In 1951, African-American poet Langston Hughes penned an 11-line poem titled, Harlem. In it, he asks what happens to a dream deferred and 72 years later, it – and its warning – is as relevant today for South Africa as ever.
Soul-crushing load shedding and micro-grid collapses leave areas in Joburg without power for days, thanks to thieves and budget constraints. Corruption and crime are so deeply embedded in our culture nothing and no-one is safe anymore. Ministers without jobs and a president without a clue.
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At local government level, coalitions form with a single purpose – what can we get out of it, not how can we work together?
The ANC and Democratic Alliance have made it clear they will work with anyone as long as the other parties follow their policies. Which leaves us up sh*t creek without a paddle and having to deal with the mind-numbing arrogance of politicians in it for the gravy.
Hughes asks if dreams dry up or turn into festering sores? Another word for infected skin is corruption. Nothing on the planet smells like rotting flesh and we smell it all around us.
In March, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) announced a net collection of R1 686.7 billion for the gravy tra … my bad … fiscus. Sars noted the 2023 net revenue collected represents a year-on-year an increase of 7.9% over the net 2022 amount of R1 563.8 billion.
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Two things: where is all this money coming from and the big one, where is it going? We know where it comes from.
In Sars’ own words: personal income tax at 35.5%, value-added tax at 25.0% and corporate income tax at 20.7% in aggregate remain the largest sources of tax revenue and comprise 81.2% of total tax revenue collections.
The Development Bank of South Africa said: “Poor service delivery and general poor government services lead to the decline of resources, zero job opportunities, job losses and overall poor living conditions.
“This refers to the fundamental systems and facilities needed to connect to the supply chain necessary for economic activity and function. Poor service delivery in municipalities is caused by numerous factors.
“For instance, municipalities are not financially self-sufficient and lack the necessary infrastructure and resources to carry out their duties to the larger public.”
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In February, Stats SA noted our unemployment rate was 32.7% in the last quarter of 2022. Some estimate unemployment could hit over 35% this year.
While government continues to frown occasionally at issues and dither over handling them, the SA Special Risk Insurance Association (Sasria) was at least reading the room. It paid out around R30 billion following the July 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
At the end of April, it said would exclude claims stemming from an electricity grid failure or blackout. Oops. Sasria is now walking it back, but it does tell us where insurers’ heads are.
More government leaders need to read Hughes’ poem. Whether or not it will sink in through the sheer myopia and arrogance is another question.
Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
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