Friday, 12 August 2016


Already the more excitable of the talking heads are wondering aloud if the “strong” rand might not adversely affect our exports. In the real world of actual work (quite different from the dream world inhabited by politician’s polices and analyst’s assumptions), supplies are bought and products are sold at prices and delivery times in which the current headline exchange rate plays only a small part. Much more impactful for the success of a contract are likely to be capital costs set by global pressures, regulatory changes at the whim of a vote-seeking politician, labour demands at the prompting of a firebrand, and market dislocations caused by competitors and customers. Nevertheless, the rand strength is a nice theme and shows just how surprised and pleased (nearly) everyone was with the election result.
That loud clicking noise you have been hearing this past week is the noise of moral compasses being realigned and principles being adjusted as the word of the moment is “coalition”. The annual yearling sales will be trivial compared to the horse trading that must be going on behind closed doors everywhere. The one excellent spin-off from this is that it has kept many of the more annoying politicos out of sight and busy, although sports minister Mbalula has managed to pop up in Rio looking for photo ops. The naïve yet necessary question to ask is why at the local level does it matter very much which party governs. All that we require is that competent and dedicated people are on hand to install and maintain boring but vital infrastructure. The sad answer is of course that in addition to some very fancy salary packages now paid to council officials it’s the patronage opportunities for friends and relatives that are attractive. However, our Durban blokes are to be thanked and congratulated for the steady progress they have made in restoring most things back to normal after the aptly named “rain bomb” that hit the city ten days ago,
Apparently the SA Reserve Bank has found “inefficiencies” in the way in which bank notes and coins are distributed from and to the SARB itself. Perhaps they weren’t around when a previous head of the US Federal Reserve, who came to be known as “Helicopter Ben”, threatened to drop dollars from choppers in order to get reluctant Americans to start spending money. Might our own Governor of the SARB be mulling the use of local transport to scatter notes and risk being called “Taxi Lesetja”?
If the internet is to be believed, very few of the major players in the squabble about the best system for allocating radio spectrum have much in the way of scientific or technical education. This is costing us dearly. The allocation cannot proceed in any form until completion of that other equally controversy-mired analogue to digital terrestrial TV migration project. This one is already years behind schedule because politics, patronage and pay-backs have been allowed to seep into what should be a purely technical decision. The alarming part of this is that in both projects, different outfits of the same tax-payer funded state are sending legions of lawyers off to court to argue their cases.
The wall to wall 24/7 TV coverage of the Olympics has been great. Those of us with the stamina and well-honed remote button pressing skills are now becoming experts at sports we hardly knew existed. This Handball stuff looks like an ideal game for a school with limited space. Who knew how hard it is to serve a ping-pong ball? Why do the women weight lifters each need three dodgy-looking middle-aged men in tow to rub them down and slap their face? The biggest surprise for me has been the knock-out format now practiced in the target sports of archery and shooting. Electronic scoring systems display a live running total for each competitor that is visible to everyone. This means that archers and shooters who are off target are swiftly eliminated and the winner is crowned almost immediately. These once intensely personal and lengthy events are now transformed by technology into one-on-one rapid-result spectator attractions. Astonishing. Also astonishing is where the TV cameras are popping up. Peering up the muzzle of a gun; following a rowing crew in the middle of a 2000m course from overhead; catching the underwater action at the water polo (nasty) and at sand level in the beach volleyball (nice).

James Greener
The Glorious 12th of August (if you are not a grouse that is)