Apology to Sars staff way to go
Last week the SA Revenue Service commissioner Edward Kieswetter announced that the entity had publicly apologised to former Sars employees who were adversely affected by the organisation in the state capture years.
Sars said the settlements gave effect to one of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by Sars (Nugent Commission), which found that there had been a massive failure of integrity and governance at Sars under the tenure of former commissioner Tom Moyane.
This welcome development is almost unprecedented in SA employer-employee relations history, even though it is in keeping with the nation’s DNA in the new order. The post-1994 SA was founded on the understanding that acknowledgement of the wrongs of the past and making a deliberate effort to heal them, would give us a new beginning. This was the basis of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
So profound was this example that several other countries around the world started their own versions of confronting their uncomfortable pasts.
A lot has been said about the damage to state-owned institutions not so much about how this affected individuals, families, careers as well as the physical and mental health of those concerned.
Kieswetter’s decision is a brave and humble, especially considering that the harm happened under someone else’s watch.
The vast scale of state capture demands that other institutions take a leaf from Sars and do what they must to heal pain.
This is not to suggest that they copy and paste from the Sars example. The minimum should be the acknowledgement of the hurt that was caused in various ways.
Just like it worked, or was intended to with national reconciliation, confronting uncomfortable pasts we might have preferred to ignore will give organisations with a hurting past, an opportunity to rediscover their better selves. It will send a strong message to the current workforce that the leaders of these institutions and organisations recognise their humanity.
In other words, Kieswetter and Sars’ top management’s decision has been an exemplar of what the much abused ubuntu concept can contribute to industrial relations.