Friday, 23 September 2016


Both the US and our own central bank left their key interest rate unchanged this week. One day this announcement will deliver unexpected and startling news and markets will respond long and hard. But in the meantime it’s all rather pedestrian. Even the claims that Brexit would trigger the end of the world as we know it have mostly turned out to be wrong. Now the talking heads are fretting about whether Britain’s exit from the EU will be “hard” or “soft”. Reportedly the legions of Eurocrats who make a living from knowing the rules are ensuring that it is all as messy, difficult and as drawn-out as possible. The ultimate Eurosceptic position is that once Britain actually withdraws, the rest of the community will fragment causing huge unemployment amongst the paper shufflers of Brussels. And cries of woe from most other parties who wished they had thought of leaving first.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union seems to have scant idea about either democracy or teaching. The union is very concerned by the proposal from the Western Cape Government to send school assessors around to see what is happening in the class rooms. The Union claims that this will take education “back to the archaic times”. Which might be no bad thing as in the present times the teachers have so failed the pupils that SA now languishes near the foot of all international education ranking tables. Perhaps with a bit of prodding and persuasion from an assessor system with the power to instil a bit of “archaic” fear in non-performing teachers, many more school leavers will have useful and employable skills.
This in turn might result in more young people having the self-confidence to move on without insisting that they need to attend university from which so many of them currently leave without any qualifications and with huge debts. Meanwhile the students who do have places are causing all kinds of mischief. They are demanding that universities must be decolonised. Whatever that means exactly is not clear but it often seems to require arson. Even more mystifying was the gathering of people looking very colonial in scarlet doctoral robes and black cow-pat bonnets holding posters bearing messages such as “Education is a right, not a commodity.” So far no reporter has had the courage to ask who it is that should grant that right nor to suggest that actually education is a commodity with an easily determined price.
A foolish check-in clerk at SAA refused to allow Tyrone Pillay, the silver medal Paralympian, to take his prosthetic leg on board a local flight. In trying to apologise for this mistake the SAA spokesman made a memorable gaffe himself. He expressed dismay that Tyrone’s “customer experience got spoiled on the last leg of his journey back home”.
Number One presumably had a good customer experience when he and the selected wife were downgraded from the presidential jet to SAA for a recent jaunt to yet another international knees-up. Now that it has been demonstrated that the national carrier can do the job maybe the plan to buy him a new private jet ought to be quietly dropped. Hopefully the presidential wallet-bearer paid for the tickets quickly because that airline is in serious need of the cash. SAA’s 2015 financial results are months overdue and still some last minute calculator work uncovered a 25% error not previously noticed. The stated loss is a breath-taking R5.6bn.
Apparently in the 22 years since it came to power parliament has passed 1000 new laws. But despite being crafted by the finest socialists and communists on the planet, huge unemployment and inequalities persist. Undeniably and thankfully of course the standard of living for many citizens has been improved in these past two decades, but all those laws have still failed to reduce dreadful inequalities and unemployment. Enjoying great freedom of speech and movement is scant compensation for most of our citizens. It time to fillet the statute books.
Thank goodness we don’t have to watch that haka thing this weekend.
James Greener
Friday 23rd September 2016. (Happy Birthday Philip)