Friday, 27 January 2017


With the exception of Sterling, because of course the UK is fighting its own demons, the little old rand is at its best level in 12 months against most major currencies. Real people (as opposed to us talking heads) are obviously not concerned by political and social developments (see below) and are still buying rands in order to do business here in the sunshine. A similar scenario is unfolding in the USA where despite the moaning about the new president, the share markets are surging. The Dow Jones index has cracked above 20 000 for the first time in history. The JSE all share index is looking set to deliver maybe 5% this month with most of the heavy lifting being done by resources which are supposed to be reflecting the global slow down, but obviously aren’t. Bears get only a few opportunities in a lifetime to be right and this isn’t turning out to be one of them.
The political animal is suffering from a bad plague of fleas. It is scratching incessantly at every nook and cranny on its rather mangy body. There are spats, disagreements, protests, and accusations breaking out everywhere. And the students have yet to reconvene for the new academic year and get their nonsense under way. It’s a noisy mess. Some of the fights are inter-ministry affairs where the bad news is that if the squabble ends up in court, the lawyer’s fee notes for both sides are sent to the yax-payer.  Jaw-dropping claims and assertions abound, with perhaps the week’s best being that Minister Faith Muthambi’s  “… record of delivery in digital migration speaks for itself”. Now South Africa is already 18 months past the internationally agreed deadline for this process, so maybe it’s time for Faith to change the record.
As usual the details of all these issues are complicated and assuredly we never get to hear the full story. Nevertheless, on available information, there are two particularly interesting and worrying battles to watch at present. The most recent is the claim by some mining houses that the Mineral Resources department is unreasonable in the exercise of its powers to close mines in response to certain safety issues. So far claims for revenue lost due to vexatious closures amount to a few tens of millions of rand. But government has no intention of coughing up even that relatively small amount of money, so this will probably be another bonanza for the lawyers.
And then SASSA, the state agency responsible for the monthly distribution of the critically important social grants is bickering with …. well, itself!  If this state cash hand-out program were to collapse for even one month the consequences would be dreadful. Despite many of the inevitable “consultations with stake holders” and the “appointment of task teams” there is widespread doubt that the transfer of this huge practical task from the privately-owned Cash Paymaster Services (considered now to be unsuitable) to SASSA itself will be seamless. Bluntly put there are around 17 million “customers” for this service and who knows how many pay points. Even the slickest profit-incentivised organisation (which SASSA is clearly not) would battle with that switch over. April 1st may be more than All Fools day on the SA calendar.
The poor standard of maths in our schools is showing up in our limited over cricket performance. The rather vital statistic of runs per over seems a bit of a challenge for lads unaccustomed to long division. Choosing the best 11 players is also proving to be difficult for our national selectors. At times their meetings appear to nothing more than taking slips of paper out of a hat that is filled with names of anyone who has been on a cricket field in the last dozen years. From beating the Aussies at home the Proteas have fallen a long way in a short time.
The news is that ‘bok coach, Allister Coetzee could be fired next week. Bafana Bafana (the soccer ‘boks) fired their boss last month. Maybe the two could swap jobs. Neither side could do any worse than they have managed recently.
James Greener
Friday 27th January 2017