/ 27 March 2019

EFF launches pre-emptive strike against potential Sars commissioner

The party in a statement said it would fight the appointment
The party in a statement said it would fight Edward Kieswetter's appointment in court. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has pre-empted President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment of a new South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner, saying the choice of former Sars official Edward Kieswetter will be challenged in court, despite the appointment of a new commissioner not being announced officially.

Ramaphosa is yet to announce his choice to head the critical institution, which is central to curbing the illicit tobacco trade as well as money laundering and tax evasion.

However, Ramaphosa is expected to make an announcement on the matter imminently.

The EFF has defended former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane who was axed by Ramaphosa last year, saying he deserved to be treated fairly.

Now the party has rounded on Kieswetter, saying he was picked through a corrupt process.

Ramaphosa tasked the national treasury with choosing a shortlist of suitable candidates for the post. A panel was appointed by the treasury, headed by former finance minister Trevor Manuel, to conduct interviews and provide names for consideration to the treasury and the Presidency.

The EFF alleges that Kieswetter is close to Manuel and was a Sars official under former commissioner Pravin Gordhan and was present when the “illegal intelligence unit” at the tax agency was formed.

The party in a statement said it would fight the appointment, which has not yet been confirmed by Ramaphosa, in court.

The EFF demanded that the process to appoint a SARS commissioner be restarted and “opened to public scrutiny”.

Sars is in the midst of a labour dispute, with unions set to down tools on Thursday, likely to bring the institution to a standstill.

The tax agency is still reeling from rampant mismanagement under Moyane, which culminated in a R142-billion revenue hole, funds which the fiscus could have used on public services such as health, education and safety and security.

The instability at SARS, which characterised the Moyane years, has not been reversed, with recommendations by the commission of inquiry into governance at Sars largely on hold until a permanent tax boss is appointed.

The appointment, the commission found, was key to stabilising SARS and restoring its credibility. According to the Sars Act, the president appoints the commissioner of Sars. The Act however, does not stipulate what process should be followed for the appointment to be made.