Mathebula: I cooperated with Moyane under duress

Retired judge Robert Nugent. (Photo: Netwerk24)
Retired judge Robert Nugent. (Photo: Netwerk24)

Tom Moyane’s influence dominated the testimony of a SARS executive who on Friday told the Nugent Commission of inquiry how the suspended commissioner allegedly instructed him to hire and fire certain people, and asked him to sign off on the establishment of a new investigations unit.

Chief governance officer Hlengani Mathebula, who was previously chief officer of enforcement, said Moyane allegedly came to him with a list of people he wanted him to appoint to certain positions, including investigators Gobi Makhanya and Yegan Mundie.

He said Moyane was displeased when he refused to cooperate.

"I did not doubt that the people were qualified… I was worried about the process, and the commissioner was unhappy about that," said Mathebula.

Mathebula further revealed that Moyane also allegedly pressed him to sign off a memo for the establishment of a safe house for a covert enforcement task team, which required special equipment similar to the so-called rogue unit.

He defended his action as "oversight" on his part, but later retracted his statement, saying he signed the memorandum under "duress" from Moyane, who had told him that the documents had been amended to remove some of his earlier concerns.

He said he felt threatened when Moyane allegedly told him if he did not sign, there were people who had information about his family and where he stayed. 

Asked by Judge Robert Nugent if he reported the threat to anyone, he said he did not, adding that Moyane himself was "clearly concerned".

Mathebula also came under scrutiny for failing to act against allegations that Mundie, a senior fraud investigator, was in cahoots with individuals in the illicit tobacco trade.

Mundie was tasked with investigating SARS staff in connection with fraud, and he resigned from the organisation in July, amid an internal investigation into unlawfully possessing and distributing State Security Agency communication intercepts with individuals associated with the tobacco industry. 

The inquiry, set up to probe tax administration and governance issues at SARS, concluded its round of public hearings on Friday, and is expected to reconvene in October. 

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