South African Revenue Service commissioner Edward Kieswetter. File photo: Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)
South African Revenue Service commissioner Edward Kieswetter. File photo: Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)

Sars fighting ANC wars, another political machine

By Piet Mahasha Rampedi Time of article published Nov 22, 2020

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Johannesburg - South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter’s move against a lawyer who found it guilty of having operated an illegal intelligence unit is a sign it has become a political tool used to fight ANC battles, said a political analyst.

Xolani Dube, a senior researcher at the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, said Kieswetter’s scathing letter to Adv. Muzi Sikhakhane was part of a war waged by the dominant economic and political elites in the country, which he referred to as the “mineral-energy complex”, to cement their dominance and redefine the power dynamics in the country.

This comes after the Sars commissioner wrote to Sikhakhane on Monday night informing him that “Sars holds the view that it will not place reliance on nor utilise the Report for any purpose”.

Dube cited the recommendations of the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into governance at the revenue service.

Maintaining that Kieswetter was trying to intimidate and discredit Sikhakhane for refusing to withdraw the rogue unit report because Sars had no legal basis for taking it on review, Dube said the move was part of efforts to brand “any dissenting voice” and those who speak truth to power, rather than speak truth to the ANC only, as “immoral, corrupt, unethical and not worth listening to”.

“What Sars is doing is portraying Sikhakhane as someone who is incompetent, someone who has no clue on what he was doing, and someone who must not be taken seriously in his profession.

“That’s how they break the so-called native professionals. The timing is a clear indication that this is a fight. It’s politics. It’s a fight and they are fighting against Sikhakhane here.

“Unfortunately, Sikhakhane is alone and is fighting against government institutions and a multinational company, which is KPMG,” Dube said.

“Sars, as we see it now, has become another political machinery that is used against certain people. They used it against Julius (Malema) if you remember. It is becoming a weapon that is used in order to fight ANC battles.

“But what is really interesting is Sars is not saying anything about Steinhoff and a number of white companies who defrauded Sars. They get amnesty. They are treated with dignity. They are not paraded in public as if they are incompetent.” Dube added that the new power elites were using Sars to “redefine the power relations” and crush any “dissenting voice”, adding that “they have claimed the ethical and moral high ground” because they control the means of production including the media.

In 2016, Sars slapped EFF leader Julius Malema with a R20-million tax bill, claiming the former ANC Youth League leader owed it R18-million for arrears on his taxes, and another R2m in interest for the 2005 to 2011 tax years.

The revenue service also accused Malema of lying about his source of income. It eventually attached his multi-million rand assets including two houses in Polokwane, Limpopo and Sandton, Gauteng and sold them off. It also attached his cabbage farm outside Polokwane. Sikhakhane confirmed that he received Kieswetter’s letter shortly after 8pm on Monday but said he would not “dignify” the “gimmicks” with a response.

“I do not think I have to respond at all. I am happy for them. They must do what they want to do or exchange money with each other if they deem it appropriate,” Sikhakhane said.

Kieswetter’s letter was sent to Sikhakhane a few hours after the lawyer made scathing remarks against the Zondo Commission and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan during his recusal applications against State Capture Commission of Inquiry chairperson, Justice Raymond Zondo.

Sikhakhane, for former president Jacob Zuma, accused Zondo of bias and dismissed the commission as a political tool used to destroy Zuma.

He accused Zondo of being a pawn in a political game and of having an “inclination” to agree with Gordhan and other “carefully selected” witnesses who parroted a narrative against his client.

Sikhakhane further contended that Zondo treated people like Gordhan, a former Sars commissioner, as witnesses who were there to “assist” the commission rather than to account.

Sars declined to comment on specific questions from Sunday Independent including the timing of the letter to Sikhakhane, why it took the revenue service five years to disown the report, why it chose to cast aspersions on its veracity rather than take it on review, and allegations that it has become a political tool used to fight ANC battles. Instead, it confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Sikhakhane, adding that a similar one was sent to KPMG chief executive Ignatius Sehoole.

“This communication to them clarified SARS’ position in respect of the Reports that each of them had authored during the period between 2014 to 2015, respectively.

“These Reports negatively mentioned or implicated a number of current and former SARS employees.

“Following an intensive review after Commissioner Kieswetter’s appointment in May 2019, and after taking into account a number of related developments, SARS has made a decision that it will not use these Reports for any purpose as it cannot place reliance on them.

“We understand that the media is interested in the process, but we ask that the media respects the privacy and confidentiality of the reparation discussions, and the dignity of the individuals involved, and understands SARS’ position to decline to comment on specific issues,” Sars said.

In his letter to Sikhakhane, on November 16, 2020, Kieswetter said: “You authored the Sikhakhane Report. SARS’ proprietary interest in the Report does not give SARS the power or capacity to withdraw the Report. Only you have the authority to withdraw the Report.

“However, lacking this authority does not prevent SARS from expressing a view of, and taking a position regarding the “standing” of the Report.

“I therefore avail of this opportunity to communicate to you that taking into account the history of and developments around the Sikhakhane Report, the need for all affected parties to find closure as well as the need for SARS to move forward in fulfilling its vitally important mandate, SARS holds the view it will not place reliance on nor utilise the Report for any purpose.”

Sunday Independent

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