by Pamela Maringa

I am now in my first paying job and therefore had to go through the process of registering for a tax number. I had to do the right thing and get my documents right.

A few weeks ago, a book by veteran investigative journalist, Jacques Pauw entitled The President’s Keeper: Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison was released.  Pauw makes some shocking revelations about how President Jacob and his cronies misused some of South Africa’s important state-owned entities. These enterprises include the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), State Security Agency (SSA), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and South African Revenue Services (SARS).

Pauw’s book made me think about the visit I had scheduled to the taxman. Pauw claims Zuma failed to submit his tax returns for five years as a president. He also claims that Zuma was granted several bank loans and never paid them back. Zuma was on the payroll of a private security company. It is illegal for a person who occupies the highest office in the land to be paid by a private company. Pauw goes on to talk about how SARS was captured by Zuma, firing all top management and bringing in people who were either tied to Zuma himself or his son Duduzani. The SASSA Director General, Arthur Fraser, is also accused of being complicit in the looting of hundreds of millions from a slush fund. Cases against him were repeatedly dropped because of his relationship with the president.

This book landed in my hands, and as I read it I became really confused. How do I continue paying my tax when the president is not paying his tax? Who should pay tax? How do I say “Tom Moyane here is my information, you can have my money”? Then I have to continue watching my money being spent recklessly. Millions of South Africans earn little and yet they are still taxed, but those who make large amounts of money, continue to steal from us.

The only thing that consoles me is that the money does some good in our communities. More than 17 million people are dependent on social grants to put food on their tables. The money builds infrastructure, housing and provides education. I will pay my tax. However, billions of rands of taxpayers’ money is misused and so much more could have been invested in various social problems.

When I look around I notice many self-serving leaders, people who are filled with greed. If I, as a young person, see those who should be inspiring me not doing what is right, how can I be expected to do what is right? What are they teaching young people? I don’t understand how someone who is earning millions can steal from the poor. While Zuma and his friends get richer, the poor get poorer.

I think that the best solution to this is to vote wisely in 2019. Voting wisely means not voting for people with questionable morals. Removing corrupt leaders will bring back hope for our people and restore respect for our state entities. We need leaders who will set the laws and also abide by the law themselves.

A nation – where doing the right thing is a norm – will only be possible if we allow goodness and empathy for one another be part of our very fabric as people and as a society.