Sars retreat is a victory for SA – Juju
“When the court makes a ruling, I will accept it even if I lose … If I am sequestrated I will leave Parliament and be the full-time president of the EFF.”
This is what Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema told hundreds of his supporters outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday during a lunch break of a court application for his sequestration.
He was willing to accept defeat if the court had to rule in favour of his sequestration. Then moments later, as EFF leaders and journalists filled back into the courtroom for the resumption of the court sitting, lawyers for the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and those representing Malema rushed out of court.
They returned soon thereafter, and all lawyers besides the advocate representing Sars, Nic Maritz, took their seats after Judge Gregory Wright entered courtroom GD. Maritz spoke softly and briskly. He has been advised by his client, Sars, to withdraw the case to have Malema sequestrated. Maritz did not give any reasons for the backtracking, only citing “the sensitivity of the case”. And like that, Malema’s sequestration woes were over and the pursuit by Sars to have him declared insolvent because of a staggering tax bill for the last two years had come to an end.
“Some moments ago, I warned you that the Sars representatives have run out of breath and do not know what to say,” Malema told a jubilant crowd. He said this was not a victory for his party or himself, but a victory for the constitutional democracy that is South Africa.
Earlier, Maritz argued that Sars wanted the EFF leader sequestrated and the compromise deal it had with Malema was not longer on the cards. In May last year, The North Gauteng High Court postponed the sequestration matter to August 25 after an agreement was entered into between Malema and the Sars.
Maritz, for Sars, then told the court the two parties had entered into a conditional compromise agreement.
As per the agreement Malema initially owed Sars R18-million, but this was brought down to R7.2-million as per the compromise. The provisional sequestration was then extended to December and again until April this year.
Maritz however, told the court on Monday that Malama was not honest about the source he used to settle his debt. Sars further told the court that besides the initial R18-million Malema owed, he now owes an additional R13.5- million for the 2011 and 2012 tax year.
Maritz argued that once Malema was sequestrated Sars would be able to recover the outstanding tax bill that Malema owes.But soon after this submission was made to the court, Martiz made a u-turn in his argument simply saying that they no longer sought sequestration.
Speaking outside court, Malema said this was a victory for democracy. “If there was a case against us they would have long arrested us,” he said. Malema pleaded to the Sars leadership not to be used as a political tool by the ANC government. At the same time, Malema chastised his supporters who called for the fall of Sars.
EFF supporters wore T-shirts with the words “#SarsMustFall” and held banners saying Sars has become a tool for politicians. “We are going to need this Sars and therefore don’t destroy the institutions you have built which could also contribute to the sustainability of our democracy,” Malema said. Interestingly, contrary to statements he previously made, Malema maintained that the judiciary was the only remaining independent arm of government.
In previous court stints, Malema claimed that the courts was used by the ruling ANC against him. This time, he was more confident in the judiciary but accused Sars of being controlled by the ANC.
“This confirms once more that our judiciary is independent from the ANC. And the judiciary is not prepared to play a role in destroying political opponents of the ruling party,” Malema told his supporters. While his tax woes may be over, Malema is still expected to appear in the Polokwane High Court in August on charges of fraud and corruption.