Friday, 11 May 2018


Perhaps the simplest yet most crucial national statistic needed for any analysis is how many people there are in the country. In its last annual report published almost a year ago, Stats SA declared that there were 56 521 900 souls living in South Africa.  The 22-page document goes on to slice and dice this number in all manner of ways, the most important of which is by age group. Naturally, this being South Africa, the government in probable defiance of the Constitution, still confidently slots each of us into one of four coyly named “population” groups. And it is even bold enough to split the nation into merely two genders – a task that these days is a crocodile-infested swamp where common sense goes to die. These numbers are undoubtedly all hopelessly incorrect, and the most recent evidence for this is the education funding crisis where far more kids have pitched up for school than Stats SA told us were out there. All “per capita” analyses in the education business are dreadfully compromised suggesting that the government’s boast that education is their priority expenditure item needs to be used cautiously. This is not going to be an easy one to fix and will require both hard work by government and cooperation from citizens.  
The good news is that very shortly it will be possible to fly from Durban to London without having to stop over in Doha, Dubai, Constantinople or even Kempton Park. British Airways will now operate flights from our very own King Shaka direct to Heathrow several times a week. A good scattering of folk who probably hardly ever pay for their own tickets and usually get to sit near the pointy end of the aircraft were pictured smiling expectantly at model planes painted up in the appropriate livery. The irony is that the event chosen for the announcement was a showcase for South African tourism and that SAA was nowhere to be seen. This was particularly painful for SA taxpayers who not only funded the jamboree but are also currently paying R5bn to keep our egregiously over staffed and badly run national airline operating for a few more months.
South Africa is a pretty violent place but at least we don’t have to worry about   molten rock oozing out of large gashes in the landscape and destroying stuff, like the folk in Hawaii are coping with now. A video on the internet shows a car being consumed by lava almost as quickly as a protestor can torch a truck.
The new boss man at SARS seems like a hardworking decent chap, but tax collectors are definitely affected by their line of work. To regard taxpayers as “clients” who deserve to be better serviced is really to sugar-coat the fact that we are victims trying not to be fleeced! He did reveal that the SARS unit dedicated to high net worth individuals serves (there he goes again!)  just 450 taxpayers. Out of 56 million? Wow! This seems to be a remarkably low number judged against the number of lavish homes and exotic cars around us, but it obviously depends on one’s definition of “high”. Curious.
It’s very hard to understand just what the state wants to do about tobacco. Undoubtedly it is very bad for one’s health but banning it outright would terminate a very useful revenue stream for National Treasury and would further stimulate the enormous criminal smuggling enterprises that allegedly feather many nests. Including some in high places. Yet the latest proposed set of anti-smoking legislation is medieval in the severity of the penalties. Property owners who fail to put up No Smoking signs (when did that ever help?) could go to jail for years. A similar sentence awaits someone smoking alone in their own car. Surely, we have far more important problems, like having enough teachers for all those kids, or curbing drunk driving, than hunting for someone enjoying a (still) legal substance in the wrong garden?
The excitement in Durban is unending. Next week the boys from Barcelona (well some of them, anyway) come to play an exhibition soccer match in our iconic (but costly) stadium. Hopefully, unlike the last time there was a game there, the fans will not also do some kicking (of security staff) when the match is ended.
James Greener
Friday 11th May 2018