When rich is filthy

2010-10-23 15:39

Call them what you will, but some of South Africa’s rich should really be called “vulgar”.

It is not by ­accident that ours is a society full of kings and queens of bling; yet it is also undoubtedly home to kings and queens of ­abject squalor and poverty.

The vulgar rich are on a roll, spending on obscenely expensive cars as if they have no conscience.

You should see them roar into shopping malls in their expensive cars, at unsettling speeds, and head straight for the disabled parking ­area, ­even though other ordinary parking bays may be open.

There they will park with brazen ­indifference to social etiquette, and saunter away from their car with a walk that reeks of irredeemable arrogance.

Why the need to drive so fast in car parks? It’s not a freeway! It is as if once they have acquired some cash, their judgment is clouded.

Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi’s has been one of the few voices that have strongly criticised this unprecedented public flaunting of wealth: but more should join him.

Never before on our roads have there been so many of these cars that scream “extreme opulence”.

There was a time when Gauteng, especially Joburg, was seen as the place where you were most likely to find the flashiest individuals.

But that has all changed now, and strewn across the country, from Thohoyandou to Simon’s Town, you will find an ever increasing number of those who cannot resist the urge to flash their riches.

Even the poorest villlage will have its own tycoon who has minted it in one or other dubious tender; who wants his slice of the luxury car action.

It seems that even before the ink has dried on many of these contracts, the first thing that gets ordered is the ultra-luxury car. Such is the rush to get in on the action that none of these people stop to ask themselves if there are not better ways to celebrate the fruits of their success.

You see them through the prism of their expensive cars and you realise just how much these members of the elite exempt themselves from the rules of common decency.

In a country where so many struggle with poverty daily, for the so-called “elite” the status symbol of choice is the luxury car that costs enough to build several villages.

Ironically, a few of them have made their money from building low-cost housing, and you wonder how “low-cost” housing can be so profitable.

What is more annoying is that these are the same characters who will plead hard times when their ­employees ask for better salaries.

How do they live with themselves, knowing that their workers and community see their displays of wealth yet they are not honourable enough to pay decent wages.

Yet they think nothing of forking out more than R5 million to buy a ­Ferrari or a Rolls Royce.

The monthly repayment on some of these cars, such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom, is more than their lowest-paid workers will make in their lifetime.

In a country that desperately needs positive role models, it is distressing that so many with the means to make a difference choose instead to go on a binge of luxury cars.

They succumb to the temptation to show off, but pretty soon they have lost all the moral authority from their success that could have allowed them to guide the millions of youth who wish to model themselves on someone.

It is wonderful that people have made serious money, and they have every right to spend it as they see fit; but they should remember that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Wealth should not equal irresponsibility, recklessness, bad manners and poor judgment.

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