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Operation Clean Audit: Why Was SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula Not Suspended On Or Before July 8, 2013?

iStock_ Africa Money and Flag XSmallThe South African Revenue Service (SARS), established in 1997 is an organ of state within the public administration, but as an institution outside the public service of the Republic of South Africa.

The President of South Africa appoints the Commissioner for SARS, yet when the Commissioner is absent or during a period of vacancy, the acting Commissioners is appointed by the Minister of Finance.

Current Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan was the immediate past Commissioner for SARS.

During his most successful if not glamorous tenure as C:SARS the said government agency transformed from a post-apartheid elephant into the most effective eFile / Cloud efficient government agencies. Whilst other Commissioners and Director Generals (the equivalent title within a government department) running government departments dismally failed and despite two Commissioner of Police, being left tainted, Gordhan left behind a legacy and a government agency to be proud of. The Star of Africa was how some referred to SARS.

Then suddenly, three years after SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula appointment in 2009, rumours surfaced in 2012 linking said Magashula to promises and people, not associated with the best of breed governance practises.

In March 2013, SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay, on facts and rumours presented to him, replied to the press: “SARS has no reason to doubt the integrity of the SARS Commissioner in either his professional or private life”.

Why is it that once appointed as a Commissioner in South Africa, the new Commissioner is nearly always surrounded by known and exposed criminals? Unlike “finish and klaar” (finish and done deal) sentenced Police Commissioner Selebi admitting a friendship with an self-admitted and sentenced drug peddler, Oupa denied his friendship with sentenced Mandrax drug lord “uncle Tim”.

Convicted friends brought down a Police Commissioner and now, in 2013 Oupa failed to learn from the elders!

On Friday 12 July 2013 it was announced in a press release that Commissioner Oupa Magashula resigned following some serious indiscretion.

Oupa’s tainted friend is one P Marimuthu (aka uncle Tim) and City Press says of him: “The source of Marimuthu’s wealth is an enigma. He lives in a luxury Umhlanga apartment and is known to enjoy a fleet of supercars, including a Bentley, which was joked about with Magashula on the recording.”

City Press exposed Marimuthu last year as a key figure in the looting of the crime intelligence “slush fund”, or secret services account.”

Mail & Guardian disclosed said Marimuthu is a convicted drug trade, back in 1992.

In 2002, evidence was presented to the then Jali Commission allegeding Marimuthu bribed Prison officials to ensure he was not taken in as prisoner.

As the 1992 sentence dates to a period before Nelson Mandela’s taking office as President in 1994, government is known to often blame things on the legacy of apartheid. In post-Apartheid South Africa, it is not always possible to exclude past prisoners and convicted drug lords from sensitive appointments.

In 1992 Marimuthu was convicted Mandrax dealing and sentenced to an effective three years’ imprisonment, yet he never served one day of his sentence. In fact, today he is closely allied with Crime Intelligence, another government agency.

During a Hawk investigation, this crime fighting government agency discovered he was not only a crime intelligence agent, but also had several properties under lease to the Crime Intelligence unit. His income as registered agent is some R50 000 pm and his lease or rental income, raked in another R250 000 pm, leaving him R300 000 richer every month.

City Press in their report continues to argue that Crime Intelligence has appointed five Maritmuthu family members as officers leaving readers to question the nepotism within government agencies.

Marimuthu, according to City Press was later given a copy of the recording of his telephone conversation involving Magashula and the KPMG employee, yet Marimuthu refused to appear in front of the Yacoob Committee.

Zuma and his cabinet has been dogged by repeated failures by Commissioners, Director Generals (DG) and a court ruling declaring certain Zuma appointments as invalid and questionable. Despite all the past rumours around Commissioners, DG’s and Ministers proving to always be true, Gordhan was rather silent on the Magashula affairs.

Ironically, the KPMG employee caught up in this messy affair, was employed by KPMG undertaking the “Operation Clean Audit” at a salary of R380 000 plus bonuses. Uncle Tim offered her R1m

Only a few days after President Zuma unceremoniously dismissed effective Ministers and effectively re-appointed and shown full confidence embattled Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the soft handed blow to Magashula leave very little confident in the ANC executive’s true commitment to rooting out corruption and inefficient and non-delivering government officials.

Although Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has a blemish free record of accomplishment, in fact is credit as the most successful SARS Commissioner to date, questions are now being asked about the leniency shown in the soft handed treatment of now disgraced immediate past Commissioner Oupa Magashula.

After all, as of March 24th, 2013 a SARS spokespersons admitted having had access to authenticated phone recordings. Gordhan by his own admission on July 8th received a committee report, having concluded Magashula was found to be “much less frank with the committee than the committee would have expected of the person who had the integrity essential to his position”.

All the accusations and the supporting facts were known, admitted and in the public domain since April 2012, yet the Ministry allowed Magashula to resign and be available for cadre redeployment within government (as he has thus never been suspended or dismissed) suddenly taints Gordhan’ s exemplary track record.

The answer is to be found in the committee report suggesting a full disciplinary hearing be held before Oupa is suspended. In the word of the retired judge Yacoob:

“8.1.2….be necessary to institute full-blown formal disciplinary proceedings against him. We are of the view that there is enough evidence to warrant a proper and full investigation by a body that has the power to compel.
8.1.3. We recommend that the Commissioner be suspended during the period of the investigation”

Oupa Magashula resigned before the formal disciplinary hearing could be launched and one read with interest, the committee’s comment on the emotional state of Acting Commissioner Pillay when he realised he was betrayed by Oupa, his then trusted boss.

Additional information will be released on Monday, July 15th 2013 yet more information and updated press releases can be found on most South African News Agencies.


Hugo is a Chartered Accountant (South Africa) registered with The SA Institute of Tax Practitioners and SARS as a Master Tax Practitioner. He is in daily contact with expat South Africans (aka SAFFAS or Wegkaners) where ever they live and has lectured from LA to London and although many clients now reside in Australasia, Hugo has never visited either Australia nor NZ. Bucket List I hear you say. Hugo is also a Trust and Estate Practitioner (STEP). Cross border taxation and Exchange Control are both high on his priority, be it for emigrants, immigrants or multi-nationals.

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2 thoughts on “Operation Clean Audit: Why Was SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula Not Suspended On Or Before July 8, 2013?

  1. Avatar Hugo Van Zyl says:

    Pravin Gordhan took over as Minister of Finance from Trevor Manuel.

  2. Avatar Prof Daniel N Erasmus says:

    Now read the nasty speech of SA Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
    On the eve of the passing of Mandela (which appears imminent) I’m afraid South Africa may well enter the ‘Zimbabwe decline phase’.

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