Lebelo presents fresh challenge for Nugent commission
Luther Lebelo, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) group executive for employment relations, has become the latest executive to challenge the commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance headed by retired judge Robert Nugent.
Lebelo has submitted a sworn affidavit at the Pretoria high court stating that his submissions to the commission are being “deliberately suppressed”.
The affidavit, dated November 23 and signed at the Mondeor SAPS, Johannesburg, notes that on September 27 and 28 this year, Lebelo appeared before the commission and presented oral evidence.
Subsequently he sought legal advice and was advised to provide further evidence in the form of a sworn statement, which he did on October 21 and additionally provided further oral evidence.
“I note with serious concern that the affidavits, presentations and any form of evidence presented by persons who appeared before the Commission have been uploaded on the website of the Commission and for whatever reason the Commission deemed fit, my affidavit submitted on 21 October 2018 is still not uploaded.”
The abovementioned affidavit dealt with the questions the commission had directed at him, Lebelo says.
The commission’s conduct leads him to believe that his evidence is being “deliberately suppressed”, the affidavit says, and “proceed with the narrative that seeks to lead adverse findings against me”.
Giving evidence at the inquiry, Lebelo was questioned about several payments made under his watch, including lawyers’ invoices in a matter labelled unrelated to the official duties of the commissioner or the tax service.
At the time, Lebelo told the commission it was not his responsibility to question the invoices, but to make ensure that the services that Sars was being billed for actually took place.
In his affidavit, however, Lebelo gives details of an alleged R3-million bribe paid to Andries ‘Skollie’ van Rensburg to leave Sars, which Lebelo claims was disguised as a settlement agreement for a death in Van Rensburg’s family to prevent him “exposing the alleged criminality” in the revenue service.
This, Lebelo says, is revealed in an email from Van Rensburg where he promises he did not “divulge anything to anybody”.
As head of labour relations, Lebelo also played a role in the events around suspension of former deputy Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay on December 5 2014.
The commission heard that Lebelo briefed a legal firm to gather documents related to the so-called rogue unit.
The recent affidavit discusses in some detail former group executive Johan van Loggerenberg, Pillay, former group executive for strategic planning and risk Pete Richer, and other senior employees relating to the ‘rogue unit’, saying Lebelo had “nothing to do” with allegations by attorney Belinda Walter, who was at the time in a relationship with Van Loggerenberg.
It does, however, challenge the “prevailing narrative in the media”, saying the tax affairs of Walters-linked tobacco company Carnilix were resolved “long before” former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane joined Sars.
It further alleges that there are numerous “misrepresentations” relating to the unit, particularly by Pillay, and claims that reports submitted by unit members themselves demonstrate that they were involved in illegal activities, including covert spying on Sars employees and making use of informers.
Project Sunday Evenings
Lebelo comments in detail on “Project Sunday Evenings”, which allegedly involved the installation of covert bugs in 2007 at the now-dismantled Scorpions’ and NPA head offices in Silverton, Pretoria.
The installations were conducted by suspended Sars employee Helgard Lombard, who has since turned state witness.
Pillay and Van Loggerenberg are accused by the NPA allegedly allowing Lombard to “keep” R100 000 from the installation project.
Lebelo — who says he has “no view on whether or not these [projects] are legal” — does, nonetheless, capture his testimony under “another example of the [rogue] Unit being involved in illegal and unlawful activities with the approval and knowledge of their management” and adds that “[a]ll these are contained in the file the commission does not want to read”.
Lebelo’s affidavit follows a recent attempt by Moyane to challenge the commission, which resulted in the Constitutional Court dismissing his case.
Moyane has said he will keep fighting and is set to press ahead with an urgent court application next week to be reinstated and interdict a successor from being appointed. He will also seek to prevent any of the remaining recommendations by the commission from being implemented.
Asked about the allegations, the secretariat of the commission said that it had received the affidavit, but that it was not at liberty to discuss the commission’s work with individual members of the media. — Fin24