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Nkandla: An open letter to the Sars commissioner

Dear Mr Tom Moyane,

I write to you as a concerned citizen of South Africa.

Sars remains one of the few functioning and efficient institutions in our country. Indeed, without taxpayers’ money, social grants and RDP houses would be impossible and so would the construction and maintenance of essential infrastructure. Delivery of services and the enormous salary bill of the public sector would collapse. Without taxpayers’ money, this nation would surely crumble. There would be untold suffering and hardship.

With unemployment at its highest since 2003, the tax base is literally smaller than it has been in over a decade. A great few are supporting a great many, and for this reason, among others, South Africans want to see value for their money. All ordinary citizens know, understand and agree that the poorest of us need help, we know that communities need serious development and we know the government must focus on job creation.

Every cent of taxpayers’ money spent must be weighed up against the needs of South Africans. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure does not help the people of this country. It is this fact — it’s not an opinion — that has driven the nation into a state of anger towards President Jacob Zuma.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (who was appointed to his position by the president), presented a report contradicting the Public Protector regarding Nkandla. He stated that certain elements of the Nkandla residence constitute “security expenses”.

Rogan Ward

Rogan Ward

Many residents of the country are now wondering whether they can claim back from tax for similar things.

Obviously the president of the country must be safe, and it is for this reason that section 24D of the Income Tax Act exists.

It reads as follows:

“Section 24D provides a deduction for certain security expenditure actually incurred by a taxpayer in a year of assessment which is not otherwise allowable as a deduction under the Act. The deduction applies to a ‘National Key Point’ as defined in section 1 of the National Key Points Act, 1980, or ‘place’ or ‘area’ which, although not declared as an National Key Point, has been evaluated and approved by the Minister of Defence or any person or committee appointed by the Minister as such a place or area on which measures for the efficient security of the place or area ought to be taken by the taxpayer. No deduction will be granted unless confirmation has been received by the Commissioner for Sars from the Minister of Defence or any person or committee appointed by the Minister to the effect that the expenditure incurred was deemed necessary or expedient [section 24D(2)]. Section 24D is restrictive in its application and will therefore only be relevant to a limited number of taxpayers.”

I do not mean to bore you as you are already familiar with the contents of the Public Protector’s report, which focused on four components not being security expenses at all, so I will not delve into them all.

The most contentious parts of the report by the police minister are arguably the swimming pool and the animal enclosure. I know the police minister as well as the president, really want me to call the pool a “fire pool,” but that would be irrational and I would be lying to myself. I therefore continue to call a spade, a spade. It is a swimming pool.

Reports state that the swimming pool (which is used for swimming) cost between R2 million and R3 million. As a citizen of our beautiful country, President Jacob Zuma can have whatever he wants in his private capacity as long as he pays for it and that the funding is obtained through legal means.

The issue of deeming the swimming pool a “security expense” raises many absurd questions.

Firstly, is a fire extinguisher (even 100 of them), not cheaper?

Is the chlorine in the swimming pool a deductible security expense?

Should water used to extinguish fires always be chlorinated?

Is the creepy crawly a deductible security expense?

Is the pool net a deductible security expense?

Is the pool pump a deductible security expense?

Is the cover for the pool a deductible security expense?

What is the procedure for getting leaves out of the pool? Will such an activity require only a designated security official (ie a personal bodyguard of the president)?

Who is entitled to use this so-called security apparatus?

The police minister’s argument is essentially that it holds water, and that makes it a security feature. If that were its aim (ie just to hold water), one would not need all of the paraphernalia of a swimming pool to go hand in hand with it.

An animal enclosure is not a security feature either. If the animals themselves served a security purpose, the animals and their food would be tax deductible.

Something is amiss here.

The police minister’s report is prima facie in contempt of the Public Protector and I believe the existence of his report holds no real value and is probably illegal. It is inherently irrational.

Section 181(4) of the Constitution states that no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of an institution that strengthens constitutional democracy. The very first of those listed in the Constitution is the Public Protector.

Section 9(1)(b) of the Public Protector Act then states that “no person shall in connection with an investigation do anything which, if the said investigation had been proceeding in a court of law, would have constituted contempt of court.”

As a citizen of South Africa, I love my country. I urge you, I literally beg and plead for you to adhere to the contents of the Public Protector’s report regarding what is a security feature and what is not.

Any other determination would undermine your own intelligence in the eyes of the world and would paint Sars as a corrupt institution that does the bidding of one man. The entire tax system would come into serious questioning.

It will take immense courage to do as I suggest.

Should you be summarily dismissed for acting in a rational and reasonable manner (ie doing your job), the whole country will back you in any action for unfair dismissal. People want to see accountability. They want to see job creation and a government that cares. There is an enormous housing backlog in our country. In some areas, children are schooled under a tree. These are the things that taxpayers’ money should be used for.

Please reject the findings of the police minister.

If you act using your conscience, you will seal your place in history as a man who acted on behalf of the people of South Africa, without fear, favour or prejudice.

We have become a nation of insiders and outsiders. I urge you to say “no more”.

Kind Regards,

Michael Shackleton

Michael Shackleton is a DA councillor in the City of Tshwane and writes in his personal capacity.

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