South Africa Tax Agency Didn’t Spy on Zuma, Ex-Official Says

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South Africa’s tax agency didn’t operate a “rogue” unit that spied on President Jacob Zuma and other politicians, a former official said in a letter to lawmakers.

The allegations against some officials of the South African Revenue Service “have their origins in a little truth and much fiction,” Adrian Lackay, who resigned as a media spokesman for SARS last month, wrote in a letter to the parliamentary finance committee on March 24 and distributed to the media this week. Lackay confirmed he was the author of the letter.

The tax agency has been rocked by allegations of impropriety and the resignations of several senior executives since Tom Moyane took over as commissioner in September. Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene appointed a committee in February, led by Judge Frank Kroon, to investigate the claims and help restore the integrity of the institution.

“The lack of reaching a conclusion on the true facts has harmed and continues to harm SARS as an institution, its public credibility and ultimately the fiscal prospects of the country,” Lackay wrote.

At least 10 senior employees of SARS have either been suspended or resigned in the past six months, Johannesburg-based Business Day reported on April 9.

Lackay’s letter also details steps allegedly taken by SARS to undermine the integrity of Johann van Loggerenberg, who was suspended as head of investigations at SARS. These include accusations of corruption. Van Loggerenberg has said he was being targeted by officials in the tobacco industry, which he was investigating.

Spy Allegations

Luther Lebelo, a spokesman for SARS, denied the allegations leveled against the agency in Lackay’s letter. Lebelo said by phone that the institution stands by the outcomes of an investigation by Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane. While SARS hasn’t published Sikhakhane’s findings, Business Day said in February that the report found that the unit printed fake SARS identity cards, bugged and traced vehicles and spied on politicians by posing as their drivers.

President Jacob Zuma doesn’t intend to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the revenue service, he said in a written reply to lawmakers released on Friday.

“There is sufficient, independent attention and investigations of the matters,” Zuma said.

Yunus Carrim, chairman of the parliamentary finance committee, said by phone that Lackay’s claims are being handled by the joint portfolio committee on intelligence.

“At this stage I would prefer not to make further public statements other than what has been submitted to the two committees in parliament,” Lackay said in a mobile-phone text message on Thursday. “I will be guided by the respective chairpersons as to how they wish to deal with my submissions.”

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