Friday, 20 February 2015


Most of the talking heads seem to agree that last night’s chaos in parliament will mark the start of an ominous and disappointing phase in the nation’s political development. Almost everyone present in Cape Town yesterday behaved badly, even if was just in their choice of clothing. Apparently nearly every rule in the parliamentary book was broken. The ease with which “Honourable Members” are able to quote the number and wording of each paragraph in that book in support of their “point of order” is amazing. Equally astonishing is the firm adherence to the supposedly despised British traditions of gun salutes, mounted police and kilted pipers. The man who lugged the ceremonial mace into the chamber looked suspiciously like that sign language non-interpreter who embarrassed us all at Madiba’s funeral.
The whole unedifying farrago was arranged to allow the president to deliver his annual wish-list. Filled as usual with tortuous grammar to avoid saying anything definitive, he nevertheless appeared to outline many horrifying and blatantly investment-unfriendly ideas. For example, the plea for foreign investors to send us their money didn’t exactly mesh with banning them from owning property. The assurance that the energy shortages were being tackled with a plan to draw up a plan was not reassuring. There was a lot of talk about unlocking and revitalising stuff which should in the first place never have been locked up or allowed to die.  It seemed a sure thing that the markets’ reaction would be a sharp collapse this morning.
But they certainly did not.
The JSE has set a record high and the rand has not noticeably weakened against the US dollar (although it is fading versus the pound). So what the SONA debacle has definitely achieved is a complete disconnect between the fantasy world of politics and the real world of people making their own decisions.
It was rather startling to hear the Eskom CEO, Tshediso Matona boast that after just a few months in the job he now had a full understanding of that utility’s difficulties. Now this is a business in such trouble that it really can’t afford any time at all without a boss who knows what is happening. Even more alarming is the fact that for the three years prior to his new appointment Mr Matona worked as Director-General of the department of energy. What on earth do these bureaucrats do if it’s not learning all about the things they are supposed to control?
Those readers who live in the King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality (no, sorry, don’t know either) will be disappointed to learn that the free catering they have been enjoying at the past 13 development plan meetings may be coming to an end. Some dour killjoy has suggested that the R13m bill was excessive and the policy of “buying groceries” should be reviewed.
Apparently the folk who provide therapeutic massage with fragrant oils to their customers have asked the Competition Commission to allow the costs of such treatments to be covered by medical aid schemes. I shall watch the outcome of this request with great interest because it has long been my contention that the cost of the first cold beer on a Friday evening should also be allowed as a medical claim. If that’s not therapeutic then little else is.
My Canadian guests were delighted to draw my attention to the news that Edmonton has withdrawn from the bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Durban is supposedly now a shoo-in for that very dubious privilege. Nevertheless almost R100m will be spent on preparing the bid. The games themselves will cost at least R10 billion. The Canadians politely declined to subscribe to my private fund for distressed Ethekwini ratepayers and went on to ask if the violence and scrumming they watched on the TV last night was rugby. They seemed unconvinced when it was explained that the Super 15 starts only tomorrow. It’s also not cricket to have to get up so early to watch the world cup from the Antipodes. Why can’t they use proper time zones like we do?
James Greener
Friday 13th February 2015