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Economic injustice against the people

The growing divide between rich and poor in South Africa reveals the fault lines of a much broader divide – in fact, a global divide – between what one may describe as “the people” and the anonymous world of money (even if this world is often hidden behind identifiable agents, such as politicians).

This was captured well in a statement made recently by Francois Hollande, the socialist challenger of Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential campaign, when he remarked, during a speech at a rally (quoted in TIME, 23 April, p. 30, by Peter Gumbel): “My adversary, my real adversary has no name and no face and no political party. He will never be a candidate and thus will never be elected, and yet he rules. This adversary is the world of finance.”

And lest anyone (like my usual cohort of knee-jerk capitalist critics) should immediately retort that one can expect no less from a socialist, let me remind them that even Nicolas Sarkozy, usually a friend of the capitalist corporations, has positioned himself, in his campaign, with the so-called 99% against the 1% he (and others) hold responsible for the current global economic mess. Nor do Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the extreme left, or Marine Le Pen of the far right differ from Hollande and Sarkozy on this populist approach. It seems that, in the wake of the “great recession” of 2008, the gap between the haves and the have-nots has become more visible than it has been for a long time.

As Gumbel indicates, all of these politicians are “feeding [off and] into” the general discontent among the French populace, which was succinctly captured by French writer and WW II resistance fighter Stéphane Hessel, in a pamphlet of about 18 months ago, titled “Time for Outrage!” where he said (quoted by Gumbel in TIME) that it was time for especially the youth to resurrect the spirit of resistance (against the Nazis during WW II) in the guise of “peaceful insurrection” against the current injustice, and against “mass consumption, the disdain of the weak and of culture, general amnesia and the endless competition of all against all”.

Needless to stress, the significance of Hessel’s pamphlet is not only valid in France, but on a global scale, where neoliberal capitalism (in its alliance with governments) has catapulted people into a veritable scene of unmitigated social Darwinism of “the survival of the (economically) fittest”, and where ordinary people are expected to conjure capitalism’s major signifier, money, out of thin air, as it were, to survive.

Here in South Africa one of the masks that this struggle for economic justice and survival has assumed in recent months, is that of e-tolling, which has rapidly become a site of confrontation between a capital-serving (instead of people-serving) government and “the people” in the shape of a loose alliance of individuals (blue-collar as well as white-collar “workers”), trade unions, NGOs and other organisations.

It would be no understatement to see in this a manifestation of what Alain Badiou – a revolutionary philosopher if ever there was one – calls “the event”: where “subjects-in-relation” converge in space and time through collective action, creating a happening which has the promise of changing the very fabric of society (its discourses, its values, its power-relations). To be sure, this unfolding “event” of resistance to e-tolling is grafted on the “event” of Tahrir Square in Egypt, where the “leaderless revolution” unfolded early in 2011 – an event that has become paradigmatic for several other instances of insurrection globally since then.

It also reminds one – and I hope it will remain within the parameters of – Gandhi’s “satyagraha”, or philosophy of passive resistance, at least passive in the sense of not resorting to violence, while still remaining resolutely resistant to the oppressive system in question. Only if this is respected, can the revolt against the unilateral imposition of such an economically crippling system of extracting money from citizens, who can ill afford it, have any hope of succeeding in a manner where the activists and opponents of the system would retain their dignity as citizens of a supposedly democratic country. I say “supposedly” because the ruling party has evidently forgotten whom it represents in the name of democracy, namely “the people” – the very people who have made it very clear that they do not accept e-tolling.

And it is undeniable that the resistance to e-tolling in Gauteng (the thin edge of the wedge; if it were to be successfully implemented there, it would spread to the rest of the country) issues from the people, to whom government and Sanral (South African National Roads Agency Limited) representatives are turning a deaf ear. The ANC government should remind itself that, when people in a democracy are repeatedly subjected to unjustifiable (in this case economic) measures by the putatively “representative” government, citizens may turn to civil disobedience as a last resort. Needless to point out, this has happened in other democracies before, including the US.

The government’s amnesia also includes the fact that South Africans are among the most heavily taxed people in the world – a friend of mine who teaches accounting recently calculated that, if we added all the different kinds of taxes (PAYE, SITE, VAT, tolling fees, fuel-levies, import tax, etc.) together, we give more than 60% of what we “earn” back to this government. One would think that the building and maintenance of roads should be (and can be) funded out of the money thus collected. Even if that were the case, we would not have the “free roads” that Cosatu is clamouring for, but it would be a legitimate use of funds collected through “normal” tax. (We recently drove from Port Elizabeth to Durban through the Transkei, and while the roads were generally in good condition before we reached Mtatha, from there to KZN they were in an atrocious condition – some of the potholes were so big that, should a car-tyre hit one of them at a speed of about 100 kmh, the car is likely to overturn. In other words, our tax money is not being used appropriately or efficiently.)

