Pretoria, 01 March 2017 – The South African Revenue Service scooped the major prize in the Government/Public Sector Category for the promotion of multilingualism last night at the Annual Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) Awards.
The award was jointly shared with the Department of Sport and Recreation. The prize is South Africa’s premier acknowledgement for work in multilingualism and is a recognition for the major strides made by the SARS’ Language Unit.
In particular, SARS was recognised for an effective service delivery campaign/project/programme in the public sector that seeks to promote multilingualism or any of the 11 official languages including Khoi, Nama, San as well as Sign Language.
“This award is an important acknowledgement of the good work that the SARS Language Unit has done over the past 12 months. What makes this award even more immense is the fact that the unit is a mere one year old,” said Hlengani Mathebula, SARS Chief Officer for Strategy and Communications.
“Given the nature of tax and the fact that most South Africans, from all walks of life are affected by SARS from PAYE, personal income tax to VAT, it was a natural step for SARS to embrace the Language Act which, at its heart, seeks to ensure that government communicates with citizens in a language, tone and manner that they are comfortable with,” added Mathebula.
SARS developed its language policy in 2015 which set in motion ambitious goals of communication with taxpayers in various languages. Notable highlights from the SARS Language Unit over the past 12 months include:
  • Translation of specific tax information on the SARS website to isiZulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, Sepedi & Xitsonga,
  • Translation of educational material / presentations targeting taxpayers in their respective official languages,
  • A research project covering four provinces on how SARS can best serve the needs of the Deaf and Blind particularly at its various branches was undertaken and recommendations made,
  • A pilot research of offering the services (tax returns, general enquiries on tax issues, refunds, etc.) through the use of South African Sign Language interpreters was undertaken at selected SARS branches in Gauteng, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape.
“Whilst SARS draws tremendous inspiration from this acknowledgement, we are well aware that the hard work does not stop here. It is our mission to demystify tax and to make it easier for the millions of honest taxpayers to meet their tax obligations. Communicating with taxpayers in their language of choice is a huge part of this ethos and our ultimate goal,” said Mathebula.