Kgomotso Matsunyane

The Car Owner's Tax

2007-10-25 10:19

Kgomotso Matsunyane

It's IRP 5 season and Trevor Manuel wants his money to keep this country on track. But I want to declare something else to Trevor that he overlooks every year - The Car Owners Tax (lets call it TCOT for short).

This is the tax only car owners get exclusive rights to pay, and is paid daily at robots and when parking your car in the open. See, this tax is typically paid to the vendors of Homeless Talk, which I stopped pretending to read years ago so now I just pay the tariff.

When I'm in CT of course it's The Big Issue, and I take my copy and keep it on the dashboard so as not to be chased with too much zeal by other vendors, but this trick only works for the month that the magazine is current of course.

And then there's the brothers who are on a mission to sell you something - anything - from plastic hangers and refuse bags to useless toys and hands-free car kits that I'm pretty sure did not pass the SABS approval test. Then of course there's the proper, bona-fide, good old fashioned beggars, who come in all colours of the rainbow these days.

Oh yes, affirmative action is alive and well in Mzansi. Unlike before, however, the beggars now have to up their game to get your attention, as you can't just sommer stand there and hope for the best. No, there are people with real disabilities to contend with, and looking desperate is not enough anymore.

With admirable efficiency, the blind Zimbabweans have taken over every major intersection in Jo'burg. And yes, I've actually rolled down my window to ask their nationality, not out of some xenophobic motivation, but because I was curious.


Paying the TCOT can be a demoralising exercise, as I never have enough money to spread around. So I pick my TCOT collectors precisely. My most regular collector is the woman on the corner of Owl and Empire Streets in Milpark who has been there for seven-years now.

I've seen her through her pregnancy, and her son is now a cutie pie of a five-year-old who joins his mother on the corner every public holiday.

I wonder what he gets to talk about when other kids brag about visiting exotic sounding places like Durban, or visiting grandparents in the rural areas for the holidays. I don't even know her name, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't know mine either, but she knows me, and I know her. In these times names are not as important as cash.

I'm completely conflicted about this particular tax issue, because I am not convinced that I am really empowering somebody by feeding into this inertia. By the same token, it strikes me that most people beg as an absolute last alternative.

But will my car be stolen?

It is frustrating that those who missed the boat by not having the right education, the right twang or the right relative seem doomed to a life of dependence, and I see no clear indication of how exactly we intend to change this.

Sure, there are government grants, and these are enormously effective in helping to alleviate our excessive poverty, but I do worry that we're paying too much attention chasing the deal, and not enough to do the real job of what needs to be done to give all of us that are willing and able, a fighting chance.

To chase my tax blues away, tonight I'll be saying good bye to an old friend - the fire of Thursday ragga sessions at Horror Café (with The Admiral and Jah Seed) will burn no more after tonight.

I'll park my car, nod at a brother wearing a reflector jacket, and on my departure I shall pay the requisite TCOT, and pray hope my car is in still in one piece.

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