Dear Mr Zuma
When you voiced your concern in a speech last week about escalating fuel prices, you can be sure that every single South African, with the exception perhaps of the current Cabinet incumbents and a few hardarses at Sasol, would have been more than willing to forgive you all your past indecretions including your theory on the medicinal properties of post coital ablutions.
Now, either you are a brilliant politician or a brilliant marketer — so far I am undecided, but whatever you are, I must admit, you’re good.
To publicly speak out about against Mugabe is one thing. And about the high price of food is another. But, for someone who is one day going to run this country to actually come out and say that something has to be done about fuel prices — well, either you are naive or just hoping like hell that most of us won’t remember when you become president of this country what you said when you were just president of the ANC and trying diplomatically to make many of the present bunch of ministers look silly.
Which, is not difficult by the way.
You see, the thing about the fuel price is that governments, and ours in particular, make so much money out of it in terms of levies, taxes, more taxes then quite a bit more tax as well, that when Cabinets, such as ours, look at doing something about fuel prices, they are so overawed by the amount of money that fuels the fiscus from petrol and diesel that they can’t see any way of reducing prices without making a hole the size of Canada in our national budget.
So they just don’t rock the boat even though it makes nonsense of democracy, the free market system we are supposed to nurture and not to mention logic of course.
But Mr Zuma, there is one thing you can do. And that is take a lead out of the books of so many oil producing Arab states that provide their people with cheap petrol. Then ask yourself why Sasol, that was created with taxpayers’ money, is allowed to simply jack up its oil from coal prices to match the global going rate.
Now, imagine if our wine producers raised their local prices to meet international averages? They’d go out of business fast. Just imagine if South Africa’s lone whisky producer decided to raise prices to that of Johnnie Walker Black? Well, goodbye South Africa’s only whisky producer.
And the reason every normal business would go bankrupt if it followed Sasol’s train of thought, is because most other businesses are governed by supply, demand and other free-market forces.
Sasol isn’t. The petrol price is regulated and fixed. And every government so far in this country has been too terrified to deregulate because it would mean drops in tax revenue and would mean that a whole lot of service stations would go bust and people would lose their jobs.
One needs to ask this question. Right now, with companies like BP having announced a first quarterprofit increase of 63% this year and Sasol creaming it as well, does it make sense to protect a handful of service stations and maybe 1 000 jobs while companies like Sasol and BP are literally sticking their greasy fingers into the pockets of the poor in this country and ripping out every last cent they can lay their hands on?
It does not take a rocket scientists to realise that petrol price increases mean that everything on earth goes up in price and the people who bear the brunt of this, as always, are the poor.
With Sasol producing roughly a third of the petrol we need, what the heck is stopping us doing what the Arab states do and bring our petrol price down by making Sasol sell petrol to local refineries at a reasonable price? And make a reasonable profit by all means instead of making these monstrous profits that have the potential to kill South Africans faster than TB, malaria or Aids. Even faster that bad driving.
And why not deregulate the price? Let Raymond Ackerman sell petrol at cost if he wants to. And tough luck on all those service stations that will go bust as a result. Sure, I feel sorry for them but their numbers are tiny compared with the millions who are being crucified by this stupid insistence on regulating prices.
So, Mr Zuma, if you can do something about the petrol price, you will not only be popular but a national hero for whom, everyone who is eligible to vote will vote.
And when they think of you, people will say, “Shabir who?” and “what fraud?”