Niemöller: Cabinet reshuffle was like rotating four flat tyres – MUST READ

Subsequent to the violent civil unrest in July, a BizNews community member wrote an Open Letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa in which he addressed the ANC’s record of idiotic economic policies, corruption and misgovernance. The letter echoed the sentiment felt by so many South Africans after the government dismally failed them and they were left to fend for themselves during the widespread looting and deadly riots that ripped through the country. The letter, which went viral on all BizNews platforms, was followed up by an equally powerful letter a week later. The author, who has chosen Niemöller as his pseudonym, has written yet another unsparing and profound letter to President Ramaphosa in which he addresses the absurdity of the recent cabinet reshuffle and defends those South Africans who choose to emigrate. This latest contribution by Niemöller highlights the urgency for unbiased unity among South Africans, stating, ‘We might not all vote for you, but we’ll support you in any fight for decency and corruption-free governance.’ – Nadya Swart

Dear Mr President

So you shuffled the cabinet. I’m sorry to be the one breaking this to you, but what you did is tantamount to rotating four flat tyres. Very few shining stars there, unless you interpret support against the RET faction at any cost to be stellar. 

Losing Thandi Modise from the Speaker’s Chair wasn’t one of your best moves, but at least she has a modicum of experience in Defence, and you managed to find a spot for Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Good. Let’s see how fast spectrum is delivered. It’s kinda holding up the whole economy. 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at Lindiwe Sisulu in the tourism portfolio – we are at rock bottom and need all experienced hands on deck to get us off red lists, and back on to the tourism radar once we have mopped up all the blood off the floor caused by your lockdowns. Perhaps she can just listen to the actual people who work in tourism, and stay out of the way other than to shut up and write cheques.

And of course you had to keep Bheki Cele since you’re running out of Zulus who aren’t loyal to Zuma and the RET faction. For goodness’ sake the man is an incompetent fool. You see, Mr President, first you overlook incompetence. Then you permit it. Then you legalise it. Then you persecute those who call it incompetence.

Please don’t try and sell our new Finance Minister as the Great Black Hope. He might be moderately competent, but couldn’t you find one with the same skills who doesn’t come from under a deep cloud? I mean the man was involved in some pretty dire corruption involving poor clothing workers’ pension funds. Was it really worth it?

Instruct him to get a reality check, too. Many will agree that a BIG isn’t the great solution since it creates more dependency, and he was quoted as saying he’d rather get youth into jobs (assuming there are any to get into). But saying “We can’t condemn young people to a cycle of dependence, particularly because these are young black kids” is not helpful. Why particularly black kids? As opposed to, we’d be happy if minority kids were condemned to dependence, just as long as they’re not black kids? Just tell him to shut up about it now; we all know what you mean so he doesn’t have to drive racial divides just for the hell of it.

He might also want to concentrate long enough to study our place in the world. We can compete really well on some things, and we should be going hell for leather extracting what we can while we can. What we absolutely do not want to do is compete where there is crowded space, and where we’re just not at the top of our game. Some of his local beneficiation arguments are spectacularly illogical. Just concentrate, for goodness’ sake!

I’ve left the most priceless to last – he maintains that Covid has “legitimised a great and more active role of the state in guiding the economy”. He really said that. You’ve got to be joking. The only thing Covid has shown is that the State should just get the hell out of the way.

Speaking of minorities, in your shuffle, did you not manage to find a single member of a minority group? Not one? Are we all being relegated to the realm of the irrelevant? 15 years ago there would have been howls of indignation. Now we’re just frogs.

If you’ve read either of the two of my last open letters, you’ll know that I’m on a tax roll. Give taxpayers a break. The middle class is evaporating because of your outrageous mismanagement of the economy – it’s not COVID; that just accelerated it. And those still in jobs are either struggling, or struggling to emigrate. As taxpayers, we’re paying twice for services – once in our tax, and again privately – health, education, security, because your State isn’t capable. Make these tax-deductible since you’re not paying for us out of the public purse. That’s what’s called fair.

Be honest about just how much tax we pay. For those of us on the marginal tax rate, it isn’t really 45% of your income (say that out loud – nearly half of what you earn). Because I added up my tax. Slowly. Deliberately. All of it. PAYE, VAT, rates, sin taxes, capital gains tax, transfer duty, fuel tax, import tax, sugar tax, donations tax. It’s near enough 70% of my annual income, Mr President. That means marginal taxpayers work to keep the bloated public service operational from January to September, and have to survive on what they earn from only three months of the year. You could at least treat us with a bit of gratitude. I hope everyone reading this is busy totting up what they actually pay. Prepare to be alarmed.

Do away with birth certificates to travel. It’s not necessary. A passport is enough, as it is everywhere in the world. Unless you’re conceding our passports are easy to fake. Stop now. It’s inconvenient and just plain silly – a hangover from Moron Malusi’s piece of wonder he gifted to the tourism industry.

While we’re on the subject of emigrants, they’re not traitors or racists. They’ve just had enough. And they worry about their children’s future. It’s really hard leaving your country, so have some empathy. And what’s with this new emigration tax policy taking chunks of your pension just for the privilege of emigrating? The emigration tax is already theft. Stop now! Just let them go in peace. They have not monetised their assets when they leave – they are just transferring them, so no capital gains tax should be payable. There is no reason, other than greed and spite, for SARS to help itself to people’s assets. They have already paid tax on them. Seriously now, enough!

