Columns 7.8.2018 08:30 am

Don’t blame SA’s financial woes on Cyril

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 10th Brics Summit in Johannesburg, 25 July 2018. Picture: ANA

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 10th Brics Summit in Johannesburg, 25 July 2018. Picture: ANA

It’s easy to agree on social media that the president is to blame for all the increases, but that would be short-sighted.

The worst job in South Africa right now is that of being President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spin doctor. How does one counter the perception that Ramaphosa is presiding over a government that is increasing every facet of the cost of living in South Africa?

It has become so bad that in social media circles Ramaphosa has become a synonym for increasing the price of a commodity to make it unaffordable.

The latest petrol increase is a mere 1c but the fact that government still went ahead and implemented it is perceived to be a clear indication that the president deserves all the flak he’s getting for people’s hardships.

A question needs to be asked, though: Does Cyril deserve the title of the president who increases everything?

There is an advertising campaign that’s currently being waged by some players in the tobacco industry that is encouraging ordinary South Africans to sign a petition to #TakeBackTheTax, pointing out that there is at least R7 billion that is being lost from South Africa’s tax revenue collection system due to illegal cigarettes flooding the market.

Cigarettes, like alcohol, are part of the “sin taxes” which are taxed heavily in this country. It is therefore not surprising that some unscrupulous players out there would want to cut corners and rob the taxman of what they should pay to the fiscus. These unscrupulous tobacco industry players and similar tax dodgers are at the centre of the president’s popularity woes.

It’s easy to agree that the president is to blame for the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) because he signed off on the increment. But the reason that had to happen is because there was a R50 billion shortfall in tax collection for the past financial year.

Also, his predecessor woke up one day in December 2017 and decided that higher education would be free without providing a mechanism to provide funds for it.

Part of the reason for this shortfall is because the excellent tax collection capabilities that had been developed at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) have all been decimated.

Ordinary South Africans know they cannot get away with not paying their taxes but the guys in the shadowy world that is part of the tobacco industry know they have the upper hand against Sars at the moment, and they are milking the gap the Jacob Zuma administration created for all it is worth.

This is not a problem only affecting the tobacco industry but it cuts across all the services government provides. Not a single day passes without a threat by electricity supplier Eskom that we are sliding into an era of load shedding.

Again, Ramaphosa will get the vitriol that goes with asking people to tighten their belts because it doesn’t matter what brought Eskom to its knees, it is sitting in a dark house waiting for electricity to return that gets people judging the president negatively.

People easily forget about Tegeta, the Guptas, sub-standard coal contracts and the billions lost illegally before Ramaphosa came to power.

The president knew he would have to be strong when he took over, he just had no idea how much of his strength would be required to break through to his proposed “New Dawn”.

Sydney Majoko.

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