The real significance of this book lies in the fact that it tells us more about the everyday life of black South Africans. It delves into the essence of black family life and the secret anguish of family members who often battle to cope.’ – Niq Mhlongo
A secret torment for some, a proud responsibility for others, ‘black tax’ is a daily reality for thousands of black South Africans. In this thought-provoking and moving anthology, a provocative range of voices share their deeply personal stories.
With the majority of black South Africans still living in poverty today, many black middle-class households are connected to working-class or jobless homes. Some believe supporting family members is an undeniable part of African culture and question whether it should even be labelled as a kind of tax.
Others point to the financial pressure it places on black students and professionals, who, as a consequence, struggle to build their own wealth. Many feel they are taking over what is essentially a government responsibility.
The contributions also investigate the historical roots of black tax, the concept of the black family and the black middle class.
In giving voice to so many different perspectives, Black Tax hopes to start a dialogue on this widespread social phenomenon.
Mhlongo was born in Midway-Chiawelo, Soweto, the seventh of nine children, and raised in Soweto. His father, who died when Mhlongo was a teenager, worked as a post-office sweeper. Mhlongo was sent to Limpopo Province, the province his mother came from, to finish high school. Initially failing his matriculation exam in October 1990, Mhlongo completed his matric at Malenga High School in 1991. He studied African literature and political studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, gaining a BA in 1996. In 1997 he enrolled to study law there, transferring to the University of Cape Town the following year. In 2000 he discontinued university study to write his first novel, Dog Eat Dog.
He has been called, "one of the most high-spirited and irreverent new voices of South Africa's post-apartheid literary scene".
Mhlongo has presented his work at key African cultural venues, including the Caine Prize Workshop and the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and was a 2008 International Writing Program fellow at the University of Iowa. His work has been translated into Spanish and Italian.