Georgina Guedes

Zuma's ivory tower

2013-10-24 14:53

Georgina Guedes

Margaret is my beautician. She lives in Soweto and works in Parkwood. She's exactly the kind of small-scale entrepreneur that makes South Africa’s economy tick.

She made sure that she had the training and experience to be self-sufficient, and then she went on her own. She works out of a small, pleasant room at the back of a hairdressing salon. She has two children who have finished school and are now employed or studying further.

And Margaret has a car. She didn't get finance; she saved up and bought a second-hand car cheaply from one of her clients. She keeps it in good condition, and because she's not reliant on public transport, she has the flexibility to service her clients when they need her. The car helps her to earn better.

She's worried about e-tolls. R400 extra a month is a lot of money to have to factor in to a lifestyle like hers. It's not disposable income for her.

She already works long hours and weekends to make ends meet, so just adding in a couple of clients here and there to make up this new expense item isn't really an option. And why should she have to? And there isn't really an alternative route through to Parkwood from Soweto.

It's the country's problem

I am fortunate that e-tolls aren't a huge deal for me, personally. I work from home. I do have the occasional meeting down the highway, but I can either suck it up or build it into the client's budget. But I am opposed to e-tolls generally, because I, unlike our president, am aware that the rest of the country is not made up of people who are like me.

Never mind this "we can't think like Africans" nonsense (what kind of self-hating…?), but for Zuma to blithely say that workers who could afford and maintain a car would be able to pay e-tolls, and the rest of the people could use public transport, is to be completely blind and numb to the way in which many South Africans are struggling to live.

For someone earning, say, R4 000 a month - a fairly good wage by South African standards - that R400 is money that has to be diverted away from food and rent to meet the demands of a tax-and-toll-hungry government.

Whether they have saved to afford a second-hand car or are using a public transport system that will doubtless get more expensive with the toll overheads, it’s these people that are going to be the worst affected by the tolls. Hell, I'd think seriously about taking on an additional expense of R400 a month and I earn well!

Zuma is not a man of the people

For the president to dismiss the working man's plight with such a nonsensical statement is, I suppose, only the kind of behaviour that can be expected from a man who has the state supporting his four wives and seemingly endless upgrades and alterations at Nklandla. I'd like to see him lob 10% off his salary - rhetoric that he's going to "lead from the front" with budget cuts notwithstanding.

The whole thing stinks, but what really stinks is that it's yet another mechanism for making the poor poorer, while the rich - and especially the government - continue to enjoy the view from their ivory towers.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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