Newsmaker: Tom Moyane, the taxman gets into gear

2014-09-28 15:00

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This week, on the way to see his father in Soweto, Tom Moyane received a call from Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

Nene told Moyane he had landed the top job at the SA Revenue Service (Sars), replacing Oupa Magashula, who resigned last July after a recording laced with sexual innuendo surfaced of him offering a 28-year-old woman a Sars post without following proper recruitment processes.

Over a cup of rooibos tea in the lobby of a Joburg hotel, Moyane elaborates on the moment he received the big news: “I then drove to see my father in Soweto. It was unbelievable. It’s a huge responsibility, a huge portfolio.”

Bigger even, he thinks, than his last high-profile posting as commissioner of correctional services, which he left last year after he was forced to retire when he turned 60.

“You are entrusted with the colllection of revenue, which will be allocated to all government departments to implement their programmes and policies. That’s how important that job is.”

The warm and friendly Moyane, casually dressed in a polo shirt, jeans and sandals, has been keeping a low profile at the State Information and Technology Agency, where he says he was advising on transformation “in terms of strategy and leadership”.

He landed his latest job through a presidential prerogative. Moyane had submitted his CV to President Jacob Zuma, who must have considered a number of candidates before making his choice, he says.

So how did his father react when he arrived home in Soweto? “My father was just astounded. He said: ‘It’s something that you have to do. Serve your country and family. It’s a tough challenge.”

But a challenge he believes he can tackle, backed by Sars’ team of highly qualified people. He says there is no organisation without a collective, and one could not discount the importance of a team.

“It’s like a bouquet of flowers. No flower is ugly. All of them, taken together, are beautiful.”

Although we meet the day before he officially begins work, Moyane has taken steps to familiarise himself with the tax collector, and is deeply knowledgeable about its processes.

He discusses some of them at length, saying former commissioner Pravin Gordhan, now the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, had left a sound base for the institution, making it efficient and friendly.

He expounds on compliance: “We’re going through a difficult time in terms of global economic pressures. Tax revenues are lower. But we are duty-bound to pay our tax. It’s not just a moral issue; it’s an issue of responsibility.”

I ask him about the recent scandals the revenue collector has found itself embroiled in, including the one related to top official Johann van Loggerenberg, who had an affair with Belinda Walter, a lawyer for alleged tobacco smugglers.

Moyane is reluctant to speak on the record about these issues, opting instead for general terms. He says the way Sars combats illicit trade is a constant headache, and speaks to the levels of support it gets in collecting revenue from everyone – “whether tobacco, money, counterfeit cigarettes, textiles...”

He said his team would advise him on how to approach these problems. But what about the staff issues – would he be dealing with them?

“As the commissioner, you are the accounting officer. You are the CEO. The buck stops with you.”

When not chasing noncompliant taxpayers and dealing with errant employees, Moyane will be found on the green, indulging in a bit of golf. He also loves football, athletics and tennis, and perhaps boxing is last on the list, he jokes.

He also loves to read – he calls this a passion – and usually has his nose in books on leadership and the economy.

Another passion is music. Hip-hop music. He says his favourite artist is his son, who goes by the name of El.

He whips out his iPhone and pulls up a music video of him, who was then going by the name of Twizzle, performing a track called Thrill Is Gone on video-sharing website YouTube.

In it, Twizzle/El is on a boat, a babe on each arm, giving a more modern, hard-core feel to a BB King jazz classic. The video is professionally shot.

El is a serious musician, and his family supports his ambitions, says his beaming father.

“He’s been to the US, the UK, to China, to Vienna – to what they call the Music Olympics?...?So he’s into music.”

Moyane is not really keen to talk about other members of his family.

Will there be time for all these hobbies with his new job? “I will make time,” he says.

He will delegate to his “flowers” at Sars and indulge when it’s time to knock off.

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