Friday, 29 April 2016


Next week will be the last of the Autumn Series of four- (or fewer) day weeks that we enjoy here on the southern tip each year. Productivity is not a part of our culture.  Neither, any longer is mining, at least as far as the stock market is concerned. None of the top five market cap counters on the JSE is a mining company. Booze and smokes take the top three places with Naspers, a media company, number four and Richemont, the luxury goods outfit in number five. What an amazing turnaround from the good old days of open outcry trading on “The Floor” where the man (and only much later the woman) who held the de Beers “pad” was the rain maker. Today three out of the four (all very small) listed diamond mining companies are loss making.
By contrast all but one of the more than two dozen companies in the Consumer Goods sector are reporting profits. We are a nation of consumers. A fact supported by the astonishing crowds who thronged the opening of a new and very large shopping mall between Joburg and Pretoria yesterday. Reportedly the traffic jams were awesome and some of the shoppers went home in cars that did not belong to them. Both of these phenomena confirming out national competitive advantages of breaking and stealing stuff.
Before fretting about the news that our largest trade union (metalworkers) believe their members deserve a 20% pay rise this season, consider the take home package increases of more than double that being scored by some bank bosses and the severance pay for a cell phone company executive. Now the whole field of executive remuneration is a minefield patrolled by eagle eyed consultants and administered by hardly disinterested remuneration committees and commented upon by jealous scribes. Almost the only shareholder to grumble a bit is the state pension fund. It all rather adds to the unreality that is this country.
A further example is the epidemic of State of the Nation/Province/City addresses by head honchos whose domain is not always not in a state deserving boastful claims. Presumably displeased that his shindig will not be televised to a rapt audience, Executive Mayor Parks Tau of Johannesburg has bought pages of print space to assure everyone that no fewer than 13 radio stations will clear their schedules in order to relay his words to adoring ratepayers. Well run entities don’t need to boast.
In a quaint and moving but perhaps rather colonial ceremony, various National Orders were awarded to a long list of deserving worthies yesterday. A common theme in the citation for the recipients of the bravery order (most of who are now dead) was that they had a steadfast belief in the equality of all citizens. How disappointed they would now be to see how that cherished hope has been trashed. The difficulty of naming public places after people was highlighted when it turns out that The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo has nothing to do with a convivial airport but is awarded to grateful but perhaps startled foreign nationals who were thoroughly friendly, particularly in their support for “the struggle”. This year’s list of recipients included an Algerian diplomat, a Dutch arts and culture manager and the president of Chile.
Sports minister Mabalula wants to impose retribution on certain sporting bodies who ins his view still select ability before race. Even if he has the authority (debatable) he certainly doesn’t have the money to help solve what he sees as the problem.  One of his department’s tasks is to develop and promote sport for youngsters so as to reveal passion, talents and skills. Clearly this task requires cooperation and understanding from schools and teachers willing to provide resources like facilities and adult supervision and coaching. Realistically at this time in our history this is not possible for everyone, so to punish those who do emerge from this morass is just silly.
James Greener
29th April 2016