Friday, 16 March 2018


For at least a month most of the market indicators have hung about in a narrow band less than 4% wide. This sort of laziness is unusual and of course no one knows why. Maybe there was a feeling of sympathy towards the northern hemisphere and their intense freezing conditionse and didn’t want to trouble them. Here at home perhaps it is the Cyril Concord. Whatever the reason, it will eventually end, and both bulls and bears are presently arguing their corners about what happens next.
Reserve Bank Governor Kganyago will soon tire of polishing his Central Banker of the Year Trophy and realise its been simply ages since he did the one other thing he is allowed to do and adjust the repo rate. The bi-monthly meeting at which these sorts of things are discussed takes place next week, immediately after the publication of the Bank’s Quarterly bulletin. This report might contain the justification for a decision which, if it changes, will almost certainly be downwards.
Those of us foolish enough to be paying sufficient attention to remember the last time VBS bank made the headlines (and thereby wasting precious hours of our lives) can now nod wisely and say: “I told you so.” Allegedly because the bank had a (now ex-) president as a mortgage client they pursued a banking strategy that was both overly ambitious and probably illegal. There are clearly specified types of public entities which may not make deposits with these so-called Mutual Banks, but they did and they were the ones who caused the crisis. Some of them at the same time last week wandered into their local branches and asked to withdraw their deposits. Rather belatedly VBS has been placed under curatorship (a status that very rarely unwinds happily) and astonishing people have made loud and totally unfounded claims about the whole debacle being a racist plot.
Even the ex-president is now assuring everyone that white people were responsible for his recall. Just what he’s doing out in the open these days and not under kraal-arrest at Nkandla is unclear. Every time he opens his mouth the taxpayers are handed another lawyer’s bill.
Obviously being elevated to a senior political post carries serious health threats. Principally amnesia. No one can remember anything. Despite documents and diaries all pointing to the fact that Minister Gigaba was assuredly in places where he signed letters and met people, the poor man hasn’t the vaguest recollection of these occasions. Little wonder he has so many smart suits and watches. He forgets where he put them and must go shopping all over again. His current memory loss relates to those infamous breakfasts organised by JZ’s old chums the Guptas, which cost the sponsors (state owned enterprises, by the way) around a million rand a sitting.
More than once this writer has puzzled over why it seems to be so difficult for SARS, the nation’s tax collector, to do what should be a simple job. The answer is that the name of the taxpayer is a critical factor when making assessments and paying refunds. Unlike the law (ha ha) the taxman is not blind to who might appreciate a favour or deserve a penalty. Once again, the personalities and faces of those who should ordinarily be quiet faceless technocrats working at SARS are splashed over the media because it is alleged they could be tempted into causing money to flow in unusual directions at convenient times.
The internet is humming with stories about the Aussie cricket team allegedly engineering the conditions for the suspension of Kagiso Rabada, SA’s delightfully successful bowler. Most of the world appears to distrust Australian sporting ethics. Or is that an oxymoron?
James Greener
Friday 16th March 2018