Don’t tax your poor little brain about the Wiese issue
R3.7bn? That's the cost of two whole years of blue light convoys! Christo, you monster!
When Twitter read the first three words of the headline of the media’s précis of the amaBhungane report, it spat its dummy so hard that it bounced off the wall of the echo chamber. Christo Wiese, he of the cash-stuffed suitcase, was allegedly dodging paying his taxes, and the world would never be the same.
To be fair to Twitter, R3.7-billion – the amount being sought by SARS – is a lot of money that could otherwise be used by the government. I mean, it’s a full 13% of the R28.4-billion wasted, lost or stolen by South African municipalities last year. Just imagine: if Wiese had shouldered his full tax burden they would only have had to waste, lose or steal R24.7-billion of our money.Then there’s South African Airways, the airline that has traditionally carried this country’s hopes, its ambitions, and anyone too incompetent to be redeployed to a functioning SOE. If Wiese wasn’t so snoep it could easily get the R5-billion it asked for, to go with the R10-billion it got last year.
At current rates, Wiese’s taxes could even buy two years of VIP protection for our leaders. Two whole years of blue light convoys! Christo, you monster! Think of those poor MPs, having to cower behind normal police officers, with nothing between them and the murderous mob but a BMW X5, electric gates, more police officers, and the spare BMW X5, the one they take to Woolies.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that Wiese shouldn’t pay his taxes, even if paying tax to the ANC government is like feeding crack to a belligerent addict who doesn’t think it needs help. As Guardian commentator Jan Schakowsky wrote in 2016, the super-rich “receive the benefits of our infrastructure, our government-funded research and our workforce, and they need to pay their fair share of our public investments”.Now obviously Wiese hasn’t benefited from any government-funded research, mainly because the only research this government has funded is a study of how long you can go on eating people’s lunch and then farting in their faces before those people start suspecting that you might not have their best interests at heart. But he and his business empire have definitely enjoyed the benefit of South African roads, South African workers and South African hospitals that keep those workers just well enough to keep working.So yes, Wiese should pay his taxes. But of course he won’t. Why? Because, despite the Steinhoff heist, he is still fantastically rich; and of all the pastimes and pursuits of the fantastically rich, like marrying beautiful racehorses and watching their trophy-spouses race against each other, avoiding taxes is their favourite.
This is not news, folks. This is simply the world. I know that 2016 is the late Cretaceous period in Twitter years, but all of this was spelled out in the Paradise Papers leaks. This is just what the super-rich do. They find ways to pay less tax – on average about 30% less than what they owe.
The important point, always ignored in the rush to denounce rich individuals, is that they find legal ways to do it. Not moral, not ethical, barely human; but legal. It’s not just offshore accounts and shell companies. There are entire countries welcoming them and their loot with open arms. Because, again, this is simply what the super-rich do.
Should Wiese contribute his fair share to the country that has made him rich? Obviously. But if you’re going to go after Wiese, you’re going after an entire alternate reality. And when you walk into it, yelling about inequity and hypocrisy, be prepared to be gazed at with amused confusion before someone snaps their fingers at you and demands to know why you still haven’t brought them a martini.