Sanral’s insistence, that the debt incurred by having had the roads built has to be settled by “road users”, is disingenuous, in so far as it conveniently keeps quiet about the fact – if I recall correctly – that these roads were constructed as a showcase for overseas visitors during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. In other words, they were part of the ANC government’s public relations effort to impress the world at large. True, today people reap the benefits of a much improved road network around Johannesburg and Pretoria, but one that should be funded from regular taxes. This is especially so because there do not seem to be viable alternative routes available on a work-daily basis to motorists who cannot afford to use roads that are to be so heavily taxed. Besides, we all know that, once the construction of these roads has been paid for, e-tolling will not disappear.

In the final analysis the struggle against the imposition of e-tolling in this country is another case of the global struggle against economic injustice, which not even a relatively “wealthy” country like France has escaped, but which is arguably affecting proportionally more people in South Africa – people who simply cannot afford to add additional (and exorbitant) travel costs to their already stretched budgets.


  • As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it were, because of Socrates's teaching, that the only thing we know with certainty, is how little we know. Armed with this 'docta ignorantia', Bert set out to teach students the value of questioning, and even found out that one could write cogently about it, which he did during the 1980s and '90s on a variety of subjects, including an opposition to apartheid. In addition to Philosophy, he has been teaching and writing on his other great loves, namely, nature, culture, the arts, architecture and literature. In the face of the many irrational actions on the part of people, and wanting to understand these, later on he branched out into Psychoanalysis and Social Theory as well, and because Philosophy cultivates in one a strong sense of justice, he has more recently been harnessing what little knowledge he has in intellectual opposition to the injustices brought about by the dominant economic system today, to wit, neoliberal capitalism. His motto is taken from Immanuel Kant's work: 'Sapere aude!' ('Dare to think for yourself!') In 2012 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University conferred a Distinguished Professorship on him. Bert is attached to the University of the Free State as Honorary Professor of Philosophy.


  1. Dave Harris Dave Harris 22 April 2012

    Simplistically, labeling Gandhi’s “satyagraha” as “passive resistance” is a common, quite possibly deliberate, misrepresentation by ex-colonialists and western academics, of a much wider and deeper term which roughly translates to “instance on truth” which really means “soul force” ( This distinction is important, since it relates to a deeper underlying philosophy of rebellion to injustice and not simply a strategy to protest unjust laws. Similarly, Martin Luther King is mostly known for his fight against racial discrimination but relatively unknown for his fight against economic injustice! He only became a threat to the system, and was almost immediately assassinated, when he began speaking of ending the Vietnam war and capitalism’s economic injustice on the majority of Americans.

    You trivialize the economic injustice of our landless, unemployed, economically oppressed masses by comparing it to e-tolling – an local issue to cope with the growing congestion on our highways. Toll roads are one way to include the private sector in capital intensive projects, and has proven to be a success in many parts of the world. Maybe this analogy will clear your confusion – Public protest against e-tolling is similar to public dislike for paying taxes. It does not mean that they don’t want to pay it or wish to do away with our tax system!!!

  2. Benzo Benzo 22 April 2012

    As you say: “The growing divide between rich and poor in South Africa reveals the fault-lines of a much broader divide – in fact, a global divide – ………….”

    The 1969 Nobel prize was awarded jointly to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen “for having developed and applied dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes”. Tinbergen published an economic model which argued that the developing world under the then current economic model, would get poorer and poorer while the developed world would get richer.

    That prediction is over 40 years old. The current unrest around the world seems to confirm the validity of his model.

  3. Benzo Benzo 22 April 2012

    Some time ago we were told that Cosatu -through its investment company- is a shareholder in this project. This makes their current protests a little suspicious unless we have to do with two different Cosatu’s.

    I listened with a half ear to a radio interview re this SANRAL tolling system. I did not pick up the participants in this debate. After many exchanges about transparency and secrecy around this project, it appeared that the SA state, through its investment arm, has invested a large chunk of the pension fund money in this project.

    The SANRAL project needs the money to meet its financial obligations. In closing it was said: “if SANRAL sinks, the public pension fund sinks”.

    All state pension “paying” or “receiving” citizens should be very concerned. The ones travelling between Pretoria and Joburg seem to be paying extra to safeguard their pension.

