While on a recent call with a SARS contact centre agent over a “delayed” refund, Block, the 19-year-old son of renowned astronomer and Wits University Professor David Block, said he was repeatedly told he did not know how to say his name, which means star.
The first year Wits University property studies student had pronounced it as “Inkwenkwezi”, as he had done all his life.
“The lady at SARS asked me several times what my third name was and made it clear to me she could not proceed because I wasn't pronouncing my name correctly. Every time I said it, she told me, 'That’s a problem, sir. That is not your third name. I can't let you proceed as it could be seen as a case of fraud.’
“I was so confused. That is my third name. She told me I should spell it for her. Then I had to pronounce it again and again.”
Eventually, he asked to speak to a manager, who also told him that he didn’t know how to pronounce his name. “I told him President Mandela gave that name when I was born and that’s how I’ve known it to be.
“We fought for 30 minutes just debating the pronunciation of my name. All my security questions were correct as were my ID number and my banking details.”
He asked if the contact centre employees would prefer if he pronounced his name as Nkwenkezi.
“She told me, ‘yes sir, that’s how you pronounce it, now you can proceed’. It was the most discriminatory thing I have ever faced.”
SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela said its contact centre agent had to satisfy herself she was indeed engaging with the correct taxpayer.
“SARS can confirm the issue of the mispronunciation did occur and was resolved when the taxpayer was requested to provide the correct spelling. This was done and the agent continued to assist him."