The great white-tax debate – A wealth tax if only to end guilt

2011-08-13 17:19

How long must whites in South Africa feel guilt for the sins of their ­fathers?

Ad infinitum, it sometimes seems – which is why I’m up for the “wealth tax” on whites that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu called for this week in Stellenbosch.

As a white South African, I’m weary of the blame game – of people like ANC Youth League president Julius Malema blaming all ills on “white imperialists” and “white tendencies”.

Give me a “white tax” any day and absolve me of my people’s sins, I say. Then I can stand up proudly and say: “Level the playing field in the workplace – no more ­employment equity.”

I can stop feeling brow-beaten into handing out money to beggars at traffic lights.

The Archbishop’s heart is ­obviously in the right place, but I feel duty-bound to the future of the South African Revenue Service to point out that not too many whites I know have “stock exchange holdings” from which they could give a “piffling” amount as a white tax.

Like the middle class of all races in this country, I’m squeezed by the high cost of school fees, medical aid, rising petrol and electricity prices.

But I do take the Arch’s point that whites need to accept that we benefited from apartheid.

I accepted that years ago.

My grandparents – one an orphan and the other one of only two to finish school in a dirt-poor family of seven children – pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, their smarts and honest hard work.

 But job reservations and skewed resources towards whites aided their path into the middle class.

My family became better off with every generation and I benefited directly from apartheid by getting a good education (I finished school in 1989) that helped me get a good job.

The rest was up to me – and the ethos of hard work that was instilled in me by my parents and grandparents. And that’s what I have to offer this country – what use is my white guilt? Let’s cough up and be done with it already. 

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