Former deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi was involved in the decision to establish an investigations unit at the South African Revenue Service (Sars), but said he was not in a position to account for how the unit was run.
Moleketi said he had responded to the Hawks’ request for a statement in its ongoing probe into the investigative unit in Sars, the so-called “rogue unit”.
Moleketi and Trevor Manuel, the finance minister at the time, were subpoenaed earlier this month. The two were asked to provide affidavits detailing the extent of their involvement in the unit.
Moleketi said a collective decision was taken during his term alongside Manuel to establish the unit, but they had no knowledge of alleged unlawful activity linked to it.
“My affidavit said we took this decision, but we never had an operational involvement. What happened thereafter is a matter we cannot account for,” Moleketi told the Mail & Guardian this week.
“There is a difference between what ministers and deputy ministers agree on and how the actual decision is implemented. However it was implemented, I was not party to that. If there was any breach I cannot account for that.”
After submitting his affidavit, Moleketi said the Hawks sent notice that he would not be needed in court.
He would not speculate on whether anything had changed as a result of the bombshell statement by KPMG International withdrawing the findings and recommendations of KPMG South Africa’s report on the investigative unit.
“The key thing for us as citizens is that we comply with the law. I have done that, but what I’m not going to do is to speculate or let this thing affect me,” he said.
Despite accusations by Sars that the unit was involved in illegal spying activities, Moleketi said the unit was formed only to strengthen Sars’ ability to detect tax evasion.
“The establishment of the unit was as a result of the leakages that were known through illicit trade [and] we thought it was important that the tax authority developed the capacity to investigate those tax avoidances and illicit trade, particularly illicit flow in the smuggling of cigarettes,” he said.
It is believed the decision to subpoena Manuel and Moleketi is part of an attempt to revive charges against Pravin Gordhan, who was Sars commissioner at the time.
Gordhan has criticised claims that the unit was unlawful, saying its investigations focused particularly on the illicit tobacco trade and it was acting within the ambit of the law.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi did not respond to requests for comment.
Sars commissioner Tom Moyane has insisted that there is evidence to support the claim of a rogue unit despite KPMG casting doubt on the credibility of its report.