SARS was ‘systemically and deliberately weakened’ – state capture findings

 ·5 Jan 2022

Acting chief justice Raymond Zondo handed over the first part of his report on state capture to president Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday (4 January), marking nearly four years of inquiries and interviews that focused on how corruption was advanced under former president Jacob Zuma.

“This is a defining moment in our country’s effort to definitively end the era of state capture and to restore the integrity, credibility and capability of our institutions, but more importantly, our government,” president Cyril Ramaphosa said in a media statement commemorating the handover.

Government will not make pronouncements on the findings nor recommendations of the commission’s report before all three parts are received and considered.

The submission of the remaining parts of the report is expected to reach the president’s desk by 28 February 2022, while the report and implementation plan to Parliament is expected to take place by the end of June 2022.

President Ramaphosa said that this does not prevent other institutions from acting within their statutory mandate on any of the findings and recommendations contained in the report.

“This report enables us to up our tempo in the fights against state capture, and if we work together we will be able to rid our country of the gross actions of corruption we have seen in the past,” Ramaphosa said.

The first edition of the report in the meantime, makes a number of serious findings, showing how parts of the country were fundamentally dismantled as part of a system of state capture. It is broken down into three volumes dealing with South African Airways, The New Age and advertising, and the South African Revenue Service as well as procurement.

The full report can be found here.

The destruction of SARS

The report stated that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) was dismantled under former president Jacob Zuma and former commissioner Tom Moyane.

The report highlighted a massive failure of integrity and governance at SARS, demonstrated by what the tax body once was, and what it has become.

“That state of affairs was brought about by the (at least) reckless mismanagement of SARS on the part of Mr Moyane. What occurred at SARS was inevitable the moment Mr Moyane set foot there. He dismantled the elements of governance one by one. This was more than mere mismanagement. It was seizing control of SARS as if it was his to have,” it said.

This was done in a number of ways, including:

  • The failure of good governance was manifested from the fact that senior management was driven out or marginalised at SARS. Their replacements, appointed by Moyane, were simply compliant and neglected their oversight function.
  • The development of SARS’ sophisticated Information Technology systems was summarily halted, while the organisational structure of SARS that provided oversight was pulled apart.
  • Instead of fostering a culture of healthy dissent, Moyane engendered a culture of fear and intimidation. Dissent was stamped out by instilling distrust and fear, while accountability to other state authorities was defied and capacity for investigating corruption was disabled.
  • SARS’ investigatory and enforcement capacity presented a hurdle to those involved in organised crime, and was, therefore, a target for those engaged in state capture. The involvement of the media in perpetuating false narratives which discredited targeted people as well as providing grounds for their removal was a notable feature of the evidence led in regard to the capture of SARS.
  • Some of SARS’s most important units, which were set up to ensure tax compliance, were disbanded or restructured such that important projects were put on hold or abandoned, thus fundamentally weakening the revenue collection function.

“All these actions and events cannot be coincidental. This is especially so in the light of the planning documents which the Commission has been shown,” the Zondo Commission said.

“The only feasible conclusion is that the organisation was deliberately captured and president Zuma and Mr Moyane played critical roles to in the capture of SARS and dismantling it in the way it was done during Mr Moyane’s term as commissioner.”

“SARS was systemically and deliberately weakened, chiefly through the restructuring of its institutional capacity, strategic appointments and dismissals of key individuals, and a pervasive culture of fear and bullying. It is a clear example of state capture.”

Read: South Africa state capture report advises on a way forward

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