Letters to the editor: October 14 to 20 2016

No-fee tuition is possible if the wealthy pay more taxes and illicit transactions are stopped, a reader argues. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

No-fee tuition is possible if the wealthy pay more taxes and illicit transactions are stopped, a reader argues. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Free education isn’t altruistic

  It is sad to read that an emeritus professor of religion (Free varsity for all is unrealistic) is unable to bring the much-vaunted compassion that most religions aspire to instil in people and, simultaneously, make inaccurate assumptions about how money works.

Just for starters, the “wealthy” made and continue to make their money on the backs of the majority of South Africans. This alone should be seen as a massive subsidy to the wealthy, given the often shockingly low levels of pay. As Balzac said: “Behind every fortune lies a crime.”

According to various sources, about R120-billion leaves our shores illicitly, through transfer pricing and other mechanisms, which at the current 28% rate of taxation should yield some R35-billion annually.
The wealthy are undertaxed and a few percentage points on both high incomes and a wealth tax would similarly add a large chunk to the fiscus.

There are many instances of subsidies that are abused by the wealthy. For example, the “free” services received by corporations, in the form of externalised health and pollution costs to both people and the planet, are somehow not worth mentioning but free education to people without money is?

If corporations had to pay in full for the complete clean-up of their air, land and water pollution, the economy would grow greatly from the financial resources needed to do this. More jobs would result and save the large sums of money currently needed every year for the associated negative health effects, together with incalculable avoided suffering and death, as regularly noted in your august pages.

Corporations are sitting on cash approaching R1-trillion – surely this should be put to use locally, or taxed? One could go on, but the point is made: if the political will exists, the resources are there.

Much like making sure people have sufficient food to eat, ensuring that those who wish to be educated are able to do so is a moral imperative, not an altruistic one. – Muna Lakhani, Cape Town

Women in mining need a better deal

  Tholakele Nene’s article (Underground world of rape, abuse and the sex trade) states that “women have been miners since 2012”. This is probably a typo for 2002, for the article continues: “Prior to 2002, an underground mine shaft was no place for a woman. Then the South African Mining Charter introduced a clause stipulating that women had to make up at least 10% of a mine’s staff, lifting the previous ban.”

The ban was actually lifted earlier than this, from January 15 1997, when the Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996 removed long-existing restrictions that prevented women from working in many mining jobs, particularly underground.

Until the 1990s the South African mining sector had in place legal regulations and a history of practice that discriminated against both black people and women.

In 1994, just 2% of the mining workforce were women, compared with more than 10% in 2015. The South African mining sector now leads the world in the high proportion of industrial mining jobs occupied by women. This is largely the direct result of the Mining Charter, which took effect in May 2004 and set the target at 10%. Women now work underground, in huge opencast operations and in mining research and development.

There remain many challenges in integrating women into a sector with such a long history of male dominance. These include the need to adapt safety equipment and changing facilities to women’s needs and the need to counter serious risks to the security of women from male coworkers.

One of the objects of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002, is to expand opportunities for women to enter into and actively participate in the mineral sector.

The comparatively large number of women working on South African mines underlines the need for an integrated and comprehensive strategy for women in mining.

The past solution of protecting women by keeping them out of the mining workplace was simple, and discriminatory. This route of protecting women and girls (and young boys) from “unwholesome conditions” in coal mines by their removal from the workplace was applied in Britain in the 1842 Mines and Collieries Act.

Now that South Africa’s laws have opened up mining employment to all, there is a direct and pressing need for a positive strategy for women in mining. – Martin Nicol, Cape Town

We can only succeed if we are one

It seems to me South Africa will fall. And so will the once-great West. And so will most of the world as we know it.

It’s happening already. We humans, as a species, are just too many. We have gone too far into complex systems of oppression, suppression, hatred, categorisation and mental and financial slavery.

I sometimes wonder if there is a social algorithm that favours the cruel and the stupid.

We have pushed the karmic and resource boundaries of our planet too far. We believe we are better than other people. We have lost the magical connection with our fellow humans and our fellow nonhuman earthlings.

This quagmire includes many things. Fees must fall. Jacob Zuma. Almost every other leader in almost every country. Black lives (not) matter(ing). Brexit. Syria. Russia. The Muslim world. The Western world. Invented terrorism. Real terrorism. India and Pakistan on their way to a war over water. Palestine and its occupier. The industrial meat industry. Trade agreements that destroy producers to make purchases dirt-cheap elsewhere.

And it’s all because we will not accept a truth other than what we see from our own standpoint. We can’t conceive that, though I may be right from my world view, the other may also be right from their world view.

I can only pray that from the ashes a new world will be born. I hope for the end of religious division, but even without religion we would divide ourselves by race and gender and our likes and dislikes. We are not as smart as we imagine. We must fall.

Unless of course an event moves us to change – collectively. It would have to be something that moves us to see truly who and what is around us. It’s not a matter of us and them: it’s just us. – Shahir Chundra

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