Friday, 21 April 2017


Most people are very pleased to get their hands on some unearned wealth. Legacy and larceny are probably the two main sources for this kind of loot. Unfortunately, the second source is now commonplace in this nation. Mr Molefe, who suddenly left the corner office at Eskom after not even 2 years, to become our newest member of parliament will get a leaving present of R30 million. That’s definitely unearned but has undoubtedly help to dry up the tears he shed when explaining his departure.
Our brand-new Finance Minister appointed an advisor who notwithstanding being a professor of economics has failed to notice that Marxism has been widely discredited.  Reportedly, his advice is that in addition to utter failures like SAA, Eskom, SABC, etc. the state should also own the insurers, banks and mines. Fortunately, Minister Gigaba has apparently rejected the advice but alarmingly not yet the advisor. He is now overseas with an admirably small team but probably large luggage (our minister is a snappy dresser) trying to find money.
The presidential succession question seems to have been answered while we were wondering what overseas investors were making of Minister Gigaba’s road show. Based on column inches of newsprint alone Dr Dlamini-Zuma would seem to be a done deal. No messy internecine squabbles and divisive nominations necessary. Democracy is a very colonial thing. Our next leader appears to have been decided – perhaps in the Saxonwold Shebeen – and we are already being fed her views and opinions on many topics. And very unappealing they are too. Displaying scant regard for facts let alone constitutional niceties this lady has made up her mind that a minority of the population are foes and will need to be discriminated against, a practice that we all hoped was abolished two dozen years ago. It’s extremely worrying.  The faint hearted are advised not to Google for more details on this clever, cunning campaigner.
The arrival of the computerised spreadsheet a quarter of a century ago filled the hearts of the number geeks with glee. Never before had it been so easy to collect, manipulate and misinterpret data. One of the finest examples of this is the consumer price data spreadsheet released every month by Stats SA. Sliced and diced into almost 750 categories of commodity types, geographical areas and income and age groups, a decade’s worth of monthly price data are indexed and made freely available. Just one row in the latest spreadsheet reveals the so-called Headline Consumer Price Inflation for All Urban Areas of 6.1%pa, about which a certain amount of optimism was expressed this week.  However, elsewhere on this huge schedule one can discover that hard-pressed Northern Cape consumers are now paying 26% more than a year ago for their sugar, sweets and deserts (sic). It’s not as if they’re short of sand in the Kalahari! At the other end of the scale, telecommunication equipment in KZN was a whopping 12.5% cheaper.  Both of these results ( and many others) feel suspect. The booklet accompanying the data hints at the effort and perils of collecting the raw numbers to populate this spreadsheet. Indeed! For example, Rugby Ticket prices are sampled in February and August while Cricket Tickets are monitored in October. There’s no mention of Soccer Tickets though.
With the second four-day week coming to an end today, people have become accustomed to the holiday feeling and although only Thursday next week is (yet another) public holiday, Friday will be mostly a no-show and so a mere three days of early rising beckons. It’s really hard on we retirees having to work out when’s the best time to go to the bottle store and when the beaches will be empty.
A sleek newspaper insert slid to the floor this morning as I was searching for the funnies. It was a Guide to Preparing for the Comrades Marathon taking place on June 4th. This information might be a bit late for those actually taking part. But the sections on eating and drinking during the race and pain management were particularly pertinent for me because that’s what I’ll need to worry about when slumped on the couch in front of the TV. It will also be useful for enduring the half-dozen Super Rugby back-to-back matches tomorrow. And the London Marathon on Sunday. No guidance about the “Remote Thumb Syndrome” though.
James Greener
Friday 21st April 2017