Lawyers for the South African Revenue Service (Sars) want key documents relating to the infamous "rogue unit" saga to be disallowed as evidence in a labour dispute with one of the revenue collector's former employees.
Proceedings in former Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay's bid to have his departure from Sars classified as a constructive dismissal finally got under way at the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday.
However, a request by Sars' legal team to bar documents submitted by Lackay has prompted CCMA commissioner Joyce Nkopane to delay the proceedings for up to two weeks. Nkopane said she would inform the affected parties within 14 days of her decision on whether or not the documents would be allowed to form part of the hearing.
Lackay, who resigned from Sars in 2015 amid the political storm over a so-called "rogue unit" that had supposedly operated at the tax collector, argued through his legal representatives that his working conditions had become unbearable to the extent that he was left with no choice but to resign. This, Lackay's legal team argued, would constitute a constructive dismissal.
Advocate Wisani Sibuyi, acting for Sars, spent much of the first day arguing that some of the addenda in Lackay's submission were documents that pertained to the "rogue unit" issue and were therefore not relevant to the labour dispute.
Ironically, Sibuyi argued that allowing the "rogue unit" matter to feature in the arbitration process would cause for the matter to be dragged out unnecessarily, which, according to him, would go against the Labour Relations Act's stipulation that CCMA proceedings should be dealt with speedily.
DETAILED EXPLANATION OF UNIT IN DOCUMENTS
Sibuyi seemed to take particular exception with the inclusion in Lackay's submission of a document dating from 2009.
"You don't need to go back to 2009 [in order to consider a current labour issue]," Sibuyi argued.
News24 understands the document Sibuyi referred to is a formal response Sars had compiled in 2010 after a document had begun to do the rounds early that year in which it was alleged that Sars had run an illegal spying unit.
The distribution of this document, dubbed the "Snowman dossier", had occurred several years before the Sunday Times newspaper's reports on the same allegations would spark the fallout that would eventually see the exodus of a host of former Sars investigators.
The documents that Sars' lawyers now want excluded from the CCMA proceedings are said to include very detailed submissions from Sars' then leadership, explaining in detail what the Sars investigative unit's mandate was and why allegations that it had acted illegally were false.
Apart from its opposition to the inclusion of the documents in question, Sars' legal team on Monday also argued that there had never been an attempt by Sars to get rid of Lackay in the wake of the "rogue unit" fiasco and that there was no indication of his working conditions having become "intolerable".