We Are Still Gatvol: Understanding the Significance of the Toll Protests

2012-01-22 18:19

“We are Still Gatvol!” read the posters at the Chapman Peak toll protests in Cape Town. Similar sentiments were earlier expressed in Gauteng which resulted in the government halting the proposed tolling system.

These protests reveal two important truisms. The first and obvious one is that South Africa’s overstretched taxpayers have had enough of being milked whilst faced with an unresponsive and incompetent government. The unresponsive nature of government was evident in that residents of both Gauteng and Cape Town complained of a lack of consultation on the part of provincial and local government with their constituents.

The incompetent nature of governance is seen in the fact that government departments according to the Auditor-General have clocked up R24.5 billion in wasteful or fruitless expenditure. This is ultimately taxpayers’ money and these are understandably irate.

The second truism lies in the fact that the current economic situation is unsustainable.

The country’s tax base is tiny whilst the demands are ever-growing. Whilst taxpayers account for a little more than five million, those receiving some grant from the state are just over 15 million.

Moreover whilst pay increases have been miniscule, food inflation and electricity price hikes, not to mention school fees has galloped far ahead, further adding to the burden of the country’s small base of taxpayers. Government plans on health care and pensions would only add to the woes of these taxpayers.

This is financial unsustainable and the only way out of this morass is to grow the tax base by getting more people working. Government initiatives in job creation however have been a singular failure and the unsustainable financial situation is perpetuated sinking us all deeper into the abyss.

This financial situation is further compounded by the adverse international economic environment. The ongoing woes in the Eurozone, our largest trading partner, are bound to negatively impact on our exports as the buying power of Europeans decrease. Moreover the stand-off in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme seems to be coming to a head. Should war break out, this would also impact on us negatively. Iran and Saudi Arabia account for more than half of our total imports of oil.

In this midst of this crisis, far from providing leadership, the Zuma administration is playing a bizarre game of musical chairs on the deck of the Titanic. As they quibble over who should be Captain, the ship of state is taking on ever more water. I guess ... that I am gatvol too!

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