Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Tom Moyane, the commissioner of the SA Revenue Service (Sars), is mighty unimpressed with this magazine after we dubbed him "the man breaking Sars" last week. But then he hasn’t exactly won many friends since opening a criminal case, implicating finance minister Pravin Gordhan, on wafer-thin grounds.

But the issue now is whether Moyane dithered when shown evidence of ostensibly shady behaviour by his deputy, Jonas Makwakwa, a 19-year Sars veteran who has been described as Moyane’s "hatchet man".

In a statement pregnant with irony, Moyane said the Financial Mail was "malicious" and part of a group that "does not want to allow a legitimate process ... with respect to the allegations against Jonas Makwakwa to follow due process."

It’s rather rich of Moyane to now invoke "due process".

As long ago as May, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) alerted him to claims that Makwakwa "may be involved in, or facilitating corrupt activities".

It’s not as if the FIC’s report was open to much interpretation: CCTV footage showed Makwakwa depositing cash at bank branches and ATMs. In all, R1.2m was deposited into his, and his girlfriend’s, accounts.

"The volume and value of cash deposits are highly unusual, as Makwaka is permanently employed," the FIC said.

And yet it took four months for Moyane to suspend Makwakwa — and only after the story appeared in the Sunday Times.

Nor, seemingly, was "due process" the top priority when Moyane passed that damning FIC report directly to Makwakwa who, rather than explaining the money, bombarded the FIC with questions over how it got the information initially.

"Due process" also wasn’t much in evidence in 2014 when Moyane suspended the entire Sars executive committee based on (incorrect) news reports, days earlier, that Sars had run a brothel. So you can forgive the media a little scepticism.

On radio, Sars spokesman Luther Lebelo was more blunt last week, saying our reporting was "anti-South African", and undermining the country.

But Lebelo is selective on the facts. Sars had, after all, blithely ignored all our questions before the article came out.

If anyone is really "anti-South African", Mr Lebelo, it’s the people who show a wavering resolution to tackling corruption. All Moyane had to do was explain why it took him four months to act. Yet he didn’t.

But then Moyane, who traces his relationship with President Jacob Zuma back to his days in exile in Mozambique in 1976, seems to have always struggled to understand the media’s role.

In March, he and Makwakwa filed a defamation suit against the Mail & Guardian for "severe reputational damage" when the newspaper published a report detailing how a group of Sars insiders, led by Makwakwa, were quietly grabbing the levers of power. The article claimed Makwakwa had become "all-powerful" following a "restructuring" which gave him the final say on tax settlements with "high net worth" people.

So the M&G, which is being sued for R4m partly for injuring Makwakwa’s "reputation and good name", will have taken particular glee in revelations that he wasn’t averse to spending his evenings stuffing cash into ATMs.

Also, when former Sars spokesman Adrian Lackay wrote to parliament detailing instances of deceit within the institution, Moyane sued him for R12m — and laid criminal charges for disclosing taxpayer details. (It’s a battle that may go all the way to the constitutional court: nobody should be prevented from exposing wrongdoing by Sars’ archaic "confidentiality" rules.)

It doesn’t stop there. Individuals say impromptu tax "audits" have, coincidentally, been launched against the families of former Sars officials who dared to challenge Moyane.

It paints a picture of someone deeply insecure, either immune to advice or surrounded by people who don't know better. It's an ugly picture.