Fri, 06 Dec 2019

Tom Moyane, the man whom Jacob Zuma had appointed head of the South African Revenue Service (Sars), was invited one evening to Cyril Ramaphosa's private home in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, for a discussion with the newly elected head of state.

It was just over a month after Ramaphosa became president. Under normal circumstances, this would be a courtesy invitation to the head of one of the most important institutions of state. But there was already a cloud hanging over this visit, which is why it probably wasn't surprising that it quickly degenerated into a screaming match between the two.

Ramaphosa is definitely unlike his predecessor, whose middle name literally means 'he who smiles while stabbing you'. The president was serious in his bid to fix Sars and he wanted answers from the man who was at the help when it descended into dysfunctionality. He wanted to know for instance why a R70-million VAT refund had been paid by Sars to the Gupta company Oakbay. Ramaphosa pushed harder. How could things be fine at Sars when Moyane's deputy, Jonas Makwakwa, had been caught on camera stuffing large amounts of money into an ATM machine?

But Moyane was arrogant, impudent even, telling Ramaphosa that there was no second-in-command at Sars and he was the only one in charge. Ramaphosa's response? An angry 'Whatever'. The thirty-minute meeting ended when an irate Ramaphosa asked Moyane to resign as commissioner of Sars, to which the latter responded with a definite 'no'.

'One person at a time.' Kieswetter's strategy for fixing Sars

The Nugent report had also recommended that there should be transparency in the appointment of the new commissioner. Ramaphosa set up a panel led by former finance minister Trevor Manuel to shortlist and interview candidates suitable for the job. Almost a year after he asked Moyane to resign, Ramaphosa announced that former Sars deputy commissioner Edward Kieswetter would lead the organisation from 1 May 2019. The panel who conducted the interviews believed that he emerged as the strongest candidate from the six applicants shortlisted. Kieswetter had served as deputy commissioner under Pravin Gordhan between 2004 and 2009 and then went on to the private sector where he was group chief executive of Alexander Forbes. When he returned to Sars as the new commissioner, Kieswetter said he was ready to rescue the institution from the 'unfortunate tragedy of the last four years'.

Interestingly, Moyane's fightback was continued by the EFF, which rejected Kieswetter's appointment, claiming he was a nephew of Manuel's and that the two had a close business relationship. The former minister sued the EFF and won a half-a-million rand claim against them for defamation.

* This is an extract from by Qaanitah Hunter, published by Kwela Books, available in book stores now.

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