Pravin Gordhan admits SARS unit was set up but maintains its legality
Former Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has admitted that there was a unit in the South African Revenue Services to investigate the illegal smuggling of cigarettes and illicit trade but maintained it was legal.
Gordhan gave the response to a statement made by former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane’s legal counsel Adv Dali Mpofu that the National Strategic Intelligence Act of 1994 only allowed the police, army and intelligence unit to establish such a unit.
In his cross examination, Mpofu insisted that the formation of the unit was illegal but Gordhan denied saying there was a surge of illegal activities.
During his cross examination, Gordhan admitted that there was a unit in Sars. Describing his role, he said he asked the former finance minister Trevor Manuel to fund the formation of the unit. According to him, Sars was going to ask the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to assist them to fight against the smuggling of cigarettes and other illicit trade in the country.
However, he came under attack from Mpofu who said only the police, army and intelligence unit had powers to set up such a unit and not Sars.
“The establishment of the unitt simply because the NIA lost appetite was a contravention of the National Strategic Intelligence Act of 94.
“It was the finding of the Sikhakhane Report, It was the finding of the Public Protector,” Mpofu said.
In reply, Gordhan said the Sikhakhane report was dismissed by the Nugent Commission. He also said various reports handed to Moyane dismissed the existence of the alleged Rogue Unit in Sars.
Earlier, Moyane also accused Gordhan of being a racist especially towards “African” people - a claim Gordhan denied yesterday.
Moyane also accused Gordhan of being jealous of him because he was the first SARS commissioner to collect R1 trillion in tax.
These revelations were made by Mpofu during the cross-examination of Gordhan at the Commission of Inquiry into State led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Mpofu said Moyane will testify before the Commission that their differences with Gordhan began during his tenure as Sars commissioner. He said Moyane would testify that Gordhan was for his role at Sars.
“Mr Moyane will testify that Gordha was arrogant towards him. He would also testify that Mr Gordhan was a racist towards African people to deflect his own role in state capture and corruption. Mr Moyane will also testify that Gordhan was against him for blowing the whistle on the rogue unit and illegal corrupt activities at Sars including the early retirement payout to Ivan Pillay (former Sars deputy commissioner).
“Mr Moyane will also testify that he was the first Sars commissioner to collect R1 trillion in tax but Mr Gordhan did not congratulate him,” Mpofu said.
In justifying allegations of racism, Mpofu said shouting down at a person of the same age like him and telling Moyane to grow up and being cheeky was proof that Gordhan was a racist.
In his testimony, Gordhan denied the allegations saying he was non-racist and that was the reason he joined the Congress Movement (ANC) and subscribes to the Freedom Charter.
“It is actually Mr Moyane who disrespected me. He did not want to apply for leave for me. He told me that he reports to the President. He also paid bonuses to some of his staff members when he was ordered not to.
“The late Auditor-General (Kimi Makwetu) lodged a complaint about the payment of the bonuses and Mr Moyane threatened to take him to court. Mr Moyane also refused to discuss measures to review the new operating model at Sars. He did not allow an inquiry into what was going at Sars,” Gordhan said.
The hearing was postponed to allow the commission to set a new date for the continuation of Gordhan's cross examination.