Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman says South Africans should give government up to four years to turn the country’s economic situation around and grow the tax base.
During that time he recommends that individuals and corporates give their time and money to supporting the delivery of critical services – such as education and healthcare – where government may be failing to do so.
The leader of the disaster response non-governmental organisation was speaking at a Nedbank Private Wealth event in Hyde Park on Tuesday, where the giving habits of the country’s richest few was the topic of discussion.
Sooliman stresses that the country’s current tax base cannot be expected to take care of the entire population’s needs, so government needs to be supported in its efforts of trying to grow this base.
“The reality is seven million people’s taxes cannot look after 65 million people,” he says.
“It’s impossible, [especially] with all the crises we are facing now, so we have to give a lending hand.”
In the last three years, the country has battled several economic blows, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 July civil unrest and the April floods in KwaZulu-Natal, which together wiped out thousands of jobs from the economy and compromised the operations of many businesses.
During these events, says Sooliman, South Africans proved they could band together in times of crisis.
Support a cause, or a sector …
He adds that if individuals and corporates were to commit to supporting a certain cause or sector – for the next few years – and assist government where it is currently failing to deliver critical services, South Africa will have a better shot at achieving growth.
“We have to hold government’s hand. But they have a responsibility too,” he says.
“They have to make sure that the taxes they collect from the over seven million people is properly used, properly managed and there is no corruption – and all the things that the country is complaining about. They need to fix the system.
“We are saying okay, let’s give them a hand for three to four years – because this won’t be solved in one year – corporate South Africa, as well as anybody in South Africa who can make a difference, let’s support the system and pay for doctors, pay for teachers, pay for nurses and paramedics.
“These are all service-orientated jobs which make a difference in the community, it’s very significant in what it does, and it speaks directly to the underprivileged and the masses of the country,” he adds.
Just for a few years …
“If we do that for three to four years, hopefully by that time, the tax income would have increased and there will be more jobs created – and I’m sure many South Africans will come back and [help] rebuild this country.
“We are doing government’s work, yes – but it’s not for the government. It is for the people of South Africa and until they get their act together.”
The head of the continent’s largest independent humanitarian organisation adds that it is time South Africans began taking ownership of the country’s affairs and get involved in driving the change they feel is necessary both in their communities and the country more generally.
“People need to understand that this country is ours. It doesn’t belong to the government, and when it belongs to us we take ownership and we fix it, you don’t complain because you understand that even if you were in government – or the Americans, Australians or the Germans were in government – you were going to have the same problems.”
Listen to Standard Bank Group CEO Sim Tshabalala outlining how he would address the country’s challenges in this FixSA podcast with Jeremy Maggs (or read the transcript here):