  4. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 22 April 2012

    On the contrary, a growing gap in income could be a very good thing or a very bad thing. By itself, economic inequality is not a reliable indicator of anything. I have tried to explain some problems with this measure before:

    And no, not because Sarcozy may be a socialist, purely because countries with the same measure of income inequality are not usually on a similar level of socio-economic development. It comes as no surprise however that a politician would position himself on the side of the 99% as politicians rely on a little popularity contest we call an election for their power and prestige. Sarcozy, Obama and any politician would sing any tune that needs to be sung to keep them in the president’s chair.

    More on this under the equality adjusted human development index:

    From that measure, we would expect Greece, Italy and the United States to have similar problems back home. Is this the situation we observe?

    It might be interesting to note that Mr Shock Doctrine himself, Milton Friedman, has warned against a large gap between the rich and the poor. This formed part of his criticism of the Eurozone, whereby the local competitive advantage would be foregone in order to maintain unity under one currency in the region.

    So no, criticism of income inequality measures is not a capilist fanboy knee-jerk

  5. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 22 April 2012

    We allowed tolling in the old socialist South Africa, but the rules were strict – tolling was only allowed on NEW roads, and the old roads had to be left in place for those who could not afford the tolls.

    This new ANC Kleptocracy has sold the EXISTING roads to the Austrians, presumably for a kick-back.

  6. manquat manquat 23 April 2012

    Why do South Africans put up with this? Are we to blame for the heavy taxes that this government imposes on us? The answer is yes. We are the ones who voted in the ANC, and so we are the ones who pay for the government that we put into power. This government takes so much tax and yet gives nothing back to the people. What social benefits are there for the working class? In Denmark they pay heavy taxes, and yet they recieve free education from the government and other benefits.
    I hope that e-tolling doesn’t go through.
    This is a well-written academic article.
    Well done Doctor Oliver! Thanks thoughtleader!

  7. Richard Richard 23 April 2012

    It seems to me that the issue of wealth and poverty is a behavioural one, which has its foundation in culture. Two societies of the past, rooted in Europe and Asia, developed a manner of interaction based on the abstracted idea of added value, or money. This allowed for expansion; others from other cultures could “buy” into this mechanism at will. However, necessary for this model of behaviour to survive was the notion of trust, which would be codified in sophisticated legal concepts, and then ruthlessly enforced by the use of state instruments. Eventually, with increasing democratisation, it became increasingly necessary for people to monitor themselves, and participate in the capitalist system with less and less imposition from the state. The more they did so the more would be their individual gain. Capitalism is a way of life, as anybody who has lived in the US will know. The more a society buys into capitalism, the more it will profit (excuse the pun), at least compared to non-capitalist societies. This capitalist culture has tended to remain with the progeny of its creators, but been less successfully implanted elsewhere. Therefore, people of European and Asian descent tend to operate as capitalists, others less so. However, as the proportion of non-capitalists increases, due to their higher birthrates, the inequality between the two cultural types becomes increasingly apparent. South Africa is a hybrid of the two types, which presents its own unique problems.

  8. Richard Richard 23 April 2012

    Although there is an apparent embracing of the notion of capitalism, it is not true capitalism. What South Africa experiences is a sort of parasitic capitalism, which involves providing to the countries of Europe and Asia (and their cultural progeny, such as the USA) in exchange for the sophisticated products created by their “true” capitalism, which is really a type of behavioural matrix that allows certain goods to be produced. In exchange for this provision of raw materials, a few people in South Africa are able to acquire what in the capitalist world is commonplace. These few South Africans are also able to establish a small circle of people to participate in Western forms of economic exchange. However, this exists very much as an island within a non-capitalist culture. This is the problem with South Africa attempting to maintain an infrastructure based on a capitalist economic model: only a small proportion of the population engages in the type of behaviour necessary for this to occur. Taxes are paid by only a small percentage of the population. Therefore, rather than a uniform decrepitude, it is patchy. It is most unfortunate that human beings only seem to respond to threat and personal gain, but that they do is why capitalism succeeds, at least in capitalist societies. And non-capitalist societies do not want to give up the smattering of goods the capitalist world lets them have. An uneasy stasis exists at present, but as you say, change is afoot. To what, though?

  9. Robert Branch Robert Branch 23 April 2012

    Thanks Bert, yes I too am of the belief that this etolling will prove the bale that will bring the camel to its knees, All Nasty Camel ( ANC) owners beware, your servile public will not continue to bear your inept government.