Dish out some instructions on enterprise creation. It took a colleague exactly three days to set up a company in London, bank accounts included. How long does it take here? Months? Why? You should be screaming at the lawmakers. We need more people in jobs, and once they’ve registered on the system, they’re captured on the SARS radar. It isn’t difficult. Just make it happen. Stop talking about it and just do it. Please don’t expect Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to deliver anything. I mean look at her performance in her last ministry, and her constant political interference in the SABC, not to mention her complete failure on digital migration and spectrum. What a useless fool she is.

Encourage people to get a dose of reality. Magda Wierzycka was pilloried for suggesting South Africans increase the number of domestic staff in their homes to try and help solve the unemployment crisis. Why? What else are otherwise unemployable, unskilled people going to do? There is dignity and self-respect in almost any job. And if you’re smart, you use the money you earn to learn a new trade to push yourself further. Anton Rupert started out rolling cigarettes in a garage. People need to calm down.

But hey, having unemployed graduates is a disgrace. Make those phone calls. Ask CEOs to start hiring highly trained graduates at pace, even if it’s on minimum wage to get some experience. It’s appalling they should have studied for more than four years and be unemployed. Just not good enough.

Stop the abuse of the social welfare net. How about cross referencing social welfare recipients with whether they have accounts at Woolworths, or a DsTV, and if they do, subtract the spend from their welfare cheque. As a taxpayer, I don’t mind redistributing my income to prevent poverty and hunger, but I really resent paying for luxuries. And having multiple children when you’re receiving an income grant? One is fine. Two is definitely a mistake. Three is either irresponsible, or it was designed in order to get more grant income. Two’s enough. The third one and more, no allowance. You’re just encouraging the wrong behaviour. Contraception is free.

Speaking of DsTV. Everyone has one. Just take a short drive 20 minutes from Fresnaye along the N2 and you’ll see rows and rows of satellite dishes on shacks. There are thousands of errant fathers of children who are not paying maintenance, and Social Development maintains they can’t be traced. Yes, they can. Ask the CEO of DsTV and you’ll find them in an instant. 

Many of us looked on at the Karpowership deal in horror. A 20-year deal that is almost certainly fraught with corruption and which works on the assumption that Eskom won’t have sorted itself out in two decades? Outrageous. But what was more egregious was the BEE partner involved. Can you tell us please just why this would be necessary? Why should any supplier of goods and services be obliged to have a BEE partner? What do they bring to the party, especially in this case? Skills? Money? Expertise? Anything? The answer is nothing. It’s pure rent-seeking and enrichment. And it’s disgusting. Don’t you feel any shame at all?

Can you instruct your embassies to answer the phone please? The SA Embassy in Paris hasn’t answered its phone in two months, nor has it answered an email. The experience is similar at other embassies. Just what the hell are they doing? Because it’s not their jobs. Answering the phone and providing a service or advice to South Africans abroad is kind of basic, isn’t it?

Start getting tough on the destruction of infrastructure. We must be the only country in the world where people demonstrating poor service delivery promptly destroy their own infrastructure. Make every school, clinic and library a key point. Ask the community to identify those who cause damage. Reward them for doing so. Take photographs. Use facial recognition software. Do something. It has to stop.

Let’s talk about transport for a minute. Prasa is all but done for. We have locomotives that don’t fit, we have railway stations that have been stripped down to their foundations, we have cable theft, rampant crime on trains… the list is endless. If you remember, you did away with Railway Police right at about the time you took power. One of the ANC’s dumbest moves. Bring them back. Get Prasa some serious professional help. Use expanded public works people to rebuild the basic infrastructure. It really isn’t hard. And if you can’t do it, let someone else do it. There’s little doubt the City of Cape Town could do a better job managing the rail network down south, if MyCiti is anything to go by.

And how about taxis. I’ve already covered the fact that they don’t pay tax, which is appalling enough. But since when can an informal industry bring a local economy to a grinding halt? We have had murder – because that’s what it is – on the streets during the recent CATA/CODETA wars. People taking private cars to get to work because the taxis weren’t operating were intimidated and fired at. Bus drivers were shot in the face. Since when is this ok? It’s not ok. The taxi industry is a festering sore that you’ve let suppurate because they’re a voting bloc. We saw that during Covid lockdowns when you decided they didn’t have to comply with most of the restrictions while we all suffered unimaginably. Stop now and get this under control. They’ll still vote for you.

Stop your party playing identity politics. There’s no such thing as a “white” point of view or a “white community”, any more than there is a black one. We don’t think as a bloc. Most of us don’t want to live our lives being a colour. Black executives who work with me share many of my views, just quietly. They wouldn’t dare say it out loud for fear the wokerati would have a go at them and call them a coconut. But they think exactly the same. So encourage honesty and different views, without fear of being cancelled. Otherwise you’re just living in your own echo chamber. Trust the middle ground. We might not all vote for you, but we’ll support you in any fight for decency and corruption-free governance. And common-sense public policy.

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