Friday, 19 May 2017


Explanations have been offered for why some markets slumped almost 5% this week. The most inventive reason is that the news from Brazil (a fellow-member of the cosy but distinctly tainted BRICS club) about a crooked politician who had been found stealing was particularly shocking for local investors. Well, what about the realisation that our country is now being run by a foreign family? In the histories yet to be written about our poor land, the chapters with the name Gupta in them will amaze and fascinate readers. And in the USA opinionistas are eager to show that the Trump phenomenon is losing its lustre. The alligators that infest the swamp that he claims to be trying to drain are getting nasty and vengeful.
Over in Europe accusations, outrage and stupidity vie to be named the most influencing event of the instant. Nevertheless, sellers of many currencies and securities are accepting lower prices than a few weeks ago, so something is changing. The more excitable talking heads are even fretting about a proper bear market. It is always possible. An inconvenient fact is that the commodity price recovery spotted a few months ago is not gaining traction. Consumers aren’t inclined to consume.
For anyone learning English, the press reports about the Brian Molefe affair are providing a wonderful lesson in synonyms. Fired, retired, resigned, ……. Who knew that there were so many ways to describe leaving a job? For a while “retrenched” seemed to be the favourite term. But doesn’t that imply that the post itself has been closed, in which case no one else, including the previous incumbent, could go back to that position. Curious. And even more worrying than the taxpayer’s farewell gift to Mr Molefe of R30m is the indication that suddenly Eskom don’t have enough power for us all. Could this have something to do with the poor-quality coal that became excellent-quality just as soon as it was delivered by a different seller? Or perhaps it’s just common or garden cable theft.
A similar exasperating drama is playing out in parliament where a very revealing squabble about whether MPs should or even could vote secretly for or against a motion has inevitably found its way to a court. Anyone opposing a secret ballot is obviously fearful that the majority vote will be against their own preference. Even without the legal arguments about the fine detail on the House voting rules, one is curious to know how secrecy can ever be assured when there is an electronic voting button on each MP’s desk? Despite any assurances to the contrary, the spooks who managed to jam cell phone signals in the Chamber will surely be able to find out which button was pushed on which desk? But will Number One pay the slightest attention to a vote of no confidence in him? Almost certainly not. Meanwhile his ex-wife, helped by our very generous funding and a big boost from JZ himself, has stepped up her campaign to become our next president. As well as the usual hand-outs of T-shirts and food, reportedly her voter persuasion packs include cell phone time. Very clever.
Also smart are the fellows at Prasa – the passenger train services. They have discovered a new multiplication method which reduces the product even if one of the factors increases. They say that they can accede to worker’s demands for a pay hike and still cut costs. Miraculous. The small print reveals that Prasa intend to reduce the head count but even if that were possible the bonuses for the corner office denizens will undoubtedly soak up any saving pretty quickly. Weren’t these the guys who ordered trains larger than the tunnels?
The social engineers who know what’s best for us always seem to forget that everyone loves a winner. No one who has followed the Blitzbokke to their 2017 world championship knows or cares if there are sufficient “community” players to meet some unacceptable target. Just as long as the 7 best South Africans are on the field handing it out to Fijians or English or whoever is all that matters to the rest of us. Meanwhile SARU have been phoning around the world’s second tier provincial tournaments and offering them our two slightly shop-soiled and redundant franchises. It reminds me of stock fair day in Grahamstown when the streets were full of livestock being herded to and from their destiny.
James Greener
Friday 19th May 2017 (Endangered Species Day)