  10. MLH MLH 23 April 2012

    It goes further; in Durban, prices on the supermarket shelves have already risen considerably, although further N2 tolling has not been implemented. Businesses will collect what e-tolling costs them every which way.
    What I like best about the issue is that, for the first time, it is one that affects all races and could break down some of the racial barriers that the ANC has painstaking erected over the years.
    South Africans now have a common cause. More fool the ANC for not realising this.

  11. Anneline Anneline 23 April 2012

    Agree 100%.
    Check out the following ‘documentaries’: ‘Zeitgeist’ and ‘Storyville inside job’.

  12. HD HD 23 April 2012

    I fully agree that politicians are using populist rhetoric and peoples’ anger and frustrations over the financial crisis and sovereign debt crisis in Europe to garner votes. They are politicians after all. I also agree government/financial industry are too close for comfort and are at the root of the current woes…not sure about that leading to social Darwinism!

    I share similar broad sentiments towards e-tolling, although I think there is a number of ways to look at it. For starters I would like to see a comparison between the impact of additional taxes vs user-pay system on the poor. (I doubt government will use existing taxes – cutting in other areas – and will instead raise taxes or levies). Now, unlike COSATU I am not sure in which scenario the poor suffers more – higher taxes or higher transport costs? The economic side-effects of higher transport costs is also going to filter through to other parts of the economy – we pay twice.

    In principle I don’t have problems with a user-pay system, but I agree within the South African context it is a bit hard to swallow – given our current tax-service delivery ratio. However, if have seen some plausible arguments for an user-pay system that centre around less carbon emissions, less highway congestion, better public infrastructure etc…

    Additionally at least you are not forced to pay for something that you are not using if you live outside Gauteng or choose to use public transport or alternative routes…

  13. beachcomber beachcomber 23 April 2012

    @ Benzo -“Some time ago we were told that Cosatu -through its investment company- is a shareholder in this project.”

    Thebe Investments, which is owned by Batho Batho Trust, which is owned by Chancellor House, which is the finance arm of the ANC exists to distribute public funds from the fiscus via state operated organizations, parastatals and multinationals like Hitachi, Royal Dutch Shell and others back to the ANC. Do some research into who owns what and how they got it. Start with Patrice Motesepe and Tokyo Sexswale.

    As usual, contributors and commentators dither around the side issues and expand their egos in intellectualizing the obvious: the wrong people are governing the country and need to be voted out.

    Anyone thinking a “spring revolution” will improve the situation need only look to the current internecine strife in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria to realize that the same would happen here.

  14. Lyndall beddy Lyndall beddy 23 April 2012

    Why not use “user pays” for the police, for education, for hospitals etc etc

    “User pays” is a rubbish excuse. In a socialist state some basics are free – including roads, including police, including schools, including hospitals.

  15. Yaj Yaj 23 April 2012

    Talking of conjuring money from thin air — under the system of fractional reserve banking , all our private banks create money from thin air when they issue loans which constitute 97% of our money supply. This is the root cause of all economic injustice here and globally. See to help get your head around this fundamental economic injustice and the the real and lasting solutions to resolving it through monetary reform.

  16. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 23 April 2012

    I agree with the user pay principle, but then why stop at toll roads? What about the user pay principle when it comes to public health and education?

    There are several issues with the toll system. Firstly, we already contribute to the national pool of fuel levies meant to maintain the roads. Secondly, this is a public road that has been maintained (thank you very much, we’re all even Steven then). Thirdly, fine install a toll road but then make it either a new road (ie different route) and then work with only the user pay principle on that road, or build a new road (ie different route) that is entirely privately owned.

    This toll road is an example of regulatory capture, rent-seeking and other evils associated with the mixed economy or ‘state capitalism’ model, which is nothing but a centrally planned economy where the iron fist pretends it is an invisible hand.

    Anyone interested in stopping this toll road scam:

  17. Kanthan Pillay Kanthan Pillay 23 April 2012

    This stuff about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is absolute rubbish. Take a look at the UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing’s Top End study, and the data from SAARF AMPS which shows conclusively that under the ANC government, the poor have substantially bettered their lot. Look at Dr Haroon Bhorat’s presentation on the subject at

    The only group that have not prospered is the middle class — those who are too rich for grants and too poor for home loans — which is where the DA are making inroads.

  18. HD HD 23 April 2012


    Ideally – I don’t really disagree – the problem is it is build and we are going to pay for it no matter what…the treasury, government officials and Sanral are clear on this.

    The question then becomes what is the best way of paying for it? Taxes (or higher fuel levies), user-pay system or government pays?

