The SA Revenue Service (Sars) breached deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s contract when it suspended him without giving written notice, the Labour Court in Johannesburg found on Thursday.
“Clearly… Sars acted in breach of the contract when it issued the suspension notice without complying with… the suspension policy,” Judge Annelie Basson said in her judgment.
“I am also persuaded that the applicant was not afforded an opportunity to make representations.”
She ordered that Pillay’s suspension be lifted and he return to work the next working day following the date of the order.
Sars was ordered to pay costs.
On December 5, Sars commissioner Tom Moyane announced the suspension of Pillay and strategic planning and risk group executive Peter Richer.
This followed the appointment by Pillay of a panel to investigate allegations reported in the media about a special projects unit and its alleged illegal activities at Sars.
Sars chief operations officer Barry Hore has also resigned.
On Wednesday, Pillay and Richer approached the Labour Court to have their suspensions overturned.
Richer reached a settlement with Sars and his suspension was withdrawn on Wednesday. The court made a draft order confirming this.
In her judgment Basson outlined how Pillay was informed by one of Moyane’s assistants that the commissioner wanted to see him.
No prior notice of the meeting was given. Pillay met Moyane and someone from human resources.
Pillay was then informed by the commissioner that he was suspended based on issues mentioned in a report written by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane pertaining to allegations about the alleged rogue unit.
According to Pillay he told Moyane that in his view the report erred in fact and in law and that he had given his written report to the commissioner to read.
Pillay alleged Moyane told him he had not read the report and would not read it as it was Pillay’s opinion. Pillay was then given a pre-typed suspension letter.
According to Moyane, Pillay had not given reasons why he should not be suspended and did not ask to be allowed to make written representations.
Basson said she would not decide on the fairness of the suspension as she was mindful that this was for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration to decide.
“On the facts of this matter… it appears that the applicant has not been afforded any opportunity to make representations before the decision to suspend him was made,” she said.
“I draw this conclusion despite the commissioner’s averment that he invited the applicant to make submissions.”
Basson ruled that the matter was urgent and the court could not ignore the considerable media exposure that followed Pillay’s suspension.
“In conclusion, I am also persuaded that the applicant has established the requisites for an interdict. More in particular I am of the view… that the applicant has established a clear right to the relief he seeks.”