Rolland Simpi Motaung – Book Review
Handle Black Tax Like a Pro, by Ndumi Hadebe
Handle Black Tax Like a Pro
by Ndumi Hadebe
Publication Date: 2023
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
Review by: Rolland Simpi Motaung
The issue of black tax facing many working professionals, particularly black Africans, is complex and multi-faceted, with both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, it can be seen as an act of kindness in uplifting family members out of poverty and supporting the community. On the other hand, it can be a burden that holds individuals back from achieving their personal goals, leading to possible negative impacts on their mental health. With such complexities – at the back of increasing interest rates and food and fuel prices – how can one then handle this sensitive issue in a healthy and compassionate way?
In her recent book, Handle Black Tax Like a Pro, self-leadership coach, Ndumi Hadebe offers a guide for black working professionals who struggle with the pain of Black Tax. The book is structured into ten relatable stories of ordinary working-class people struggling with black tax and money management. It provides practical tips and reflections on how to manage this issue in a healthy, loving, and compassionate manner. The book explores behaviors, notions, and societal constructs that have normalized this issue, without being against the spirit of ubuntu. It argues that black tax shouldn’t be a reason for getting into expensive debt, but that setting and communicating boundaries, can help move from compulsory monetary action to a voluntary approach. The book’s tone is a mixture of therapy, psychology, and financial coaching, with the author’s voice comes across as a big loving sister who is offering practical advice. Hadebe goes beyond financial advice, to also offer guidance on personal development, self-love, and mental health. Instead of echoes of Dumza Maswana’s “Andikho” – I-am-not-here – tendencies of hiding from some family members, the book ultimately aims to provide a roadmap to stronger relationships, better finances, and overall well-being, for those struggling with black tax.
Boundaries and emotions
Hadebe challenges the reader to ask deeper questions on our relationship with money, and the emotions linked with black tax. She argues that, “if your black tax invokes feelings of annoyance, guilt, shame, fear and resentment”, these may be low-vibration emotions potentially affecting your ability to connect with the frequency to empower you to earn more money. High-vibration feelings such as love, partnership, transparency, and empowerment are what the author ultimately hopes the book will be the catalyst towards, and to achieve a better outlook on this sensitive issue. The author asserts that an acknowledgment of these emotions, and working towards personal truth by setting and communicating boundaries, is vital in positively managing black tax.
Boundaries: a concept often clouded by negative connotations of selfishness, stinginess, and ego, is an underrated tool for reclaiming personal power and reestablishing self-worth. “Creating boundaries,” says Hadebe, “is a simple act of self-love”. Hadebe believes boundaries are the foundation needed for one to be aligned with their innermost self, but that this does not necessarily mean abandoning black tax altogether. It is abusive to the self to commit to a situation or to someone without considering your personal situation first, writes the author. Because black tax is in fact the, “price we pay mentally and emotionally”, establishing boundaries thus is necessary. For instance, having a specific amount allocated to black tax and being disciplined enough to lovingly say, “Go fella mo” – it finishes here – when you have reached your limit, the author argues that this may be a better approach for the payer, and a recipient’s peace of mind.
Cultural expectations and mental health
Cultural, religious, and social constructs can also have a significant impact on the expectations around black tax and can lead to an emotional burden. The pressure to conform to cultural expectations to “do as you are told” by our elders, may lead to neglecting personal truth, and can furthermore cause resentment due to unexpressed emotions on the issue. The book questions the relevance of some of these cultural beliefs and expectations in a modern society; a society where mental health issues are becoming more prevalent. If the payer, seeking better mental wellness, expresses their discomfort with the cultural expectations, will that be seen as “UnAfrican” and a form of disrespect to elders? Ultimately, it is important to recognize that black tax is not just a financial obligation, but also a mental and emotional one. It is necessary to approach the issue from a holistic perspective, taking into account the cultural, social, and personal factors that shape this complex phenomenon. The book Black Tax – Burden or Ubuntu (2019), grapples with this complexity. In this collection of essays by various contributors, editor Niq Mhlongo states that, “While these debates are always inconclusive due to the ambiguity, irony, and paradoxes that surround it, as black people we all agree that black tax is part of our daily lives”. Thus, in her own book, Hadebe encourages approaching these sensitive conversations in a clearheaded, loving, and kind way. By doing so, the payer could find a better balance between fulfilling their obligations and taking care of their own well-being.
Shortfalls of the book
Truth be told though, our elders come from a different era, where concepts such as ‘financial freedom’ and ‘mental health’ are foreign to them. What happens then if they don’t understand our personal truths? Can personal truth come with the cost of losing family and friends? Besides the advice for one to be prepared for the backlash, strategies of how to handle the aftermath, post the big money talk, has not been fully explored in this book. In her introduction, the author mentions how some research shows increasing numbers of white, Coloured and Indian communities, also finding themselves paying this kind of tax; however, stories of other cultures are not fully explored.
Conclusion and recommendations
A thousand rand away from difficult financial jargon, and easily digestible content, overall, Handle Black Tax Like a Pro is a timely contribution to the personal finance literature in South Africa. If black professionals are to truly achieve financial freedom and build generational wealth, setting boundaries and opening conversations on money matters, particularly black tax, is vital. Due to increasing interest rates on loans, clothing store accounts, and other debt repayments, Handle Black Tax Like a Pro is highly recommended to those stuck in a complicated web of black tax, and seeking a way to handle this sensitive issue, in a loving and compassionate way.
Rolland Simpi Motaung is an entrepreneur, facilitator, and book reviewer based in Johannesburg. He holds qualifications in Basic Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management from the University of Pretoria, and a BCom Honours in Business Management from UNISA. He is currently pursuing his Master of Commerce in Business Management, focusing on township-based SMMEs. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, education, creative arts, media, and gender studies, particularly from an African context. His book and movie reviews have been published in various online publications including CityLife Arts, Culture Review, City Press, and Mail & Guardian.