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Moyane’s legal bills pile up as he forges ahead with 'unnecessary' court battles

Dec 13 2018 06:32
Tehilla Niselow

Axed South Africa Revenue Services (SARS) Commissioner Tom Moyane faces a growing legal bill as he heads to the Constitutional Court again, this time to appeal a scathing North Gauteng High Court ruling which upheld his dismissal. 

On Tuesday, Judge Hans Fabricius, in dismissing Moyane's bid to have his dismissal overturned, ruled that he will also have to foot the bill of two counsel. The costs order is on "the punitive scale of attorney and client" as the litigation was "vexatious and abusive".

Natasha Moni, a director at Moni Inc and labour law expert, said a punitive costs order allowed the other parties in the case to set their legal fees higher than the court tariffs allowed. The court regulations are far below what normal attorney fees are.

Moyane 'punished' 

"A punitive costs order is really just punishing you because you should not have gone knocking on that door," Moni told Fin24.

She described Moyane's high court and Constitutional Court actions as unnecessary. Moni said he could have approached the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) to challenge his dismissal, where proceedings are far cheaper. 

He would have been able to make use of a legal team in the CCMA case as this is allowed at the discretion of commissioners and the matter is in the public interest, she said. 

Moni added that the high court usually adjudicates on contractual employment matters but Moyane was a permanent employee of SARS. Moyane has waged a lengthy battle to regain his job.

He employed the services of Eric Mabuza, a managing partner at Mabuza Attorneys since at least May, when he challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa’s establishment of a disciplinary inquiry and his suspension.  

Ramaphosa fired Moyane on November 1, after receiving the Nugent Commission of Inquiry's interim report, which recommended he be sacked. The inquiry was set up to look into administrative governance at SARS.

Possible legal fees

Mabuza could not comment on how much his services were costing Moyane, due to client-lawyer confidentiality.

Fin24 spoke to Elize Le Roux, director at SSLR Inc., about the breakdown of possible legal fees: 

•  Lawyers charge between R850 - R3 500 per hour pro-rata. This includes any email, perusal of documents, research or correspondence they might have to undertake on behalf of the client.

•  Lawyers’ hourly rate depends on their seniority, where the firm is situated and the difficulty of the case.

•  If lawyers spend time answering media queries on behalf of their client, the normal standard is to charge for any time spent. 

• For higher courts, advocates are required to argue cases. Senior counsel’s hourly rate is between R3 500 and R5 000. They charge a day rate of between R30 000 - R50 000, even if a case is postponed.

• Senior counsels usually require a junior counsel who are entitled to charge two thirds of what the SC fees are.

A SARS spokesperson confirmed to Fin24 that the revenue agency is not paying his legal fees.

According to the SARS annual report in 2016/2017, Moyane earned R3.6m. The final Nugent Commission report with further recommendations to stabilise the tax service is expected to be handed over to Ramaphosa on Friday. 

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