Friday, 13 October 2017


There’s a piece of financial folklore that maintains that when the big news magazines feature the words Bull Market on their cover, then it signals that the bear is in the wings about to bound into centre stage. The Economist magazine’s bull is benign and decked in flowers. Oh dear. This crash is going to be really bad and central bankers the world over are going to be instructed by the politicians to do something to keep the voters happy. It will be difficult though. They have been setting the price of money so low for so long that their powder is both running out and damp. Is this what’s driving up the price of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency which might provide refuge from government? Notably, Krugerrands are also at the year’s high. The JSE’s All Share is up almost 5% this month despite very few companies reporting that level of earnings growth.
SARS says it is satisfied with the billion rand that their Special Voluntary Disclosure Program has raised from taxpayers with previously undisclosed offshore assets. Some sources suggest they were hoping for four times that and others are wondering if they had a look under G for Gupta and Z for Zuma in the Dubai phone book. Less happy, however, are the nation’s 3 689 rated research scientists who are facing dramatic funding cuts of up to 90%. This is probably unavoidable given the extremely dire state of government finances and its expenditure commitment to salaries and social grants. It will, however, probably be the death knell for virtually all science research in South Africa.  Even some of the socialists in the cabinet should see this as a real calamity.
Durban was hit by another one of those rain-bombs this week. It came as a great surprise to everyone including the official weather forecast service who used the event to complain that some of their kit was more than a decade old and not working. It will never be known if the tragic loss of life caused by the storm could have been prevented if SAWS had the resources they say they need to do the job properly. But some of the havoc was surely due to blocked and insufficient storm water drains and exacerbated by the tendency for most of us to make poor decisions when beset by natural hazards. Even if the radio channels had been blaring timeous warnings, the desire to get home often overwhelms the need for patience and assessment.
Film makers must long for the chance to be able to make “fly-on-the-wall” documentaries during meetings of the South African Cabinet. On one side the Department of Communications is insisting that the lack of a board of directors for the SABC is not having a material effect on operations. But simultaneously National Treasury are complaining that the national broadcaster has far too many temporary executive appointments.  Then there’s the squabble about selling the state’s shareholding in Telkom to bail SAA out of its bottomless  pit of debt. Meanwhile, the police minister is inciting his staff to break the law and torture suspects and the minister of the grossly misnamed Public Service and Administration department is having a hissy fit because her staff won’t let her spend money on unbudgeted jaunts. And all of this takes place under the eye of Number One at the head of the table giggling gently. Award-winning comedy material indeed.
The sequel could be the parliamentary investigation into the controversy over upgrading Zuma’s private home at Nkandla. However, the part where the panel members each get handed a copy of the 92 000-page affidavit produced by the investigators might get a bit tedious. Ink and paper suppliers to parliament are surely planning bumper Christmas bonuses.
The news that the T20 Global League project has collapsed is probably the first time that most of us have bothered to find out what it was supposed to be. Apparently, this pet project of Haroon Lorgat the recently departed CEO of Cricket SA did little more than allow him to jet around the world, seeking support which in the end he failed to do. Sadly, many sports administrators appear to devote more time to creating lucrative deals for themselves than to battling evils like match-fixing and political interference which discourage players, spectators and crucially sponsors from having mutually rewarding fun.
James Greener
Friday the 13th October 2017