DA leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo: (Twitter)

SOSHANGUVE - The 2018 national budget unveiled by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in parliament this week is "undoubtedly one of the most anti-poor budgets we have ever seen – and it amounts to an assault on the poor and the jobless", Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.

Speaking at a DA rally in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria in Gauteng to launch a petition against the VAT increase, he said instead of cutting the fat and waste in government – unnecessary spending and bloated departments – and focusing on growth, the African National Congress chose to cut spending on services to poor people, including funding for housing, education, policing, and local and provincial government.

"The raising of VAT by one percentage point in effect means that we will all be paying 7.14 percent more tax on everyday goods and services. This, combined with a significant fuel levy increase, will make food and transport more expensive. 

It will now be more expensive to be unemployed in South Africa. Life will get harder for the most vulnerable in society over the coming months," Maimane said.

"As I have said, I will offer President [Cyril] Ramaphosa my support when he takes action that will benefit the country. However, raising VAT and transport levies will not benefit the country, it will do the very opposite – and it will hit the poor and the jobless the hardest.

"The ANC cannot steal public money and then expect us, the people, to pay for it. South Africans are law abiding. We pay our taxes faithfully, and we deserve better than this. We will not take this lying down," Maimane said.

Therefore, the DA called on all South Africans to join the fight against increased taxes for the poor and working class. The DA would oppose and fight the VAT increase and the transport levy increases on all fronts. "We will not support a regressive and anti-poor policy by the ANC, and will today [Saturday] be launching a national petition to say ‘no’ to VAT and transport levies," he said.

The DA's budget plan had spelled out the options for spending cuts and selling off certain entities that would free up R112 billion. That meant tax increases were not necessary. 

But the ANC chose otherwise. The budget was "big government bullying ordinary South Africans into paying for its misdeeds. The ANC cannot make the poor pay for their looting of public money". The DA would in due course table its petition in parliament, Maimane said.

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