Sars threatens M&G over story

Tom Moyane Nhlanhla Nene. (David Harrison)

Tom Moyane Nhlanhla Nene. (David Harrison)

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has threatened to criminally pursue the Mail & Guardian for last week’s article Sars wars: Moyane’s empire strikes back.

The M&G quoted key insiders accusing tax commissioner Tom Moyane and others of grabbing control of a key division dealing with large corporations and wealthy individuals.

It described claims that Moyane’s second-in-command, Jonas Makwakwa, had previously clashed with executives over his engagements with taxpayers.

Sars’s lawyer, David Maphakela, demanded a retraction and an apology. He said the M&G contravened the Tax Administration Act by “unlawfully disclosing taxpayer information” and that the article was “littered with falsity, inaccuracy, unfairness, distortion and misrepresentation of facts”.

M&G lawyer Dario Milo responded that the article was “clearly in the public interest and its publication was lawful”.

He invited Sars to answer the M&G’s questions, which have been ignored for two weeks, and said “in the circumstances” the paper declined to apologise and retract.

Maphakela responded: “[The M&G’s] ... defence of public interest as a panacea to justify the publication, illustrates ... [an]unfathomable misdirection of the law.”

He said: “Our client will proceed to exercise its rights in law, including civil and criminal proceedings.”

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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