Disciplinary of top Sars man on ice
Accused of giving info to Ipid, NPA after office ‘hostage drama’
VLOK Symington, the legal specialist who has worked at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) for the past 25 years and was at the centre of an alleged bizarre hostage drama at the taxman’s offices, will not face a disciplinary hearing on Monday and Tuesday as planned.
Sars agreed yesterday to place the hearing on ice until the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ruled whether it should go ahead or not.
Symington turned to court to ask for an order to interdict his employer and Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane from instituting disciplinary proceedings against him. He is facing four charges, which include insubordination, unbecoming conduct , the use of abusive language and bringing the name of Sars into disrepute.
Symington, who was central to an alleged hostage drama at the head office of Sars, made headlines when he was allegedly held hostage by the Hawks on October 18 last year.
This was shortly before then finance minister Pravin Gordhan was charged with fraud.
Symington said he now faced disciplinary charges and possible dismissal for having made “protected disclosures” to the Independent Investigative Directorate, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and to Sars as to what had happened that day.
He said he could thus not face disciplinary proceedings as he was protected in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act, which protected whistle-blowers.
Symington laid complaints following his hostage drama ordeal, but said in a sudden turn of events, he was the one to face a disciplinary hearing and not the real culprits, which she said included Moyane’s bodyguard, Tabo Titi.
Sars decided that they both had to face disciplinary charges.
These complaints relate to events at Sars head office when Symington was allegedly held hostage in the boardroom by Hawks officials and Titi. At the time they demanded certain documents from him which were eventually forcibly removed. It emerged that these documents contained an e-mail trail between Sars, Advocate Torie Pretorius who was due to prosecute Gordhan and others. The document was mistakenly given to Symington when he was handed a series of questions he had to answer, relating to the Gordhan arrests.
The Hawks and Titi were so adamant to retrieve the document containing vital information regarding Gordhan’s arrest, that they forced it out of his hands.
An upset Symington complained to Sars about the way in which he was treated and he instituted a formal grievance.
Attorney Thipe Mothle was asked by Sars to investigate whether there was a case to answer to. Mothle issued a report, clearing Symington and advising that action should be taken against Titi. But a month later there was a complete about turn, with Sars human resources advising Symington and Titi that they would both face a disciplinary hearing.
Symington is adamant that Monyane is behind this and he asked Ipid to investigate.
He disclosed certain information to Ipid and the NPA as to what happened on the day of the alleged hostage drama and thereafter.
But Sars said it decided to institute disciplinary proceedings against Symington, purely based on his conduct on October 18 and not on the basis of what happened afterwards.
Judge Hans Fabricius was told by Sars that Symington couldn’t rely on protected disclosures, as in the case of a whistle-blower, as the charges were based purely on his conduct that day and not on information he had disclosed to anyone.
Counsel for Symington, on the other hand, said this case had nothing to do with the fact whether he would receive a fair disciplinary hearing or not. The case was whether he should be protected as a so-called whistle-blower or not.
Judge Fabricius reserved judgment.
Vlok Symington with an unidentifed companion in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.