Judge Dennis Davis. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Judge Dennis Davis. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

A dangerous trend had manifested itself in debates about transformation in SA, one which flipped worthy ideals into their opposite in order to further the economic interests of a few, Judge Dennis Davis said on Monday.

This trend had manifested in the valid criticisms of the banks and Constitution as obstacles to transformation, which in the hands of propagandists became an argument to ease the way for personal enrichment.

Davis, who heads the Davis tax committee, drew in his address to the Cape Town Press Club on the book How Propaganda Works by Yale University philosophy professor Jason Stanley. "Propaganda uses language that purports to support democratic ideals such as liberty, equality and objective reason and then flips the language in the service of undermining these very ideals themselves. It is the idea of taking an ideal which is utterly commendable and with which many people would agree and flipping it in the service of its very antithesis which destroys the very ideal itself," Davis said.

Such a discourse was very prominent in SA and placed democracy at peril as it robbed people of a true understanding of the nature of the state and of their interests. An example was with the banks.

Davis said he personally believed that the banking sector was subversive of serious economic transformation.

This idea, however, was flipped in the service of a project that had absolutely nothing to do with the economic transformation of 50-million people, but rather the enrichment of a small group of people.

Criticism of the Constitution for holding back land reform and restitution was harnessed to justify the opposition to new anticorruption laws such as the proposed amendments to the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill, which was attacked as an obstacle to transformation. Those who would be most harmed by messing with the banks and the financial sector were the poor, Davis said.

Dealing with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2017-18 budget on Wednesday, Davis said there seemed little option other than increasing personal income taxes as increases in VAT and corporate income tax were unlikely.

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