Friday, 19 January 2018


Newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa ought to ask some one to send him a chart of the rand exchange rate versus just about any other currency over the past 30 days. The dramatic and extraordinary 10% strengthening of our currency is obviously due to his election and the anticipation of the changes that will take place when he becomes president of the country. He must frame that chart and put it on his desk as a reminder of the faith that everyone is placing in him. Then he must call for the chart over the last decade and see the work that he still needs to do.
Recently a rather commonplace US aerospace event took place which initially caught the eye for two South African connections. The first was that the launch rocket was supplied by Elon Musk’s outfit. The other was that the mission was named Zuma. The intrigue thickened when rumours began that the payload was a secret US military satellite and that the launch had been unsuccessful. The news that Zuma might have crashed caused a frisson of excitement here on the southern tip until the details emerged. We sensitive South Africans began to fret that this was just another cause for national embarrassment. But we did also point out that Zuma was an unsuitable name for high tech. To date, despite senior US politicians asking questions, few facts are available. US military won’t even deny that it may have fallen into the fire pool at Nkandla.
Another odd choice of name is the word Zero for the nation’s newest bank. Doubtless there will soon be an excited PR piece of puffery pointing out the pontential and promises of keeping one’s money in Bank Zero. Apparently, it is to be an “app driven” bank so its client base will be ruthless and unemotional about switching to a different platform should Bank Zero fail to perform. This curious name is up there with Castle Free for its capacity to mislead.
Reportedly officials in Eskom’s finance and legal divisions were troubled by the secret R440m “signature fee” being paid to an “obscure offshore entity”. They apparently thought it might be a “disguised kickback”. Oh. Wow! Really? Surely not! Did any of said officials type the entity’s name into Google perhaps? Mind you, that R400m is less than 0.2% of the $2bn principal amount that our electricity utility has borrowed from China to keep the lights on. None of the world’s “fixers” will bother to get out of bed for such a paltry commission rate.  R400m back home however could build a few of the university lecture theatres that are so badly needed to fulfil our president’s wishes.
It’s Davos time again and our official delegation are on their way with those scarves in the colours of the flag that have become their trade mark at these events. It will be interesting to see how finance minister Gigaba, usually a snappy dresser, will handle this rather unflattering garment. By now delegates from other nations are grateful for the early warning served by these garish but iconic items about the approach of a sorry tale about the evils of colonialism and an outstretched palm.
I’m a great fan of the Dakar Rally and watch the snippets that appear on TV without fail. It is an epic event with almost a thousand participants driving odd looking vehicles at very high speed in incredibly rugged locations. It lasts a fortnight and important features of the pastime include getting comprehensively lost, utterly exhausted and sometimes quite badly injured. Amazingly there is frequently a cameraman on hand somewhere along the 750 km long day’s stage to record the confusion, despair and agony. Unlike other activitiess like shopping, banking, metered taxis and sending postcards which have been radically changed in the past decade by technology, the Rally steadfastly eschews the obvious boon of satellite based navigation aids. It also these days takes place in South America, a very long way from Dakar. Altogether a delightful and intriguing display of the human spirit.
As was Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi’s maiden test haul of 6 for 39 in India’s second innings at Centurion this week. Way to go sir. And hopefully way to continue.
James Greener
Friday 19th January 2018