The South African Federation of Trade Unions welcomes the suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa of SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane and his replacement by Mark Kingon.
The Presidency issued a statement that Moyane had been suspended “with immediate effect pending the institution of disciplinary proceedings”. Ramaphosa added that developments at the SARS under Moyane’s leadership “have resulted in a deterioration in public confidence in the institution and in public finances being compromised. For the sake of the country and the economy, this situation cannot be allowed to continue, or to worsen”.
This action was long overdue, after 42-months in which this vital public institution was captured by people milking the site of billions of rands and dodging paying tax. A succession of skilled SARS staff left or were dismissed and senior executives were persecuted through phony charges of forming an illegal ‘rogue unit’.
SAFTU agrees with the Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm that this led to “ the reduction of the once-formidable revenue service to a hollow shell. Under Moyane, one of Jacob Zuma’s most loyal pawns, SARS became a key and vital player of the State Capture project”.
This was one of the areas in which the looting spree most directly affected the economy and the people as a whole. As Jacques Pauw revealed in‘The President’s Keepers’ , “in the 2016/17 tax year, SARS reported a R30 billion shortfall, the first time since the worldwide recession in 2009. Parliament heard in September 2017 that for the first quarter of the 2017/18 tax year, SARS had already recorded a R13 billion shortfall. SARS was expected to miss its overall target for the tax year by about R50 billion”.
If that missing R50 billion had been collected it could have been spent on improving education, healthcare and other vital services and made a massive improvement in then lives of poor South Africans.
“What Tom Moyane did at SARS,” wrote Pauw, “must count as one of the most brutal institutional interventions in democratic South Africa”. He shows how Moyane had put many cases involving “powerful people” on ice and how he protected Zuma in his bid to quash his R63-million tax bill as well as his failure to submit tax returns for the first five years of his presidency.
Under the ‘old’ SARS regime”, he wrote, these “powerful people”… “were facing the full wrath of the tax collector. In the case of Zuma, it could have spelled calamity for his presidency and his times to hold high office”.
SAFTU demands that the “disciplinary proceedings” ordered by the President be held as soon as possible, and that, if there is sufficient evidence, he should also be charged and brought to court.
The federation wishes the new Commissioner, Mark Kingon, success in the formidable task he faces, and calls on him to bring back all those officials whom Moyane purged and to reopen all the cases they were investigating.
SAFTU will continue to demand that the current tax regime is drastically reformed so as to shift the burden from the poor to the rich, and in particular to reverse the recent increase in VAT to 15% , but that is the responsibility of government, and SARS meanwhile must be restored to its constitutional role as an independent body which treats every tax payer equally under the law.