Secret deal

2008-07-01 00:00

READERS of the weekend papers will have been astonished to learn that Jacob Zuma was given a derisory R300 fine for not declaring his income to Sars for nine years from 1995 to 2003. They will be even more astonished to learn that this was after a hearing that took place in secret at the Durban Magistrate’s Court last year. In addition to the fine, Zuma was instructed to submit his returns and he now claims that he subsequently regularised his tax affairs by making an unknown payment.

Clearly, however, as in the parable Animal Farm, some animals are a lot more equal than others in South Africa. Who else could expect to receive such remarkably lenient treatment? Who else would be let off the hook in this way after not declaring his or her income for nine years?

Moreover, this state of affairs has only come to light because Zuma has himself revealed it in filing an application in the Pietermaritzburg High Court seeking a review of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Mokotedi Mpshe’s decision to recharge him for fraud and corruption. The NPA alleges that Zuma failed to disclose either to Sars or Parliament the fact that he received 583 payments from convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, that he failed to declare taxable income of R2,7 million and that he evaded tax of R1,6 million. Zuma now claims, perhaps with some justification, that as his tax dispute with Sars has been settled, these charges should now fall away.

That is an issue to be decided by the High Court. What is clear in the court of public opinion, however, is that there is something very wrong here and that Zuma has shown a cavalier disregard for democratic practice and procedure — and been allowed to get away with it so far.

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