Friday, 20 May 2016


The currency and the bond market are both being hit by sellers. Shares, however, are mostly unaffected. Has a non-resident holder of a large bond portfolio heard something that he didn’t like? It’s definitely unsettling. The weakness began even before Governor Kganyago told us that there was no need to change the price of money - yet. The big factor for these markets, however, is the ongoing and nasty campaign to side-line Finance Minister Gordhan. It is quite remarkable how he is standing up to threats of arrest and harassment. The example set by one of his predecessors, Barend du Plessis to retire to a Swiss lakeside chalet must be very tempting.
Less serious, but also indicative of how the authorities are fretting about the small stuff is the ruling that the SABC radio stations must play 90% local music. Is this a ploy to save foreign exchange on royalty payments? And then there’s the idea that raising the drinking age to 21 will solve a range of social ills. Here in Durban a spurt of enthusiasm for long dormant by-laws threatens anyone loitering naked up a tree in a public place with a R6500 fine.
It really doesn’t matter where our Parliament is housed. It has become an irrelevant and costly colonial relic. Even on the rare occasions when speakers are allowed to deliver their opinions uninterrupted, the audience is either fast asleep or implacably decided in their own positions. The physical destruction of the Cape Town premises is already underway with several Honourable (say what?) Members displaying their indignation at their expulsion for hooligan behaviour by breaking stuff. It won’t be long before the building is torched as has recently happened to university buildings country-wide. In one rather interesting incident school children, not yet actually able to drive a car, burned a vehicle licencing office to the ground. Do our leaders even care?
Someone does though. Photos show large trucks with mobile school rooms on board racing up the N1 Freeway to where a number of schools were destroyed by adults unhappy about a political ruling. Despite most taxpayers angrily preparing to dismiss pleas for help and reconstruction, other more forgiving and selfless souls have already mobilised charity and support for the innocent school-less pupils. This is a hell of a country.
Number One is putting some serious mileage on the presidential jet. No wonder it’s about to be replaced with something newer.  At least two trips to Arabia in as many weeks. We are not told anything beyond bland waffle that he is having talks about matters of mutual interest. Now that JZ’s best friends have moved into some very fancy digs in the region, perhaps he also pops in there for a chat and to deliver the diplomatic bag of goodies his mates left behind in their hasty departure from Saxonwold.
There is little doubt that the Russians believe that they have a deal with SA for the delivery of a fleet of uranium fuelled power stations. Why else would they be offering ten scholarships to study for a Master’s degree in Nuclear Physics and Technology? Mind you they have taken the precaution of getting the SA taxpayer to pick up much of the tab. We will pay for the airfares and a monthly living allowance for the expected 2 to 3-year duration of the scholarship plus a settling-in allowance. The Russians will spring for a “basic” monthly allowance and the tuition (negligible as presumably the course is being given to others anyway). One small matter to note though is that successful applicants will first need to pass a one year course in Russian.
Why aren’t all those Kiwis who were so nasty to the all-white Springboks when they tried to tour there in the bad old days outraged by the idea of a Maori All Black team? Those righteous and indignant long-haired unwashed lads and lasses are now presumably nodding off in front of their TV. Is there just a touch of irony there if not hypocrisy?
James Greener
Friday 20th May 2016
The tide will leave no marks for a few weeks since I am off to the Kalahari in search of lions, larks and leprechauns. Well perhaps not leprechauns.