OPINION | SARS admits to protecting Zuma for years

20 December 2017 - 17:24 By Kyle Cowan
President Jacob Zuma.
President Jacob Zuma.
Image: REUTERS

The South African Revenue Service has now landed itself with a much bigger problem than dealing with a potential leak of confidential taxpayer information that found its way into Jacques Pauw’s book‚ The President’s Keepers.

On Friday‚ SARS filed papers in the Western Cape High Court seeking an order declaring Pauw had broken the law in revealing that‚ amongst other things‚ President Jacob Zuma had been paid a salary by long-time ally Roy Moodley for at least four months into his presidency.

SARS‚ for reasons that will no doubt become very clear in the near future‚ wants a court to say Pauw is a good for nothing criminal who only published the revelations about Zuma for personal gain.

But‚ in so doing‚ SARS has set itself up for a good old-fashioned tarring and feathering.

Here’s why:

In 2010 an auditor at SARS’ Durban office was‚ as the story goes‚ conducting a routine audit on a company owned by Moodley‚ Royal Security‚ when he discovered that the company had not paid tax for one employee‚ who was earning a staggering R1-million a month.

“The employee was JG Zuma‚ which didn’t raise any unusual suspicions from the official until he searched for details of the taxpayer on the SARS mainframe. Access to the employee’s tax records and employment history was blocked because his affairs were being handled by the VIP Taxpayer Unit‚” Pauw wrote.

“It dawned on the official: JG Zuma‚ employed by Royal Security‚ was none other than Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma‚ the fourth president of democratic South Africa.”

Pauw goes on to explain that the tax query from the auditor in Durban caused “a minor consternation” at the SARS head office. The auditor escalated it to SARS audit boss Jonas Makwakwa who in turn reported it to Oupa Magashula‚ the then commissioner.

The case was transferred to a member of the VIP Tax Unit‚ Mark Kingon – and from there it seems‚ nothing ever happened.

Was Kingon told to investigate‚ and found himself suddenly caught up in a political nightmare? Did he ever finalise the probe? To whom did he present his findings and what did that person do?

It is understood that Moodley himself settled the outstanding tax bill by bank transfer – which‚ at that salary bracket for four months‚ amounts roughly to R1.6-million.

If Zuma was indeed receiving a salary from Moodley’s company while he was president‚ our leader had trampled over the Constitution long before he wanted a nicer pool at Nkandla.

These are now questions SARS will have to answer‚ for it has now verified Pauw’s work by dragging him to court. As Pauw himself puts it‚ if he had written fiction‚ he had broken no laws.

SARS may argue that it is not in the business of deposing sitting presidents‚ and so would have settled for the outstanding tax bill to be paid and left it at that.

Considering how much the blundering Zuma would cost the economy in the years to come‚ whether through his shady friends or poor policy decisions‚ Magashula‚ and indeed his successor‚ Tom Moyane must now answer as to why no action was taken when this transgression‚ and other possible lawlessness by the president came to light.

And this perhaps brings us to the real reason SARS has decided an open court may be the best place to ventilate all the confidentiality laws Pauw may or may not have broken.

As political power swings away from Zuma‚ it would not be beyond Moyane to bring possible misdeeds by Zuma or Magashula to light‚ possibly in aid of a new faction of the ANC elite.

During his stint as commissioner Magashula was undeniably aware of the efforts by senior officials at SARS to ensure Zuma became tax compliant. Moyane himself would have been briefed when he was appointed commissioner in September 2014‚ a conversation that would have inevitably led to the damning evidence found on that fateful day in 2010 and more 'challenges' with Zuma's tax affairs uncovered during investigations since.

The failure by SARS to take some form of action following its uncovering of the misdeeds of Zuma shows our revenue service‚ or someone on the inside‚ was protecting Number One all along. And still is.

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