    “Government will pay”, again really only means “us”, indirectly in terms of taxes, borrowing or printing – which will be used to cover the shortfall in the budget, since I don’t for one minute belief government will cut spending in others areas.

    I don’t think this is much different than many other problems that plague government spending and “the government must pay” mentality. Like you I would rather see much more user-pay systems, instead of everyone crying and wanting government to pay and cover costs – which just fuels the cycle of higher taxes, borrowing and printing.

    Government has long since stopped using the fuel levy for the purposes it was earmarked. It all goes into the pot to be used on all sort of essential public services, much needed public servants and government projects. :)

    As you rightly point out, this is just a symptom of a much bigger problem…

  19. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 23 April 2012

    Precisely. That’s what the anti-capitalist crowd do not seem to understand. If I pay for a road out of pocket, then – like the SANRAL scenario shows – I will be much more interested in how the money is spent, who benefits, how much goes where it is meant to end up, etc. Same goes for health care, education and other ‘essential services’. But when I stand to benefit, like with health care, and I do not pay taxes, then naturally I don’t take the risks but I do share the incentives. Of course I’d vote for anything under the sun that does not pose a direct risk to me, but that someone abstract out there has to provide.

    That’s why it’s so easy to call for economic justice or income equity, because I am not a rich guy and I won’t have to share my wealth with anyone to ensure equity. No, I expect some Bill Gates out there to work his fingers to the bone his entire life so I can just share in the spoils. Then I’ll try some post hoc rationalisation smug of why my way is the right way and why I deserve to share in the Bill Gates wealth without taking on the same risks.

    @Kanthan Pillay:
    Absolutely. The poor in South Africa cannot get more poor. In fact, they have been getting richer due to basic income grants (not sustainable, but what they voted for). The wealth gap in SA is increasing because the rich are getting richer. Another reason why a wealth gap is not an accurate measure of anything without its proper context.

  20. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 23 April 2012

    The problem must be who ‘the people’ are, other than an agglomeration of diverse views and interests that assorted politicians, union leaders and activists claim to be uniquely able to interpret and speak for.

    But are they in reality Mr Malema’s ‘people’, or Mr Vavi’s ‘people’ or Helen Zille’s ‘people’? And if they are all three and then some, and are therefore very unlikely all to be pleased by any one proposal all at once, what does that say about the feasibility of SA persisting with just one party, good or bad, that struggles to serve them all?

  21. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 23 April 2012


    Actually we did have a user pay policy in the hospitals in the old socialist SA. If the user could afford to pay he did, but the poor got treatment free.

    But the ANC eliminated the whole civil service, including all the qualified credit controllers, so no-one bothered to collect hospital bills or rates anymore from those who could pay.

    And now they want to introduce an even more expensive system where outside contractors, not civil servants, collect the bills – following the inept American system which costs 30 percent of income to administer, not the British National Health system administered by civil servants, which costs 2 – 3 percent to administer.

  22. Bernard K Hellberg Bernard K Hellberg 23 April 2012

    “Toll roads are one way to include the private sector in capital intensive projects” (Dave Harris)

    I take it this also includes the Austrian private sector and robber barons – Kapsch – who get a THIRD of the total income. Bet you a million they’ve managed to bribe a significant number of ‘cadres.’

    All the Austrians have ever given the world is Adolf Hitler and lace-up hiking boots. That’s why they’re known as ‘Kamerad Schnurschuh.’

  23. Maria Maria 23 April 2012

    Kanthan, you did not read this post well. To talk about a “growing divide between rich and poor in South Africa” does not say that the poor are getting poorer in a non-relational sense, but, precisely, in a relational sense, that is, because – apart from social grants and the like – their position vis-a-vis the increasingly rich is not improving. This is widely recognized in the internationally endorsed claim that South Africa is the country with the greatest inequality (between rich and poor) in the world. And in any case, Bert did place this in a global context, where this growing divide is also widely acknowledged.

  24. Rory Short Rory Short 23 April 2012

    The issue is firstly a matter of principle, roads are needed by everybody because they are essential for a healthy economy. The roads infra-structure is thus a public good that must logically be covered by the public purse. This purse is replenished by taxes which means that the user is paying anyway. So the user pays justification for e-tolling is utterly specious. When we are dealing with something which by its very nature is a public good the only time where the user pays idea could be justified for a particular facility is if there is an accessible free, or very cheap, alternative. This is not the case with the Gauteng free ways. E-tolling as a traffic congestion management tool is however a necessity but should only operate during times of congestion outside of these times the roads should be free for users.

