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By Editorial staff


Breeding a culture of nonpayment

Tax collectors' electricity disconnected for unpaid bills; ironic as they chase taxpayers. Government's IOU culture fuels nonpayment.

There must have been few taxpayers who, after being hounded by the SA Revenue Service (Sars), had a chuckle at the news that tax collectors had their electricity disconnected at one of their Pretoria offices for their unpaid municipal debt of R838 000.

But, actually, it’s no laughing matter when the people who lord it over working people who are not up-to-date, on coughing up, what they owe the government, are the ones not paying their bills.

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It’s also bizarre that the organisation which did the disconnection and made such a song and dance about it – the City of Tshwane – is actually a delinquent debtor itself, owing Eskom more than R8 billion for electricity supplied.

While Sars quickly settled its debt and it may be true that this was an oversight from an organisation which is normally a model of probity, it is nevertheless remarkable that this could happen. Was nobody paying attention to the accounts due?

Other government organisations are generally tardy payers, not only to service providers from the private sector but also to fellow government departments and state-owned enterprises.

If the government does not do the right thing and pay its bills – preferring to go along with the IOU principle – what chance is there that ordinary South Africans will be any different?

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In broader society, a culture of entitlement has, in turn, bred a culture of nonpayment for basic services such as electricity.

Tens of billions of rands have had to be written off by central government, or municipalities, for huge nonpayers like Soweto.

The sad reality is that a significant number of those who don’t pay, can actually afford to. Unless the national IOU culture is eradicated, we will be condemned to impoverishment.

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Eskom South African Revenue Service (SARS) tax