Friday, 1 July 2016


Even a week later, numbers of indignant people in Britain are still battling to come to terms with the stunningly simple process of democracy! It has been enormous fun watching how each opinion, forecast and demand arising from the British referendum has a life of just a few hours before being trashed by facts and developments. Adding to the turmoil was another simple fact that Iceland scored 2 goals while England scored 1 and the rules of soccer are quite clear what that means.
 One of the larger and more enduring of the market reactions to the Brexit incident is our own rand’s strength against sterling. Now trading at below 20 to the pound this is a level not seen in almost a year. It’s a bit of an anomaly since the prices of most other things that overreacted have settled down. The London share market is almost at the year’s high. On the JSE it’s the mining sectors which have enjoyed the best of the year so far, although the All Share has managed just 4.3% total return over the past 6 months.
The Chief Operating Officer at the SABC would appear to have gone off his rocker. He has decided that the staff at the national broadcaster need to be reminded that independence of thought and action is not in their contract. Reportedly he has even suggested that a staff uniform is a distinct possibility just to emphasise that individual creativity has no place in their task of entertaining and instructing the populace. Among his more bizarre rulings is that no images of deeply unhappy citizens burning and destroying stuff may be broadcast, as this might encourage others to emulate this bad behaviour. He might have a point but in this age of the internet and subscription TV, the news of such public displays of dissatisfaction are impossible to stifle. He has declared that he has no idea what is meant by terms like censorship, crisis and revolt. Further he says that despite the sudden resignation of the CEO and others, everyone is always confirming to him that he is doing a terrific job. The SABC’s primary offering appears to be the interchangeable genres of violent soap opera and soccer matches. Even the weather forecast in this time of drought is terrifying. Naturally the savage control of contents has been ordered by the ruling party and perhaps after the local elections are finished, COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng will be lead away to his reward.
Whatever one’s opinion of private schooling, it’s astonishing to consider the growth of that sector in response to the demand from parents who despair of the public system. This week Curro, a listed company operating private schools, bombarded analysts with a volley of astonishing numbers which perhaps inadvertently highlighted just what a problem and opportunities the exploding population is causing for education. Even if Curro does manage to build and find staff for another 400 schools in the next dozen or so years, their pupil numbers will still be fewer than 1% of the country’s school children. And still the government has yet to sweep aside the malign and regressive influence of the teacher trade union and appoint some seriously competent people to drive the urgent need for this country to teach our children to read and do sums.
Brics is a very loose and all but senseless association of five nations (China, Russia, India, Brazil and oh yes, SA) with absolutely nothing in common; except perhaps a determination to squeeze their partners for concessions and a chance to feel behind each other’s couch cushions for lost spare change.  Recently, however, their finance folk hatched a plan to deal with the irritation that the rest of the world don’t rate any of the Brics very highly when it comes to repaying loans. Our fellow’s plan is simple. They will create their very own ratings agency which, presumably, will award everyone a AAA certificate. Job done! Someone get the IMF on the line and ask them to send round the armoured truck stuffed with money. Pronto.
It’s that Saturday when there is so much sport that one needs multiple screens like a bank’s trading room in front of the couch. Fortunately, the Durban July will divert some local attention away from the fact I shall be in my Lions Cap and Sharks shirt for the match I can never lose.
James Greener
Friday 1st July 2016