At the beginning of each year, the nation awaits with anticipation two seminal events. First, the state of the nation address, eventually delivered by an insipid and uninspiring president after an hour of two of EFF inspired pandemonium. Then, a week or so later, we have the finance minister plucking the golden goose, as he tables the national budget. This is followed by various comments and debates, with politicians, economists and financial pundits spouting forth. At the end of the process, many are hoarse, and everyone, except the politicians, civil servants and tenderpreneurs, are poorer.
The hoarse are represented by four constituencies; the president and his cahoots, the opposition and their supporters, the finance minister and his support structure, and finally, the economists and the fourth estate. These are the four hoarse men I refer to. And in general, with a few exceptions, everyone talks and talks, with very little substance in their pronouncements. To best explain this, I lean on one of my favourite Afrikaans sayings, “As kak praat gras was, dan was julle al lankal deur 'n donkie se hol...” To put it more delicately, one could say that all of these hoarse men are perfectly capable of writing doctoral theses on a donkey’s alimentary canal.
Now let us have a look at the opaque lips. We know that the four hoarse men have opaque lips, particularly our president, with the guarantee that whatever comes from his mouth will not meet the reality test, but let us put a bit more meat on the bone, and for this I draw inspiration from George H.W. Bush. "Read my lips: no new taxes" was the phrase he used during the 1988 American presidential elections, and this powerful sound bite propelled him to victory over Michael Dukakis.
All good and well, but guess what? New taxes were introduced during Bush’s first term, which effectively killed any chances of a second term, and paved the way for Bill Clinton’s ascension to the presidency in 1993, and a generation of nervous White House interns. In America, speaking through opaque lips has its consequences, because democracy is a powerful tool in the hands of the people. Unfortunately, South Africans have not yet learnt about the power of democracy, and our president abuses this naiveté, with gay abandon.
This abuse filters through to all levels of government and civil society, and even our much admired treasury is not an innocent bystander. Thus, our national budget, delivered on 22 February by a finance minister with the sword of the Guptas hanging over him, had all the requisite plucking of the geese, with minimal hissing from the punch drunk taxpayer. Increases in personal taxes and indirect taxes, and the normal sleight of hand around fiscal drag, is now normal fare. And of course, excise duties on anything that moves, no longer sugar coated. And, par for the course, all and sundry had their say, growing hoarse and expanding their lips.
The four hoarse men of the opaque lips are no longer a revelation!