Friday, 2 September 2016


How wonderful it is to have the nation fretting about the well-worn and timeless threats to democracy like the length and style of scholars’ hair. It does make a nice change from the ceaseless uncovering of ever deepening levels of corruption, theft and bad faith being displayed by almost everyone with the merest claim to someone else’s money. Meanwhile the disgraceful behaviour of those who laughably claim to represent a student elite continues apace. One young man offered the view that the burning down of an exam hall on his campus was “... strategic destruction and not random barbaric destruction”! One definitely needs to have elite education to understand this distinction. This chap should omit this event and statement from his CV, as employers will tend to be less understanding of the subtlety than the university authorities and the tax-payers have been so far. Unless of course he gets to work for a trade union whose attitudes and denial in the face of the increasing grim reality for employment are very unhelpful.
It really was a very modest little notice that SAA placed in the newspapers wondering rather diffidently if there was anyone out there who might be interested in lending them some cash. Well R16bn actually, so quite a bit more than “some”. As yet there has been no word if they have raised anything more than eyebrows. It’s rather well known that the airline is bust in everything but the law and that it’s run by folk with scant idea of what they are doing. So aside from the fly-by-night unregistered and unknown financiers with very dodgy friends, principles and principals, no serious lender is likely to reach for the phone after reading this pathetic little cry for help. In all likelihood it is the taxpayers who will be hoisted back aboard the tired old splay-footed white steed and made to gallop(?) to the rescue of the flag carrier yet again.
Month to month comparisons of many market sensitive statistics are often misleading. 30 days is a very short time scale which can be affected by effects such as clusters of public holidays and late or early inclusions of regular data releases. So the news that in July government revenue totalled a mere R64bn may not be as bad as it looks. It was, however, a record-setting R84bn less than government managed to spend that month and that merits a warning flag. Since that watershed period in 2008 when tax revenues plunged very sharply, the accumulated monthly overspend is now up to R1 300bn. Naturally this comprises a large part of the government’s debt which currently costs us almost R150bn a year in interest payments to service. Unfortunately, except for a few officials at National Treasury and the Reserve Bank, numbers this large have no meaning for most people especially and critically our leaders. Every time they say or do something to alarm the investors who lend the money, the interest rate on the debt creeps up and more taxpayer’s cash has to be directed to interest payments and away from service delivery (and presidential home improvements). This compound interest thing has a sneaky way of growing very rapidly, which is something well known to the evil ratings agencies.
It is amazing how quickly the implementation of “driverless cars” seems to be happening in some countries. Here on the southern tip though we have effectively experienced this development for many years. Or that’s what it feels like after a spell in the traffic or after studying the list of appalling road accidents. Imagining the consequences of introducing the technology here brings visions of those dinky little cars lost in a pothole, driven off the road by a blue-light brigade or riddled with bullet holes by a rival taxi boss. Maybe we need to ensure our flesh and blood drivers all have valid licences first before we let the silicon ones loose?
The Currie Cup hasn’t yet ignited any real interest or passion. Interleaved with the schedule-disrupting   Rugby Championship (a name clearly chosen to rile the northern hemisphere), news of players leaving mid-season to join overseas clubs and the ‘bok captain’s retirement, the tournament so far is battling to gain traction.
James Greener
Friday 2nd September 2016