  25. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 23 April 2012

    @ HD – And I would suggest your (including maybe Garg’s) much bigger problem is called life. When the traveller asks the Irishman how to get to Tipperary, the Irishman replies that it would be better not to start from here.

    The joke is only a joke because we know we have to.

  26. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 24 April 2012


    The ANC have done the same with E-tolling – farmed it out to contractors who charge 30 percent to administer the system, instead of having the money collected by civil servants.

    But I have a funny idea that the ANC might have broken the law of the country. There was some garbled account of “alternative routes” on TV which made no sense to me.

    What if the ANC never repealed the law that tolling could not take place on roads unless there was an alternative route – which certainly used to be the law in SA?

  27. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 24 April 2012


    If I am correct – then the DA is also breaking the law in the Western Cape by tolling Chapman’s Peak (originally built by civil servant engineers and convict labour).

    Where is the alternative road?

  28. citoyen citoyen 24 April 2012

    Mandela/ANC were persuaded by the Washington Consensus crowd – via the IMF and Davos – to drop a South African economy to boost ‘houses, clinics and schools for all’ (catering to the 99%) and to rather adopt the neo-liberal capitalist model (catering to the 1%, in that the rich got richer).

    Mandela was talked out of social-capitalism because socialism = communusim = evil. Extreme Capitalism was The Way to Go according to the Western bankers.

    This was back in the mid-90s. A decade later extreme capitalism – bolstered by greedy bankers selling fresh air derivatives – imploded in the Wall Street crash.

    What happened next was fascinating. In an act of pure state socialism, the state then stepped in to BAIL OUT out the 1%.

    This bail out amounted to state socialist intervention.

    Socialism for the Rich and dog-eat-dog Capitalism for the Poor.

    The best documentary I ever saw on this financial implosion is called “Inside Job” – a superbly researched documentary narrated by Matt Damon.

    It features interviews with Wall St bankers, Goldman Sachs honchos, IMF Christine LaGarde, etc. See it – all will be explained.

  29. Gixxer Gixxer 24 April 2012

    One point of contention I have is that in order to pay taxes I need to earn an income. In order to earn an income I need to use these highways.
    Accordingly I am being coerced into paying a “tax” in order to generate an income in order to pay tax!Take e-toll, fuel levy, VAT on my vehicle, company tax, individual PAYE, UIF etc. when my cc pays me a salary & I can easily believe the quoted 60% of earnings being taken back as direct & indirect taxation.
    In principle I will not get a e-tag, I pay enough tax as it is thank you very much!

  30. Poor, poorer, poorest Poor, poorer, poorest 24 April 2012

    Actually Bert, for those salaried middle class folk who just fall into the upper income bracket think of this. About 46% tax on income, vat on every purchase and every municipal, bill massive annual increases in electircity, 21C additional fuel levy, etc, , levies for refuse removal, the list goes on. It is well over 60% of income that gets taxed, with precious little bang for bucks. When one is a single parent a good salary suddenly becomes very meagre, so only the good Lord knows how our fellow citizens even begin to cope. Even the absolutely destitute pay vat on their humble purchases so effectively their little state pensions are also taxed. It is morally indefensible. If the tolling system had been done in a transparent manner and if we were not so beaten down by incessant revelations of corruption and wasteful expenditure of public funds, it may have been a different story but this, I suspect, is a bridge too far for many. Even the exemptions are just a temporary measure. As soon as peope start toeing the line like good sheep, they will also be whacked with tolls – just watch. THe milk cow is running dry – a fact that is conveniently ignored. But probably the most insulting fact of all is that our roads are in a horrendous state.

  31. david hurst david hurst 24 April 2012

    Use taxes are predominately paid for by the poor. This is why the retro-Communist ANC Party is clearly out of sync. Sales tax, lotto tax, toll-roads, etc. are far disproportionally paid by the poor, as is well known. Capital is a valuable tool for all ideologies, used by them all. Have a look at North Korea recently, when the savings of all were eliminated overnight with new currency. The effect was so obvious and quick, the government official who proposed and implemented the policy was shot. Savings and accumulation of wealth are necessary to invest, little more should need to be said. But, apparently more does need to be said. It is easy to point out the excesses of power of accumulated capital, but far easier to point out the failure of government controlled capital with Stalin and Mao symbolic of the excesses that continue today amongst essentially military dictatorships, with the poor always in mind – yet whom run monopolies of capitalism in say Iran or China, with lip service paid the poor. Worst are the ‘distribute the wealth’ voices, for if this wealth were evenly distributed, few would have anything: there is not that much wealth. Some say, do it anyway, to heck with the economy. Boy, I wish I had one of Mugabe’s many farms, not to mention have a look at an agricultural economy ideologically brought to ruins. It goes beyond the ideal of each according to their needs, from each according to abilities. Eternal Party rip-off, and populist promises.

