THOSE of us for whom books are a daily delight find it hard to imagine a world without the written word.
But millions of adult South Africans live in just such a world. Between 12 and 15 million adults in this country cannot adequately read or write.
Not only is the world of books closed to them: their daily lives are a battle in a society which increasingly demands that its citizens be literate and numerate in order to function.
Scrapping the 14 percent value added tax (VAT) on books is one way to widen access to the written word, with all that it offers in the way of knowledge and of pleasure.
Along with better teaching at school, expanded adult education and more money for public and school libraries, especially in poor areas, scrapping VAT on books is an essential step in encouraging a culture of learning.
In his previous role as minister of finance, Trevor Manuel refused the plea of some 100 000 people who signed a petition several years ago calling for the removal of VAT on books. First, he said, the savings would probably not be passed on to consumers. …