Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dr. Dion George MP.
In his mid-year budget speech on Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, not once mentioned the cost of living crisis or the daily battle faced by millions of South Africans to put enough food on the table.
This despite the minister’s undertaking on 24 September 2022 to, upon requested, establish a panel to assess the impact of expanding the zero-VAT rated basket of goods.
Subsequently, on 25 September, the DA wrote to the minister to formally request him to do so, with no response.
On 19 October we delivered a petition and a memorandum to his office in Pretoria.
The DA will now again be writing to the minister to ask whether he purposefully mislead Parliament when he said that he will consider expanding the zero-VAT rated basket, if so advised by an expert panel?
With the benefit of a significant tax windfall, the 2022 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) provided the minister a perfect opportunity to at the very least signal that government hears the plight of the most vulnerable in our society to urgently address the current cost of living crises.
Instead, with the delivery of the MTBPS the minister chose to snub the poor by not even acknowledging the easily affordable expansion of the zero-vat rated basked of goods and reducing the fuel-levy.
In his speech and subsequent briefing to a joint meeting of the standing and select committees on appropriations and finance – after the DA pressed him on the matter – the minister simply referred to a report that was published in 2017 by a previous panel that decided the zero-vat rated goods basket should not be expanded.
Local and international economic conditions have changed radically since then, and 81% of households responded to a survey that they are unable to put enough food on their tables.
The minister made numerous references to so called trade-offs that have to be made. Yet, by directing billions to failing State-owned enterprises, the minister followed ANC suit and traded off the wishes of poor consumers by pandering to the cadres who find their patronage networks drying up.
The DA will continue to put pressure on the minister to answer to the plight of those who are the most vulnerable in our society.