get what he wants, Moyane implies he will demand an oral hearing in which he will summon Ramaphosa to testify.
It reads like a postcard from the edge, revealing just how tenuous Moyane’s grip of his own achievements really is.
For example, take the "trillions" he claims to have so successfully wrested from South Africans. First, collecting money is actually his job. Yet, over the past four financial years, Sars has fallen short of its revenue targets by R100bn — R48bn in the past year alone.
No doubt part of that shortfall is due to a slowdown in the economy. But part is also due to the fraying of Sars’s institutional skills as a result of Moyane himself. Under him, more than 500 people have left the tax agency, including top investigators and executives. He also dismantled the large business centre, which dealt with big corporate taxpayers (they provide the bulk of the R218bn in corporate tax revenue).
Then there are the allegations of how Sars made a shady R70m tax refund to the Gupta family in June 2017, which irked taxpayers sick of paying money only to see it vanish into the pockets of rent-seekers.
In his letter, Moyane says that while Ramaphosa raised the Gupta Vat refund as one reason for his "loss of confidence" in him, he has not been charged with this for his disciplinary inquiry.
Moyane should be pleased about that. The Makwakwa charges alone will be a mountain for him to convincingly answer, never mind the R3m in bonuses that the auditor-general flagged as "irregular expenditure".
Considering Moyane’s legacy at Sars, there’s no reason why he should get even the six months’ pay Ramaphosa initially offered him, let alone the 18 months he wants. To now threaten to embarrass Ramaphosa by taking his disciplinary case to the constitutional court illustrates the real regard he has for the SA taxpayer.