Reviewer: Jobe S Sithole
Author: Ndumi Hadebe’s
Title: Handle Black Tax Like a Pro’
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
For many black South Africans, the reality of supporting less fortunate family members is deeply rooted in our philosophy of Ubuntu and helping out where we can. If you are fortunate enough to have a job, you are duty bound to subsidise relatives who are less well off.
This phenomenon is widely known as black tax- the extra money that black professionals cough up every month to support their extended families.
Is this form of assistance done willingly or one feels obligated to dish it out? how do you set boundaries, when do you put your foot down and what about your own life? These pertinent questions and others are what Ndumi Hadebe’s first book ‘ Handle Black Tax Like a Pro’ launched on Wednesday evening in Johannesburg seeks to address. Conversations on this subject tend to stir up all manner of emotions -resentment, guilt and suffering in silence. These were palpable at the launch during the Q& A session with the author.
Various attendees lamented how their dreams and happiness had been sacrificed at the altar of black tax. Other said this realisation had ultimately led to a breakdown in relationships with family members , spouses and led to a stagnation in their careers.
As the name suggests this is a reality that affects Africans in particular. Its history can be directly linked to the harsh economic realities .
Reviewer: Jo of black people. Hadebe correctly points out in the book’s introduction that black tax is directly linked to poverty that is a result of socio-economic inequalities birthed by apartheid and anchored by racism.
The book is premised on that for anyone to handle black tax successfully they must set boundaries. In this case, boundaries are defined as your personal happiness, needs, wants and feelings influenced by several factors such as core beliefs, opinions and societal teachings. Hadebe argues eloquently that black tax is not only about rands and cents but its actually all about boundaries. Once these boundaries are in place black tax is paid voluntarily without undue pressure.
As Africans, if we truly want to end the grinding cycle of poverty for future generations by creating generational wealth, we must look deeply into black tax and how it affects our ability to achieve this noble intention.
Handle Black Tax Lika A Pro is structured around a collection of ten short stories, each with a unique set of themes found on the black tax range. Each story is then followed by a reflections section, where the author unpacks complexities of the situation and provides recommendations for how it could have been handled in a way that’s healthy for the parties involved.
Two stories that stood out for me is story four, Four Decades of Black Tax and story six, When a Blessing Becomes a Curse. In story four we find Khetha and Derrick with successful careers. They both work for the same company in Johannesburg. Derrick who is Khetha’s junior approaches him seeking advice and urgent intervention as his marriage is on the brink of collapse.
This is as a result of Derrick sending more and more money to his mother and siblings back home than his budgeted for. This leads to countless fights with his wife who moves out of their home one weekend to give him space. To his utter shock, Derrick discovers that Khetha has been through the same experience and in fact spent a staggering R2.5m from the time he started working until he drew the line.
In story six, we come across Linda and Themba who are siblings. Linda who is disciplined with finances has a decent career and owns a lovely home. Her brother, Themba on the other hand is an irresponsible university drop out. Whatever he lays his hands on hardly seems to work out. When that happens his parasitic behaviour rears its ugly head.
The victim at the receiving end is her sister. The enabler of this is none other than his mother who at times clashes with Linda. Themba’s needs and livelihood have become Linda’s responsibility. Every time Themba has a business venture or needs to be rescued from a sticky situation he relies on her. Linda’s black tax is hitting her from all angles as she contributes to monthly costs for her mother and funds Themba’s basic and luxury needs.
In both stories, we see the same pattern- relatives who sponge off black tax payers without caring how their destructive behaviour negatively affects them. These stories show us how once an individual lacks boundaries you end up being caught in a cycle of black tax and ultimately suffer in silence.
The book ends with guidelines on how to confront one’s black tax situation by implementing boundaries. This can be achieved through committing to expressing your true feelings and thoughts, come from a place of love and compassion and letting go of wanting to be perceived as always being correct.
I recommend this book to young professionals who have just entered the work environment and would like to navigate this burning issue of black tax. It will also come in handy to anyone seeking to handle black tax responsibly. No matter how we look at it, any form of assistance directed to our families must willingly come from a place of love and not guilt or shame.