Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, left, and SARS commissioner Tom Moyane.  Pictures: TREVOR SAMSON
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, left, and SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. Pictures: TREVOR SAMSON

FINANCE Minister Pravin Gordhan adopted a muted tone on Thursday in his dispute with South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane, saying he would look to President Jacob Zuma for direction in resolving their bitter row.

"I’ll leave it to the president to give us the kind of direction that we need to take, but at the end of the day, what you want is a professional set of relationships and a professionally run institution which focuses on its core business," Mr Gordhan told journalists after a postbudget discussion.

That was in stark contrast to his comments last Friday at another public event, when he accused Mr Moyane of defiance and later issued a statement disclosing that the Hawks had included him in an investigation into a "rogue" SARS unit.

It is understood he threatened to quit if Mr Moyane was not removed from office.

The two also differ on the restructuring of SARS. Mr Gordhan asked that the revamp be halted until he had assessed its effects. Mr Moyane went ahead, leading to Mr Gordhan last week saying Mr Moyane’s defiance was unacceptable.

There are concerns the dispute could affect revenue collection negatively.

Some business people feel that the budget presented last month was not enough to convince rating agencies not to downgrade SA to junk status this year.

Downgrades raise the interest rate at which the government borrows.

Asked whether measures announced in his budget were too little and too late, Mr Gordhan said: "It doesn’t matter whether it’s too little, too late. Let’s give it our best shot. If it was too late, at least the people will say we tried and gave it our best shot."

Mr Gordhan is to undertake an investor road show to the US and UK next week and domestic private sector companies had expressed interest in joining the campaign. Meetings would be held with institutions and other investors in South African bonds to explain the budget, he said. While the budget’s policy direction on most issues was "very clear", some uncertainty existed, and needed to be minimised, he said.