Moyane dares Ramaphosa to testify against him
Otherwise President Cyril Ramaphosa must offer the SARS boss a multimillion-rand settlement
President Cyril Ramaphosa has until noon on Tuesday to indicate whether he is prepared to take the stand against suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane – and reveal specifically how he lost confidence in the tax boss.
If Ramaphosa does not agree to giving evidence in Moyane’s disciplinary inquiry, and declines to consider giving him state funding for his legal fees, the commissioner’s lawyers look set to head to court to fight for his demands.
The charges against Moyane concern his handling of serious criminal allegations against his former second in command Jonas Makwakwa, the “irregular” and unlawful payment of bonuses and allegations that he misled parliament and told a SARS official not to co-operate with the so-called rogue unit investigation.Ramaphosa indicated that he lost confidence in Moyane following a meeting with the tax boss at his private residence in March this year. During that meeting, Moyane’s lawyer Eric Mabuza says, Ramaphosa lost his temper with Moyane and “shouted” at him.
According to Mabuza, Ramaphosa questioned Moyane about Makwakwa – who’d been implicated in money-laundering – and the R70-million VAT refund payments reportedly paid by SARS for the benefit of Gupta company Oakbay.
Mabuza says Ramaphosa asked Moyane how everything at SARS could be fine “when his ‘second in command’ was seen stuffing money into an ATM machine”. Makwakwa had resigned just days before.According to Mabuza, when Moyane “corrected him (Ramaphosa) and explained that he was the only in charge of SARS, and that there was no second in command. The president dismissed him and said something to the effect of: ‘Whatever’.
“Thereafter the president asked Mr Moyane about the Gupta VAT payment story. Mr Moyane explained that he had nothing to do with the issue. It was at that stage that the president told Mr Moyane that he had lost confidence in him and asked him to resign.”
Mabuza has made it clear that Ramaphosa must be called to testify about that meeting.
“The president is central to the matter. He signed the charge sheet. He is in fact the only dramatis persona. It is he who allegedly ‘lost confidence’ in Mr Moyane. How else can it be determined if that decision is rational or not, following the conversation between the two of them? Ramaphosa must testify or Moyane must walk scot-free. It’s as simple as that.”
But, in a May 7 letter, Moyane’s lawyers do hint at a way out for the president: a multimillion-rand settlement deal.According to Moyane’s lawyers, Ramaphosa initially offered the commissioner six months’ salary to resign, and later increased this to a year’s salary. According to SARS Annual Report, the commissioner’s annual salary is R3,665-million.
Moyane’s lawyers have reiterated his counter offer in this latest letter to the Presidency. The Commissioner wants to be paid out in full for the 18 months that remain of his contract, including bonuses “due to him in respect of the trillions of rand that he has successfully and sterlingly collected” and a “jointly agreed public statement of the parties”.
Moyane’s lawyers have suggested that Ramaphosa should consider “whether it was in all the circumstances reasonable or reckless for the president to reject the counter offer … for an amicable solution” that contained these terms.
Should Ramaphosa insist that Moyane be subjected to a disciplinary inquiry on charges of gross misconduct, the commissioner has also made it clear that he believes his legal costs should be funded by the state.
“It is patently unfair that the president should use taxpayers’ money to prosecute his case, but the commissioner, who collected the said taxpayers’ money, should be expected to fend for himself using his own thanklessly and hard-earned income and family resources,” Moyane’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, wrote to the Presidency.
The ball is now in Ramaphosa’s court. And whatever he decides will have legal, and potentially political, implications.
If Moyane’s lawyers don’t get the answers they want, they’ve strongly suggested that they will try to go straight to the Constitutional Court, so that the issues they raise can be decided as soon as possible.