This is how you can navigate black tax conversations during the pandemic

This is how you can navigate black tax conversations during the pandemic.
This is how you can navigate black tax conversations during the pandemic.
Jose Luiz Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

  • The pandemic requires of us to review our financial decisions
  • DRUM speaks to an expert on how to approach conversations about black tax


In times of uncertainty, finances become a matter of survival. The first thing we do to weather the storm is to take a closer look at our budgets, and some big expenses often come from within our own families.

Asanda Mayiza* (27), a hairstylist in Cape Town, says her salary has dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic. “My mother has partly depended on me for the past six years and I’ve always made sure I can send her money every month or whenever she needs it. The coronavirus has made this incredibly difficult.

“At first, we weren’t working at all and applications to the relief fund from my employer took some time to come through, so I had to dip into my savings,” Asanda says.

Asanda shares that it’s difficult to make do with the little she now makes – they’re working fewer shifts at the salon – as she still needs to send money to her mother who is unemployed and solely dependent on her daughter.

Read more | How should you approach your finances during and after the Covid-19 pandemic? Expert weighs in

The pandemic provides an opportunity for some, and a challenge for many, to have conversations with family members about financial support.

Author and personal finance coach Vangile Makwakwa tells DRUM she believes the first thing you need to do is start having conversations about what’s going on in your life right now.

“The people who you support financially need to know if you still have a job, or if your salary dropped and whether you have any new expenses,” she says.

Makwakwa says it’s important to be honest and open with them on the impact recent events have had on your finances. “That’s one of the first things we need to be willing to do. To be open, not only with family but also to be self-aware on where one is financially.

“Once you sit down with people and try to redraft your budget to see what amount of money they need to buy the basics to make it through the month, the next step is to see if you can afford to give that amount, and if not – how much can you spare?

“Try to make them understand how much you can give and why, and what this means for both of you – the giver and the recipient – so that you know a portion of your salary is allocated to this form of support and they know how much to expect from you.”

Read more | “My salary dropped as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown - this is how I’m surviving”

Makwakwa stresses the importance of having these conversations as it helps set boundaries between yourself and your family as to how often or how much they can expect from you.

She says that as uncomfortable as these conversations are, they’re necessary. They help establish how often financial assistance can be expected from you, if they can call on you for emergencies and how long this assistance is going to be expected. Will you need to help indefinitely, in the case of an elder, or for a period of months or years in the case of a younger sibling?

“The issue is not black tax itself – because helping people isn’t always that strenuous – it’s that there is no clarity or terms of agreement. This means it can be easily misinterpreted and that’s where resentment comes in.”

Makwakwa advises that people try to be as clear and as intentional as possible when it comes to black tax.

“These conversations are really important and can help salvage relationships. When people over-give, they tend to become resentful. There comes a point where they’re not giving because you want to but rather from a place of obligation and this can lead to a lot of problems.”

Read more | How this Soweto-born businessman learnt to adapt his business during the Covid-19 pandemic

Makwakwa also encourages families to investigate other means of sustaining themselves. This can be a way of lifting the burden on one person and remove the reliance on money from a single source of income.  

“Food is one of the biggest expenses in any household. Where possible, consider using your land to plant everyday food or vegetables,” she says.

“The family can be creative in how they start to meet their own basic needs by using the land to sustain themselves.”

Makwakwa believes being innovative with our accessible resources can go a long way.

*Not her real name.