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.

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