NATIONAL NEWS - The office of the public protector has denied that Busisiwe Mkhwebane has “backed down” in her battle against South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter, following a report in Business Day saying this was the case.
A tweet from Mkhwebane’s office calls the report “inaccurate” and says a subpoena to obtain former president Jacob Zuma’s tax records from Sars has not been “abandoned but stayed by mutual agreement between the parties pending an expedited date of the hearing of Part B of the application”.
The tweet added that this hearing’s date would be determined after engagement between the parties and deputy judge president Aubrey Ledwaba.
This after Kieswetter said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with the public protector’s office, who he said would not act on the matter until the matter was heard by Ledwaba, who would provide clarity on who “Sars may provide confidential taxpayer information to”.
Kieswetter had approached the Pretoria High Court for an urgent stay of the subpoena which would force Sars to provide Mkwhebane with Zuma’s tax records.
Mkhwebane is requesting the records as part of an investigation that sprang from a complaint laid by former Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane.
This complaint, in turn, resulted from claims made in investigative journalist Jacques Pauw’s bestseller The President’s Keepers – that Zuma received R1 million from businessman Roy Moodley’s company Royal Security.
Kieswetter has clarified that he is not trying to protect the former president, but only to enforce the Tax Administration Act, which currently only allows Sars to disclose taxpayers’ information to a limited list of public bodies. According to Sars, the public protector’s office is not included on this list.
It seems while Business Day interpreted the agreement to stay the subpoena as Mkhwebane’s office backing down, the office is hoping to enact the subpoena following the hearing, which should clarify whether or not she has the power to do so.
A stay in legal terms halts further legal processes in a trial or other legal proceedings, but not permanently. The stay can later be lifted by the court.
Zuma, meanwhile, took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to state that if Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wanted to obtain his South African Revenue Service (Sars) records “she must have them”.
“I hear that my Sars records are being contested in court by Kieswetter. No one has consulted me about this matter. Furthermore, I have been informed that the office requesting these records is the office of the [public protector],” he said.
“It must be known that I have nothing to hide. If the [public protector] wants to see my Sars records she is free to do so. We should not make the job of the PP difficult. If she wants my records, she must have them.
“I need to clarify that I have never refused the office of the PP access to investigate my affairs. This country knows very well that the former PP [Thuli Madonsela] investigated me on a number of occasions and made findings against me.
“I never refused nor hid anything she wanted to investigate. Even where I personally thought she was going beyond her mandate and powers, I still obliged because I respect the office of the [public protector] and therefore I am not part of the contestation of my tax records.”