By Mia Slabbert
The South African Revenue Service’s anti-corruption and security unit used to be one of the best in the public service, with several awards to prove its ability and successes. The appointment of Tom Moyane, former commissioner of SARS, however, resulted in a culture of distrust, depression and despondency.
In 2014, without much ado, Moyane dissolved this unit, and its approximately 300 members were transferred to other sections when the unit’s group head, Clifford Collings, was suspended because Moyane was said to be annoyed when his official car was not delivered to him on time.
“Today we are sitting here in the same offices we were in at the time, and it is almost unreal to think one person can be such a drawback for an institution. Tom Moyane came here and destroyed something that was really remarkable, and that was trust and hope in the Revenue Service,” said a senior employee of SARS and member of Solidarity.
“In the bloom of my career I was thrown to the wolves, my family were traumatised and during all of this, Solidarity used to contact me almost every day. In my darkest hour they encouraged me and even advised me to go for a jog, because in the midst of the barrage they viewed my state of mind as equally important as trying to save SARS from itself.”
Before this unit was restructured by Moyane, they were focusing on fighting internal corruption in SARS. The unit was audited by the Department of Public Service and Administration in 2010 and it was found to be the best anti-corruption unit in 85 government departments.
“When Tom Moyane joined SARS, we did not know what was waiting for us. Nobody announces crime or state capture, it just happens. However, it quickly became clear that some of us were being targeted, our names were on a list and we had to go. Now, where I am sitting here in front of you, I know with everything in me that if it wasn’t for Solidarity who took up my case and supported me, I would not be sitting here behind my desk today,” the member said.
The member, who speaks of highly of how Solidarity approaches each case and situation individually, says when he became aware in those days that things were getting difficult for him, he and a friend turned to Solidarity. “In a jiffy, the entire boardroom was packed with some of Solidarity’s most senior people listening to our story attentively and with compassion. It is almost impossible to describe the peace I experienced during that first meeting with them. They really were concerned about me and the sustainable continued existence of SARS. To someone like me who had been giving almost all my time to SARS for several years, it was a great relieve that all the time they were also considering the interests of SARS.”
According to another member, Solidarity’s successes in SARS have brought hope again to the organisation. “Things have changed, people are only looking after their own interests. It isn’t the same SARS it was before 2014. Solidarity today is needed more than ever to be a watchdog here at SARS. We all have to fight to ensure that the power to dissolve a special unit, at any institution in the country, is not in the hands of one individual only – special units should be governed by legislation. A big fight is looming,” he said.
For an organisation that is traumatised internally, where there still is an underlying climate of fear and intimidation and where racial tension is palpable, these two members are talking openly about trauma and uncertainty. “At the moment there are so many, hundreds, of disciplinary matters that happened during the time of Moyane that are now being revised because it is suspected that they are some of the drastic measures taken to get rid of people in the organisation.”
Because of its mandate and role in South Africa it is important for John Citizen and taxpayers that SARS should be functioning effectively and with integrity, and this all the more means that the anti-corruption and security unit should be functioning effectively. This is why Solidarity got involved.
“We wanted to stop state capture and at the same time also ensure that a properly functioning anti-corruption and security unit will receive the necessary support to carry out its duties. Today we are continuing the fight to restore the anti-corruption and security unit to its former glory by reinstating the right people in their posts,” says Gerrit Visser, head of Solidarity’s General Litigation section.
SARS employees need Solidarity. Join today and become a member. Visit https://solidariteit.co.za/en/join-sars/