2014-09-11 00:00

EVERY month, we work hard to generate an income to provide for ourselves and our families.

However, before that hard-earned money hits your bank account, the tax department has taken its cut — and just as you run to the nearest ATM to draw a couple of notes, your phone beeps because all your debit orders are going through.

Alas, by the end of the beeping, you’re left with almost nothing on which to survive. Yet the very next day, you still need to find the motivation to wake up and work another day so the same process can repeat itself at the end of the next month.

The Nkandla scandal has got many people talking and most want the president to pay back the money. Which makes sense. We all work hard to earn the money we have and it is painful to find out someone you have entrusted with your hard-earned money is using that very money to make his personal home comfortable.

I believe President Jacob Zuma is not the first to have done this. Others in similar positions of power have done the same, maybe not on the same scale, but they have definitely taken money that does not belong to them for their own betterment or for the enrichment of their family.

South Africa is currently going through a recession with large companies retrenching staff. The cost of living is going up, inflation is rising rapidly and the person on the street is battling to get through the month.

Statistics South Africa released a survey in which it found that the current unemployment rate in South Africa was 25,5% for the past quarter, which I am sure will change with the number of companies retrenching workers by the day.

Within this current situation, you would think people in leadership would have the heart to sympathise with the masses, but instead various investigations are being conducted into many high-ranking officials for embezzlement.

The average working-class person gets taxed between 15% and 30% of his or her salary. On top of that, every time we walk into a store to buy the bare essentials, we are taxed a further 14% value-added tax (VAT) on everything we purchase.

It is insane to believe so much money is going towards the government and the hard-working masses are contributing so much, but get so little in return.

What makes an individual think taking taxpayers’ money for personal enrichment is okay?

Could it be that they think they are entitled to it, or is it that they believe people are powerless and won’t object, or do they think we are just plain stupid?

Even more disturbing is that — when asked about their transgressions — their answers are laughable, if you get any at all.

When so much of our livelihood is taken in tax, why is the working class so lax about the amount of corruption taking place in government?

If someone you know owes you money, you raise hell until he or she pays you back every cent. Or if your bank overcharges you for something, you would be the first person at the branch or would spend several rands on the phone trying to inquire about the incorrect bill.

Yet when it comes to the money you don’t even get to touch every month, most just complain among colleagues and friends and it pretty much ends there.

People in KwaZulu-Natal have more of an opinion on what’s happening in Gaza or Lesotho than what is happening in their own bank accounts.

No one has organised a protest outside Nkandla or a petition that would make the rounds with the signatures of people who want to see change, but we are quick to ask for the five cents owed to us at the grocery store when something is R19,95. Surely we, the working class, should be a bit more proactive?

The nation survives on the backs of those who wake up every day to make an honest living, which makes us a lot more powerful than we want to believe. It is refreshing, however, to have gutsy political opposition demanding what the working class deserve and want — pay back the money.

• Catch Carol Ralefeta on East Coast Radio every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 am to 2 pm.

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