Zemk’ iinkomo magwala

I have not been writing much recently and observing my Dad’s golden rule ‘if you haven’t got anything to say then for God’s sake shut up.’ But there is a limit to that. Listening to Professor Sipho Pityana giving a tribute at Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile’s funeral, I had to pen something.

It is just sad that the fourth anniversary of the Marikana tragedy has passed almost without notice. The event was significant enough to set the scene in the first chapter of Thomas Piketty’s international best seller ‘ Capital in the 21st century’. But where it actually happened we have learned nothing.

Last week STATSA released South Africa’s 2016 population statistics and SA came within a whisker of 56 million people. Economic growth rates may have declined to nil, but our population keeps growing.

The SA population is now just 2 million less than the 58 million population estimate that forms the basis of the National Development plan 2030. At this rate there will be 8 million more people in SA by 2030 than our plan provides for. To survive, most will need a child grant, free basic education, hopefully National Health Insurance and hope to find a good job. And the minister responsible for the NDP, Trevor Manuel, has retired from politics with no apparent succession plan.

Yet the 19th birthday present, for most, is the shocking reality of a broken education, no more grants until 65 (unless disabled) and the job prospects of a snowflake in a desert. Are we really expecting them all to sleep in underserviced townships for more than 45 years until they ultimately qualify for an old age pension?

National Treasury studies have revealed that we have to create another 9 million new good jobs in the next 50 years or face dire consequences.

The significance of the Marikana tragedy, (outside of the findings of the Commission of Enquiry) is that if you neglect people for long enough the result will be social chaos. On 16 June 1976 there were about 25 million South Africans. Imagine what 56 million could do in a South African version of a spring uprising. SA cannot even cope with 1 million students when they get rowdy over #feesmustfall.

But the concerns of the wealthy seems to be the latest tax amendments targeting the income tax and estate duty savings of their family trusts. Or whether or not they should come clean on their offshore loot in the special voluntary disclosure programme that starts on 1 October.

Many reckon the Davis Tax Committee are a bunch of idiots for recommending that something be done about all of this. When only 100 000 of the 300 000 registered trusts in SA bother to even submit an annual tax return. Are they joking?

Cape Town economist Murray Leibrandt, presents the shocking reality. In 1948, at the dawn of apartheid, the top1% of SA owned 20% of the income. Even we got to the new SA,  the top 1% owned 10% of the income. Today the top 1% owns 20% of the income. And it is getting worse.

In the boardrooms of SA Inc,  we extol the virtues of modern corporate governance and social responsibility. Meanwhile the human resources teams are visiting universities and telling students to continue fulltime study and accumulating debt. ‘When you are done we will give you a job, if you’re good enough, that is. No bursaries, we spend that money on CSI initiatives.’

In the public/parent/business partnership that is the very basis of all universities, SA’s business community is conspicuous by its absence, waiting for the State to sort out the #feesmustfall mess.

The generous provisions of the Income Tax Act, BBBEE and SETA systems are all but ignored by business today when they could be coming to the party. Business, in these difficult times, is spoilt for choice of employees. They can take their pick without investing a cent.

In parliament we have been arguing about Nkandla for 2000 days. During that time 6 million new babies have joined the queues for support. That’s enough to fill the Calabash stadium 60 times over. And we could have paid for Nkandla in full with 2 hours worth of tax receipts.

Now that the Nkandla debacle is finally on the decline and Oscar Pistorius is in prison for some time,  we have to find some more sensation! So let us target the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, and a trumped up charge involving the pension benefits of Ivan Pillay. SA could pay the R1,2 million in 30 seconds of tax collections but we are prepared to risk a downgrade and economic chaos in the pursuit of a vendetta.

When Bizos, Manuel, Ramaphosa, Kriegler and so many other true South Africans have to express their outrage at Hawks behavior surely it is high time we all did more. How can we permit this attack on the very man that built the tax system that financed the new SA and checked degeneration into social chaos?

20 years ago the journalist Mike Loewe asked me why I stayed in SA and why I didn’t take my CA(SA) and make a pile overseas. My flippant answer was ‘I want to see the end of the movie of the new SA!’ I always believed there would be a happy ending.

Since Nenegate the movie has changed from being a thriller to horror. It just has!

In the wonder that was the rainbow nation we all became an apathetic lot. If we weren’t all addicted to social media we would resemble the drunken crowds at the circus in Roman times. We just love the blood when we demolish the little leadership we have.

Hopefully the results of the municipal elections reflect that times are changing. But waiting to vote again in 2019 is just not going to do it.

As my colleague, Owen Skae, has written, Leadership we need it, where is it?

Leadership: we need it, where is it?


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