Tito’s budget speech isn’t an economic event, it’s a domestic disgrace
For any ANC official to stand up in public and breathe even a word about our money is more than bad manners or poor taste. It’s abuse
Tito Mboweni’s budget speech will be called cautiously pragmatic, a reality check, a tightrope juggling act; but these labels will feel hollow because we all know what the speech is. It’s gaslighting.
After all that the ANC has stolen from us – lecturing us even as it’s looted, telling us that if we object to its vast programme of theft and its pogrom against talent it proves that we are racist or reactionary or stupid or “clever blacks” – for any ANC official to stand up in public and breathe even a word about our money is more than bad manners or poor taste. It’s more than chutzpah. It’s abuse.
Wednesday’s speech is being touted as a political and economic event. It is neither. It is a domestic disgrace: the return of a deadbeat father, reeking of liquor and sanctimony, ordering his family to gather round the kitchen table so he can tell them, in faintly accusing tones, that there’s no more money for bread or shoes because his friends got thirsty last night.
To be fair, the patriarch’s family isn’t entirely blameless.
His wife, Electorata, has enabled his squalid habits by shrieking at his accusers and pretending to believe his patently dishonest promises that he will change. Likewise, his favourite child, the aggressively dim Cosatu, has decided school isn’t for him and spends his days sitting on the pavement outside, reciting revolutionary poetry and yelling at his mother to feed him. If she responds too slowly he burns down parts of the house. This is in keeping with his revolutionary belief that “an injury to one is an injury to all”: if one believes that he has been injured, then all must be injured.
Ultimately, however, the patriarch is the sole author of all of this wretchedness. He might not know better, but he has seen better. He has had the opportunity to improve himself. He still has the means to do so. But instead he chooses to wallow and whoop in the gutter, his fly open, his shirt flecked with vomit, his mouth full of indignation and moralising and cake.
Yes, the Reverend Ramaphosa has arrived from a neighbouring parish, hoping to save his mortal soul, but the ANC is beyond real redemption. If it recants and apologises for wrecking this family, it will be out of terror as death and irrelevance loom up next to its bed.
So no. As long as the budget speech is put together by an ANC-led treasury and delivered by an ANC stalwart, I am not going to call it anything but gaslight.
Still, there is a difference between being wary of deceit and being closed-minded. Which is why I owe it to myself to ask, even now: Is there anything Mboweni could announce in his speech that might convince me that the Reverend is making progress? What would I need to hear to believe that the rotten patriarch is starting to see the error of his debauched ways?
And it turns out there are a few things that might help. For starters, he could tell us that the air force is going to bomb the Kusile and Medupi power stations into rubble as an act of cathartic nation-building. Besides, it’s not as if blowing them up will make them any less efficient.
Then there are sin taxes. It’s always strange to hear ANC ministers describe drinking and smoking as sins, given the arms deal and the withholding of antiretroviral medication and Life Esidimeni and Nkandla and Saxonwold and Prasa and Eskom and Bosasa, so perhaps it’s time to update the definition of sin taxes, and apply them only to actual sinners. A 70% tax on the income and pensions of every ANC MP might be a good start.
I would also appreciate some clarity about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the SA context, is that the industrial revolution that happens on a Thursday, when Cosatu finds out that the Third Industrial Revolution that happened on Wednesday failed to score them the 25% increase they demanded during Monday’s First Industrial Revolution?
But of course, I won’t hear any of this, because, for all the hand-wringing of Reverend Ramaphosa, the patriarch still sits astride his pig, riding it around the town square, his one hand clutching a bottle, the other balled into a fist with an accusing finger jutting out of it, cheered on by a chorus of hangers-on, each wearing a grand title – Deputy President! Minister of Women in the Presidency! Deputy Secretary-General! Minister of Environmental Affairs! – and a grander gown or suit, but ill-fitting and wine-stained, the hems heavy with damp, fresh pigshit.