Friday, 15 June 2018


The allure of high office in politics is a mystery to those of us without the gene that codes for interfering in other peoples lives. President Cyril’s DNA must be packed with the stuff. Why else would anyone want to run South Africa? On top of the dozens of things that are coming off the rails or are already through the fence and upside down in the veld, he this week got a summons from one of our several kings to come and explain himself. The Zulu monarch is as usual very exercised about land and in his view Cyril’s government is thinking naughty thoughts about this topic. To put up with all this for a salary probably no higher than a middle manager at Eskom shows Cyril’s humility and love for the country. But if there is anything he can do to boost the rand at the moment it’s not yet working. Our currency is having a terrible month.  
A headline-grabbing story from the business world illustrates the cause of this nation’s economic woes. That is the government’s policy of specifying who should own, run and trade with a private company. The Vodacom BEE deal is only the latest in that company’s attempts to tick all the boxes and won’t help at all in their mission of supplying cost effective (but profitable) communications on this piece of the planet. Like most deals of this kind it’s bafflingly complex and employs racial and gender exclusive identification of people who are required to be given stuff that not only do they not pay for but in many cases don’t really want. A massive waste of resources that could be far better used by Vodacom’s customers to run and plan their own lives.
Despite not mining very much of this metal, it is reported that South Africa is one of the world’s leading exporters of copper. The suggestion is that the supply comes from the large-scale cable theft that plagues the nation, in particular, the railways who use miles of wiring to connect their signalling systems. If true this is astonishing and hints that like so much crime taking place, such as cash-in-transit heists and farm murders, it is suspected that corrupt  and criminal officialdom is playing a role. A very expensive election campaign is coming up and funds are urgently required.
There isn’t a single metric which doesn’t confirm that Eskom employees are enormously over paid and worse still, that the organisation is massively over-staffed. Reportedly far too few of these employees have much of a clue about electricity generation and distribution. And yet they are on strike in support of a large pay-rise. This stay-away has triggered load-shedding, the polite and non-threatening term for power cuts, which happened in parts of the country just as soccer fans opened the first beer and began a month of hurling advice and invective at their TVs. Poor timing if they seek sympathy?
Zabivaka is the name of the official Soccer World Cup mascot. Supposedly a cool and friendly character with “shades” pushed back onto his head, on inspection he is still a wolf with more than a passing resemblance to President Putin. In the meantime, President Trump’s diplomatic dance in Singapore with the bizarrely coiffed top man in North Korea has set off a firestorm of opinion, ridicule and praise. Some are even suggesting a Nobel Peace prize is in order. But the real award should be an Oscar for the choreographer who staged the dramatic march of the two peacemakers through matching facing colonnades to the meeting spot. Such theatre!
The two big sporting prospects this weekend are both going to be nerve-wracking.  England (and the rest of us) have now seen the ‘bok surprises and test rugby in Bloemfontein in midwinter is rarely fun for anyone. Calling Shinnecock Hills a golf course is rather too kind. It’s already claimed many scalps at the US Open. But both will undoubtedly be more interesting and less embarrassing to watch than 270 minutes a day of soccer from Russia. What a shame Bafana Bafana aren’t there. Just think how much training time they must have spent on their victory dance.
James Greener
15th June 2018