South African Revenue Service (Sars) employee Vlok Symington returned to the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture for the second day running on Thursday with former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement once again in the spotlight.
Symington, on Wednesday dished out details that allegedly had him held him hostage by members of the Hawks and former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane bodyguard Thabo Titi in a boardroom at the Sars office in Pretoria.
The drama was said to be triggered by an email Moyane mistakenly shared of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) lead prosecutor requesting Brigadier Nyameka Xaba to obtain a statement from Symington.
Symington found himself in the middle of the Hawks and NPA’s pursuit of then finance minister Pravin Gordhan as they sought to criminally charge him for approving Pillay’s early retirement.
Symington authored a legal memorandum in 2009 about whether Gordhan was permitted to pay out Pillay’s pension fund and then let him return to Sars.
He faced disciplinary action after he revealed Sars did not share the memorandum with the Hawks or NPA.
Symongton said another memorandum drafted by attorney David Maphakela, who advised Sars on the criminal case, was not shared with the Hawks and NPA, which confirmed that Pillay’s retirement was in line with the law.
He reads that the memorandum was for the attention of the Commissioner Pravin Gordhan at the time to recommend to the then Minister to consider approving the early retirement of Mr. Pillay on terms of the provisions of section 16 and of the public Service Act #StateCaptureInquiry
— State Capture Commission (@StateCaptureCom) March 24, 2021
Earlier this week, former Bain & Company partner Athol Williams told the commission how a special project – Project Phoenix – was conceptualised to restructure and reshape South Africa’s entire economy through several state-owned enterprise (SOEs) including Telkom, Eskom and Sars.
The Sars narrative suggested that Gordhan was an obstacle for former president Jacob Zuma and his camp to capture the national Treasury, so the allegations against him were thought to have been enough to remove Gordhan as finance minister.
The charges against Gordhan were later withdrawn by the NPA.