The reappointment of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister has been welcomed, going some way to ease market jitters caused by President Jacob Zuma’s axing of Nhlanhla Nene.
Gordhan’s appointment was, however, less well received in the executive corridors of the SA Revenue Service (SARS).
This is predictable, considering that commissioner Tom Moyane, appointed by Zuma at the end of 2014, quickly took it upon himself to systematically unravel the work done by Gordhan during his own tenure at SARS.
It was chaos: long-standing senior staffers parted ways with the organisation, ostensibly over allegations of a “covert unit” that broke the law.
Less than six months after his appointment, Moyane ordered a huge review of the SARS operating model, seeking to assess its “operational challenges”, its “people challenges” and even its “image problems”.
That review by consultants Gartner, Bain & Co and KPMG led to an enormous overhaul at SARS.
This week, it emerged that Gordhan had halted the restructuring.
Insiders say the restructuring has already had harrowing effects, including the loss of critical skills.
Restructuring after a new leader takes the helm is not unusual. But in the case of SARS, the process has been clouded by political machinations and allegations of dubious interests seeking to make hay.
It came as little surprise that one of Gordhan’s first tasks on taking office was a visit to Moyane — probably an awkward interaction, as Moyane had sent Gordhan a letter shortly before his return to the treasury, calling him “opportunistic”.
Given its critical mandate and its recent ructions, Gordhan’s intervention has come in the nick of time. Already 191 senior managers have been asked to reapply for their positions. Whether Gordhan allows the restructuring to proceed will be a strong indicator of whether Moyane has SARS’ interest at heart, or those of his political masters.
This article first appeared on financialmail.co.za.