Patriotic South Africans are hoping that the VAT increase – the first in 25 years – will once and for all stamp out the poor. The impoverished, however, are resilient as all hell and I fear it will take more than this to put an end to them and their wretched, frugal ways.
I didn’t really want to write about the budget this week for several reasons, one of which is that any talk of finances causes me to lapse into a frightful state. My body continues to function as well as can be expected given the conditions under which it exists, but my brain goes into some kind of anaphylactic shock. This seems to suggest I have an allergy to money, which would explain why I have so little of it.
The other reason is that I associate the word ‘budget’ with pain. I’m not talking about this namby-pamby emotional pain suffered by vegans, poets and women trapped in men’s bodies. I’m talking real physical pain. You see, when I was growing up I was given a paltry amount of pocket money once a week. Within an hour I would have spent half of it on sweets and lost the rest by the end of the day. All my pants had holes in them as a result of the rigorous games of pocket billiards I played before, during and after school and one only had to follow the money to find out where I was.
With my blood sugar levels plummeting, I would approach my father on hands and knees. “Please, Sir, may I have some more?”
After extinguishing his Ritmeester Quick in my ear and delivering a light whipping with his cat ‘o nine tails – a genuine nine-tailed cat bred specifically for the purpose of punishing profligate boys – he pinned me to the floor with his knee and once again explained the importance of budgeting.
Today, after all these years, I only have to hear the word ‘budget’ and I curl up like a pangolin, weeping and shouting that I don’t understand numbers. It’s too terrible for words.
In an attempt to grasp what the VAT increase means, I turned to Twitter, that magnificent, monstrous oracle containing all the truths and all the lies of the world within the infinite depths and darkness of its diabolical bowels.
Zeenat Moorad caught my eye. She’s something called a “money editor” and seemed to want to help halfwits like me to understand. “Folks, the VAT increase works like this: It’s up by 1 percentage point from 14% to 15%, this is an increase of 7.1% in the VAT rate. So the impact is 0.877% increase on what consumers pay.”
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried a little when I read that. I do understand numbers insofar as you get odd ones and even ones. Fractions, though, are among the oddest numbers you can find. They make no sense at all. Ordinary people are unable to grasp the concept of 0.877% and I would like to marry Zeenat Moorad even though it would mean never eating bacon again.
There were others on Twitter who described the VAT increase in language I could understand. One said it was punishing the poor. Union conquistador Zwelinzima Vavi said the entire budget was an attack on the poor. It’s a good thing they’re poor, then. If they could afford decent weapons we’d all be in serious trouble. Mind you, the storming of the Bastille went off rather well and those peasants were armed with nothing more than rusty muskets and pitchforks. Then again, they didn’t have to contend with an unreliable central line to reach Paris. If Metrorail ever gets its act together, that’s the end of parliament.
Turning to our snappily dressed finance minister, Comrade Vavi described Malusi Gigaba in glowing terms. “An illegitimate leader condemned by the courts of our land as a liar who broke his oath of office. Now about to tell workers they will pay for the mess he played a leading role in creating! I feel like vomiting right here in parliament!” That’s glowing so fiercely it’s damn near ready to explode.
My attention was snared by another, altogether more serious, tweet. “He has taken our beer away from us,” it read. My scream set the neighbour’s dogs off. Judging by his svelte shape, Gigaba is not a man who regularly enjoys a case or two of Windhoek’s finest of an evening. In fact, he has the body of a teenage girl and the truth is I envy him. But how dare he. How very dare he.
Drinking during the Mandela years was a vice. Drinking during Zuma’s reign of error was a survival mechanism. From April 1, a bottle of wine will cost 22.5c more. I don’t care. Wine is an appalling habit. It makes your mouth turn inside out and the morning after drinking the filth you often find you have broken out in bruises and flesh wounds.
Beer goes up by 14c a can. I don’t know what that works out per case. You’d need to have studied maths at Harvard to do that kind of calculation. But it’s a lot. You’re going to find many more people doing their drinking inside bottle store fridges, I can tell you.
As for the rest, I don’t give a damn about the price of cigars and cigarettes. I used to smoke but gave it up when I realised that if I wanted help in killing myself, I’d rather give my money to Mikey Schultz than a tobacco company.
Bad news for car thieves is that the fuel levy is going up by 22c a litre. Nobody understands how this works. I have never filled up my car and then deducted the levy so that I know what petrol would cost without it. I have never filled up my car. The Road Accident Fund will go up by 30c a litre. This is also built into the petrol price increase because without petrol you wouldn’t have accidents. I have never benefitted from the Road Accident Fund but I certainly intend to. I’m just waiting for the right moment to crash into something that will leave me sufficiently maimed to guarantee enough of a payout that I don’t have to keep writing rubbish for a living.
Once again there is no tax break on books. This is a good thing. An educated nation is a dangerous nation. Once they start reading, there’s no telling what they might learn. They might, for instance, discover that anarchy doesn’t mean rioting in the streets but is in fact a valid political philosophy where people reject authority and instead opt for self-rule. Imagine there’s no government. It’s easy if you try. Sadly, we live in a country where people can’t even control their dogs, let alone themselves.
Estate duty tax is being raised to 25% for estates greater than R30-million. There’s something wrong with you if you die with that kind of money in the bank. Well, I suppose there was something wrong with you, what with being dead and all. But what the hell happened? Couldn’t you spend it all? It’s just not right. Death is not enough. You deserve to be penalised further.
Someone in Gigaba’s office who knows his way around a calculator has worked out that South Africa will need to borrow R224.2-billion this year. And I thought I was bad with money. Quite frankly, I don’t know why they don’t just print more of the stuff.