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 toward 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 and, as such, 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 past 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 [are] 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.”
Safeguards are needed
Sharing much of Sooliman’s sentiments, Umunyana Rugege, the executive director of South African based human rights organisation Section27, adds that it is important that the act of giving – whether through one’s time or money – becomes more focused on curing social ills rather than it being a scattered tick-box exercise.
For Rugege, the establishment of the Solidarity Fund in 2021 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic was proof that targeted philanthropic initiatives aimed at solving immediate social issues do work.
However, to ensure that the efforts of assisting government – as it tries to turn the ship around – through philanthropic work is successful, Rugege says a strong civil society will be necessary to hold power to account. Rugege adds that funnelling assistance to civil society groupings will be crucial in strengthening our institutions and ultimately protecting the integrity of the country’s democracy.

“I think one of the key issues that we have in our democracy right now is the trust deficit between the people and the state,” Rugege says during the panel discussion.

“I think what’s really important is that we do also put money towards organisations that are holding the state to account for their constitutional obligations to deliver on those obligations that are found in the constitution around healthcare and education, and housing and water.”
“We have a declining trust base in our institutions like Parliament, the Judiciary – the trust in the judiciary has halved over a ten-year period and that’s very serious… So, we do need to strengthen those institutions and the work of democracy is about institutions and strengthening the accountability, the oversight of parliament.”
“This is work that has to be done, and whilst there’s a humanitarian response we also have to make sure  that we are [supporting] our institutions because that’s what can break a democracy, weak institutions. ” Rugege adds.

Give government four years to turn the ship around – Sooliman – Moneyweb