11/07/2017 06:15 SAST | Updated 10/10/2017 12:21 SAST

My Life With Black Tax

20% of Winny Dubazane’s salary goes home every month.

Winny Dubazane (24) supports a number of family members including her 13-year-old brother and her grandmother (79).
Sebabatso Mosamo
Winny Dubazane (24) supports a number of family members including her 13-year-old brother and her grandmother (79).

Twenty-four-year-old Winny Dubazane's black tax journey started long before she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cape Town in 2013.

At 19, she worked part-time jobs while studying and would send money home to Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga. Dubazane, who now works as a client services lead in a Johannesburg-based public relations agency, remembers that period as being particularly rough.

  • Click here to view our special report on black tax.

She knew without a doubt then that her first salary and other salaries to come would have to help support her unemployed grandmother, siblings and cousins.

Dubazane's parents passed away when she was young, leaving her in the care of her aunt, whom she lovingly calls her second mother. However, her then-single aunt couldn't carry the financial load alone. And after getting married, her aunt had a new family to take care of.

Dubazane tells HuffPost SA that black tax is "very real" for young black professionals like herself. Twenty percent of her salary goes to Siyabuswa. This covers costs such as her 13-year-old brother's tuition and her grandmother's home renovations.

Read more from our special report on black tax:

Depending on the circumstances, the amount might increase. For example, when her grandmother is ill, as Dubazane can't afford medical-aid coverage for her, or when there is a funeral towards which the family needs to contribute. During holidays -- December in particular -- the required financial support rises because of spending on food, festivities and new clothes for everyone.


Dubazane bears no ill-feeling towards her family because of this. "It's ubuntu and goes back to how we were raised. You can't let your family suffer while you can help," she says.

However, she admits that she has had to put some of her dreams -- like buying a car -- on hold. This is something, she argues, some of her white counterparts would not understand. "Other 24-year-olds don't have to look after their parents or start building or renovating their parents' house. We start from scratch."

Other 24-year-olds don't have to look after their parents or start building or renovating their parents' house.

Dubazane believes black tax is, to a great degree, a legacy of apartheid and racial inequality. "Because my grandmother was a domestic worker, she couldn't save, buy a house or a car," she says. For this reason, it irks her when some white people ask her: "What were your parents doing [during apartheid]?"

While she believes her circumstances would be vastly different if her mother were alive, Dubazane tells HuffPost SA that supporting her family members financially has made her more responsible with her finances. All she is working towards now is trying to secure a solid financial base for her own family one day, so that her children won't suffer the same fate.

Dubazane sees herself taking care of her grandmother until her last days. "I would even take her in to stay with me," she says, as there is no prospect of her 79-year-old grandmother becoming employed.

As for her little brother, she is investing in his education so that at some point he would be able to take care of himself.

This is how she believes the family can break the black tax cycle.

'Only a few pay cheques away from poverty'

Dipuo Ngobe* (28) sometimes wonders how her life would have turned out if her parents had been well educated, had good jobs and were able to build a house or save some money for their children.

The Johannesburg-based nurse is the first college graduate in her family. She has been supporting her parents and siblings since 2014. "I do sometimes have these like bad feelings and even jealousy and anger when I look at white people -- they are sorted and we have to work very hard," she admits.

Bandile Ngidi, the co-founder of NGO Rethink Africa*, argues that the financial pressures that constitute black tax include an "initial asset deficit". This means that young black South Africans often start out their careers at a disadvantage compared with their peers -- with student debt and without the financial boost of wealth or assets like a car from their parents.

"This asset deficit means that black South Africans have a more precarious place in the middle class: they are only a few pay cheques away from poverty given their debt, lack of savings and generational wealth," says Bandile.

Mphumeleli Ngidi, a history lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, says it is not surprising that first-generation graduates are supporting their families financially given our history. "South Africa becomes a union in 1910 and all Africans are excluded. There is the Natives Land Act in 1913, which does not favour African indigenous people, then apartheid whose policies left many generations of black people destitute.

"They [first-generation graduates] are catching up. How would their parents have saved money or built houses when they were not educated and were cheap labour?"

The acting CEO of the South African Savings Institute, Gerald Mwandiambira, says millennials will likely be supported by their children, unless there is radical change. "Unfortunately BEE was supposed to be that but it failed because it favoured a few individuals."

*Rethink Africa researched black tax and related themes in association with Alexander Forbes in 2016.