'I propose a brand-new tax for our already burdened taxpayers'
It's probably not the best moment for me to propose a new tax.
There's a R50-billion hole in the fiscus that the state plans to fill by raising taxes and cutting expenditure‚ which means it will raise taxes and employ consultants to explain to it why it's failing to cut expenditure.
Then there's the growing suspicion of SARS itself‚ not to mention the widely held view that large chunks of our tax are being handed over to a gallery of international rogues.
Indeed‚ many South Africans are now wondering if they’re still law-abiding citizens trying to contribute to the welfare of the country or if they’ve become unwilling sponsors of state captors.
So yes‚ I understand that it’s not the ideal time for me to call for a new tax. But hear me out‚ because the tax I have in mind – let’s call it a Democracy Tax – is only a few hundred bucks in the short term and will save us hundreds of billions down the line.
Democracy Tax won’t be levied by SARS. It can’t be‚ because it is a tax specifically designed to protect us from the state in its current dysfunctional and predatory form. Rather‚ it would be given directly to those organizations and institutions that fight for transparency‚ for justice‚ and for the rights of citizens; that fight for the very survival of democracy.
The beneficiaries of your Democracy Tax are up to you‚ but I believe there are two clear options.
The first is small vanguard of NGOs that drags our inept or overreaching politicians to court and that spends long‚ thankless hours pursuing justice for forgotten or overlooked communities once the Twitter headlines have moved on.
The other is local investigative journalism. Understaffed‚ underfunded and overstretched‚ it continues to shine a light into dark places‚ its mere existence sometimes giving pause to those predators who would otherwise run riot.
But that existence is not guaranteed. According to the latest figures from media-tracking website‚ MarkLives.com‚ just 2 in every 100 South Africans buy or subscribe to a daily newspaper. Some of the country’s most famous titles now have circulations under 30‚000.
Part of our current malaise is a sense of powerlessness. “Yes‚ but what can we do?” is the question I’m most often asked.
There are many answers to that question‚ but perhaps the simplest one is this: you can give your money to the people doing the hard grind.
Identify an NGO whose work inspires you and set a debit order to donate a monthly amount. (If you’re not sure how much‚ take the amount you spent on Black Friday and divide it by twelve.) Think of the hardest-nosed hard news journalist you’ve read recently‚ and subscribe to his or her newspaper.
So much money has gone in the wrong direction of so many years. Isn’t it time to send just a tiny bit of it the right way?