  32. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 24 April 2012

    It is not true that if tolling had been handled in a different manner it might have been a different story. The issue and its outcome are disputed in principle by people who hold different positions on it. Govt. cannot reconcile them; it has apparently reached a decision, has at least said it has decided, and we must wait to see what happens next.

  33. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 24 April 2012

    So are we to interpret this as poverty does not mean living in absolute poverty, but in relative poverty?

    Also, in South Africa’s case, both cases of poverty are a reality. In other countries with a similar income gap, the situation is much different. This is why an income gap is not a good indicator, besides being one of the many mathematicisations rejected by the ideological kin except when it tells them what they want to hear.

  34. HD HD 24 April 2012


    It is also worth keeping in mind that the gini coefficient is relevant in so far there is available statistics. There is not reliable statistics for many of the least developed and poorest countries and therefore no gini coefficient comparison. If they were included SA position would improve relative to these countries which have even bigger inequalities. (Usually a plutocratic elite ruling over rural peasants, urban slum dwellers and a small artisan and professional class).

  35. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 24 April 2012

    If we are going to use the priciple of “user pay” then stop spending 76 percent of the income of the Western Cape outside that province, and let the Eastern Cape pay foor its own schools and hospitals from its own taxes.

  36. Rory Short Rory Short 25 April 2012

    Roads are as necessary for human economic life as breathing is for any aerobic life form. Taxing road use is the economic equivalent of reducing the air supply to aerobic life forms

  37. Brent Brent 26 April 2012

    Bert Sarcozy and Hollande are both squarely part of the so called 1%. Surely you are not so dim to see that the concept of ‘the 1%’ is a political scam used by politicians to cover their mess ups. In the US people earning above ±$385000 are part of the 1%. Obama and most politicians are well and truly in this class, so do include the politicians when you attack the ‘1%’.

    In America, more than a decade after 9/11, they wait in long lines as crippled 90-year-olds get felt by TSA agents. “You can’t be too safe,” they say, as if their lives were put at risk by Lutheran grandmothers.

    In Spain, Greece, Ireland…etc they wait for government to figure out how to give them retirement incomes, healthcare, and full employment. The politicians can’t solve economic problems for a very simple reason: they are the cause.

    Who set up the euro? Who set interest rates and lending standards? Who caused the bubbles by lending too low for too long? Who then ‘fixed’ the crisis — by lending more, at lower rates, to the very institutions who had just proven such bad custodians?

    Who spends more than he grabs…year in and year out? Easy POLITICIANS
    The e tag mess up, who messed up? THE POLITICIANS.

    So Bert be brave and wise, point your barbs at the cause of the problem, the POLITICIANS and beware the backlash. Just ask the chairman of Nedbank what happens when politicians are knocked, which is probably why you employ kid gloves with ours.


  38. Brent Brent 26 April 2012

    Citoyen, did Matt Damon in that documentary give details of how he and his Hollywood pals earn ‘millions per movie’ and are not just part of the 1% but reside in the upper 0.1% of the population? Does your common sense not register a warning bell when a 0.1%’er does such a film? Guess not as they have squarly caught you in their web of lies and rubbish diverting your moral fury in the wrong direction.

    We did not spend on housing etc because we spent billions (over R50 billion, how many houses is that???) on the BA Saab arms deal, it has zero to do with Washington power brokers.

  39. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 26 April 2012

    Precisely. The user-pay principle is what taxation is designed to avoid. Namely to create a general pool whereby needs can be catered for where it’s not feasible to cater for those needs privately, such as public roads.

    The more arithmetic becomes available, the more evident it becomes that the toll road saga is yet another jobs-for-palls/tenderpreneur botch job designed to enrich our kleptocratic government. Service delivery and infrastructure are convenient excuses and afterthoughts in this process:

  40. The Creator The Creator 26 April 2012

    The interesting thing about e-tolling is that it is a) shadowy — someone, somewhere determines how much you’re paying and sends you the bill which gets paid to someone somewhere else, and b) annoys the middle classes who drive cars. Therefore it has aroused much ire. If SANRAL (which is itself a private company, not so?) had just built half a dozen more toll plazas it would probably not have aroused the same ire, although people would certainly have been pissed off.

