Flash Briefing: DA’s volatile victory; SARS distrust aggravated by tax secrecy laws; SA’s ambitious satellite plans

  • The DA has swept the mayorship of Ekurhuleni and the City of Johannesburg, with the City of Tshwane expected to go the same way. The results surprised both the DA and the ANC after coalition talks between the former and smaller parties broke down over the weekend, and no formal agreements were signed. While the DA looks to be upsetting the ANC by taking as many as five of the eight major metros in South Africa, with no formal coalitions, the position of power is volatile, and the opposition party will be forced back to the negotiation table with the parties it rejected, to ensure stable governance. 
  • Tax experts say that South Africa’s tax secrecy laws contribute to public mistrust of the South African Revenue Service. While SARS is tasked with reporting criminal activity to relevant authorities and investigating tax crimes, there is no way for the public to know whether this is happening. The public has seen SARS go after compliant taxpayers through audits, but there is little to no evidence that something is being done to target actual tax evaders and other criminals. Over the years, an impression has been created that politically-connected individuals are ‘untouchable’ – and the fight against transparency exacerbates this.
  • Government is fast-tracking plans to develop South African-owned satellites that will focus on connectivity and tracking, says Communications and Digital Technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshaveni. Addressing a technology conference, Ntshaveni said the department is considering ways to condense the satellite programme, which would typically take between eight and ten years to develop. She said that this revised programme would hopefully be ready to launch in just three to four years and that this will be dependent on access to funding. According to a commission established by President Cyril Ramaphosa: “The (satellite) would create an enabling environment that opens opportunities for a shared economy that would empower all Africans to change their material social conditions and alleviate poverty, inequality and youth unemployment.” The commission said that the geostationary satellite would also add value in setting up an African central exchange for voice, data and other communication media. 
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