Ramaphosa's battle with tainted SARS chief will be ugly, but it's the right fight
Long-suffering taxpayers, who are still battling to digest the VAT increase imposed on us to try to claw back the billions squandered to enrich the Gupta family and their cronies in government, will be heartened by the news this week that President Cyril Ramaphosa is bringing disciplinary charges against SARS commissioner Tom Moyane.
The charges against the suspended SARS chief will surely confirm the end of his deleterious reign at SARS, where he presided over the crippling of what had been the jewel in democratic South Africa's public service.
With a R50-billion tax hole to fill, and taxpayer confidence in SARS at a low ebb, South Africa can little afford to indulge a tax-collection service that appears to have been re-engineered to benefit tax cheats and Moyane's friends in SARS and in Saxonwold, from where the Gupta empire was run.In today's edition we report on what appears to have been a stormy meeting between Ramaphosa and Moyane, in which, according to the Moyane camp, Ramaphosa "shouted" at Moyane and questioned him at length about the disciplinary charade in which Moyane's second-in-charge, Jonas Makwakwa, was let off the hook in spite of a damning Financial Intelligence Centre report that detailed unexplained cash deposits Makwakwa had made via ATM into his own bank account.Also at issue is a R70-million VAT refund made to the Gupta family. Moyane's "explanation" to the president that he had nothing to do with the VAT refund may well have been one explanation too far for Ramaphosa, who is not known to suffer fools gladly.
With Moyane's legal team apparently rejecting the Presidency's stated intention to conduct the disciplinary process in writing, the stage may be set for a bruising showdown with the president in court.
Of course, the charges against Moyane go far beyond the vague allegation that he compromised SARS's revenue-collecting muscle. They are specific and are grounded in the alleged contravention of laws such as the Public Finance Management Act and the SARS Act, and relate as well to the alleged irregular payment of bonuses to SARS top brass.
Moyane, who was suspended on March 19, with Ramaphosa saying he had lost faith in his ability to run SARS as an effective tax-collection entity, had been appointed to the SARS top job by former president Jacob Zuma in September 2014. This was in the wake of a now-discredited KPMG report that highlighted the alleged illegal activities of a so-called "rogue spy unit" located in SARS.He neatly fitted the template of the type of public servant Zuma preferred, all the better to further the agenda and line the pockets of the Saxonwold mob, whose interests alone were deemed paramount while ordinary South Africans looked on in dismay at the destruction of their public institutions and the pillaging of the public purse.
But the tide has turned. Ramaphosa, in the understated yet quietly determined way that has become his hallmark, is picking off the bad apples one by one. As a former businessman, he knows only too well that without an effective, clean and energetic SARS, the transformation project will be stillborn, and the expected upliftment of the masses will come to nought.
Slowly but surely, Ramaphosa's "New Dawn" is shining a light into the darkest recesses of the Zuma era.
Obviously, Ramaphosa will want to see this matter finalised. But should the president find himself in court, up against Moyane and his lawyers, some good can come of that, too: a fuller airing of the scandal that has come close to destroying SARS.
South Africa deserves a better SARS. Can there be any loser in this sordid mess apart from Moyane? We doubt it...