    Bert is more or less right; the issue shouldn’t just be about e-tolling, it should be about the way in which the country is run for the benefit of the few against the many. That isn’t just a question of politicians, because the politicians are mostly just hired by the people who make the real money (how much did Mac Maharaj and Jacob Zuma get to enable Schabir Shaik and Thint to make billions out of the credit-card license tender?). It’s the way the system works all over the world, and it needs to be challenged, not just on a temporary basis.

    There is no way that the ANC can be seen as a socialist government; nor is the Tripartite Alliance in any way socialist. It is neoliberal, like the DA.

  41. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 26 April 2012

    @ The Creator – Depends on what ‘socialist’ and ‘neoliberal’ are taken to mean and, whatever they mean, any system is being challenged and not on a temporary basis, but all the time.

  42. Maria Maria 26 April 2012

    Brent, take note of what The Creator has pointed out here – what you don’t seem to realize is that, today, politicians are no longer working in an autonomous domain, but are beholden to the corporations. So the decisions supposedly made by the politicians, according to you, are really made by the capitalists, who have the politicos so deep in their pockets that they have no choice. Take Obama, for instance – he showed such promise re taking back the power from those who dominate the economic domain, but he has failed miserably.

  43. HD HD 27 April 2012


    What power? Politicians get to make the laws and rules, decide what funding they want to accept and make election promises to voters. Obama received more campaign funding than all the GOP candidates combined in the previous election and have continued to appoint banking/financial industry insiders to key positions in his administration.

    Obama was never anything like the Hollywood narrative that progressives wanted to believe. Progressives mostly all fell for a very well crafted election image created by the mass media and campaign strategist (some still do…). Obama’s past is anything but progressive and revolutionary – he was always connected to the big lobbies and political insiders even when in academics.

  44. anton kleinschmidt anton kleinschmidt 28 April 2012

    At last an issue which is uniting South Africans of all races.

    At a practical level there are a number of possible reasons why the ANC are so worried :

    1) It exposes very serious planning and administrative weaknesses to the outside world where issues relating to sovereign credibility are decided
    2) There may be some stakeholders exposed to evidence of corruption if contracts are not fulfilled
    3) it exposes South Africa to re-ratings on global financial markets and undermines future borrowing plans
    4) it places the pension savings of the ANCs core constituency at risk
    5) it demonstrates to the ANC that their political hegemony is actually very vulnerable
    6) it vindicates the views of those who criticise the ANC for their inability to get things right
    7) if South Africans of all races can unite on this issue then they can unite on other issues detrimental to the well-being of the ANC
    8) If contracts are not fulfilled then this matter could land up in court whereupon the entire contract process will be exposed to detailed scrutiny. Bad news for Sanral if jurisdiction happens to be in Austria
    9) If this goes pear shape they could face a double whammy as contractors go for them from one side AND state pensioners look for redress. This could double up the amount owing whilst the planned source of repayment ceases to exist.

    This is actually disastrous for South Africa

  45. Rene Rene 28 April 2012

    The high court evidently agrees with you, Bert – they ruled against e-tolling today. Yippeeei!!! Up South African citizens against excessive taxation! The only thing is: the ANC will probably up the fuel levy now, and let everyone in the country pay for those roads….There is a point beyond which citizens will refuse to pay more taxes, in whatever form they come, though.

  46. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 30 April 2012

    @Maria, there is nothing wrong with people taking chances to make money without these people, the people in the developed world would all be in the dark ages. Therefore, thank god for Henry Ford, Oprah, Bill Gates, Tyler Perry, all of the fortune five hundred that created the vast wealth in the US. These people were successful risk takers that created this vast wealth and gave the people in the US the highest standard of living in the world. The problem with the ANC led government is that they have discouraged risk takers with their BEE deals.

    The only fault I find with the one per centers that they shouldn’t used their influence in Congress to write laws to give them a tax break.

  47. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 30 April 2012

    @Beddy, what I see developing in SA is chaos in the government because every times the government tries to do something the labor union veto it. COSATU is supposed to be a labor union but, it acts as a political party. There is no way the government can have good roads in SA unless the government get money to pay for them. The people using these roads should be paying for them like they do in other countries. If one drives from New York City to Washington,DC, one will have to pay forty dollars for each trip in tolls. We hear the same BS in the US people making million of dollars a year and don’t want to pay taxes. So, go out and buy you EZ pas and quit crying like I did a few years ago.

  48. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 10 May 2012


    You can either have a Capitalist Democracy like the USA, or a Social;ist democracy like Britain, France and the Scandinavian countries.

    South Africa can’t afford the USA model.

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