'The President's Keepers': SARS to consider laying charges over exposé

03 November 2017 - 06:34 By Bekezela Phakathi and Ernest Mabuza
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image: GCIS

The SA Revenue Service is threatening criminal charges against author Jacques Pauw and the Sunday Times after sensational allegations about President Jacob Zuma's income and tax affairs in a new book. 

The threats came on Thursday as Zuma denied in parliament receiving payments from private individuals and companies.

SARS said it viewed the publication of confidential taxpayer information as unlawful.

"Thus SARS is seeking legal advice on what steps to take, including but not limited to criminal and civil investigation against Mr Pauw and the Sunday Times into the circumstances pertaining to the unlawful disclosure of confidential taxpayer information," it said.

Pauw, an award-winning investigative journalist, alleges in his explosive new book, The President's Keepers, that Zuma was on the payroll of a security company owned by one of his benefactors, pocketing R1-million a month for some time after becoming president.

He also writes that Zuma failed to submit tax returns for years after he became president, despite SARS trying to get him to do so.

On Thursday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, waving a copy of the book, asked Zuma in parliament to respond to the allegations.

Zuma said: "I did not receive payments from private individuals or companies during my tenure as president, other than those which [have] been disclosed."

To another question, Zuma said: "My speculation is that [these allegations are made because] Zuma leads the biggest party in the country which is in government, and they (those making allegations) are trying to find ways to undermine the ANC and the president. That is my speculation."

In a follow-up question, Maimane asked whether Zuma would be prepared to table his declaration of interests from 2009.

Zuma dodged this question, prompting DA chief whip John Steenhuisen to rise on a point of order. Steenhuisen said Zuma had failed to answer a simple question.

Speaker Baleka Mbete said Zuma had answered, and went on to the next questions.

SARS said it was concerned about the publication of taxpayer information.

Disclosure was permitted by the Tax Administration Act only through a court order.

"As a result, SARS is duty-bound to address the violation of the (act) by Mr Jacques Pauw and the unsubstantiated allegation that Commissioner Tom Moyane is aiding President (Jacob) Zuma to avoid his tax obligations."

SARS said the premise of the Sunday Times article hinged on the "predictable" narrative that the organisation could not fulfill its mandate since the appointment of Moyane because he was allegedly protecting Zuma.

It dismissed the "irresponsible and mischievous tone of the report which seeks to cast aspersions on the character of Commissioner Moyane".

"The report perpetuates the unfounded narrative that he is involved in efforts to quash President Zuma's tax liability. This narrative is untruthful, disingenuous and outright irresponsible."

It said the allegations on Zuma's tax affairs refer to events before Moyane assumed his current position.

In addition, SARS dismissed "with contempt" the allegation that officials who were allegedly administering Zuma's tax affairs were purged.

Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko said the newspaper stood by its report. "We will wait for SARS to file its [legal] papers and we will respond," he said.

Pauw said he would let his lawyers look at the letter.

"It is, however, disturbing that SARS attempts to shoot the messenger instead of addressing issues in the book."