Economy

Investing in South African infrastructure: I recall having been repeatedly over the past 10 years, told by those who govern us, that the state will invest in infrastructure. Factually, fixed investment in South Africa, has grown by a mere 0.2% since 2009 . Now, our state has gazetted R350bn worth of such projects and wants to commence operations in three months. A pipedream? Will it ignore the drags on development, such as environmental impact assessments and such, which can easily take eighteen months prior to spitting the soil?

Perhaps, as long as someone else pays for it: of the above sum, only R1.7bn will come from the state. Understandable, as a part of our problem is that investment by the state in our infrastructure has been crowded out by its salary bill, which accounts for some 35% of state spending as opposed to a 10% global average. No wonder that the OECD says that our civil servants are amongst the best paid in the world, when measured against the size of our economy.

What to do when governance fails? Our state needs to develop in order to create jobs – understood. Yet we do not fix what is broken: only a handful of third tier government institutions i.e. municipalities were given a clean audit this year. Forty-six are crisis-ridden, necessitating central government intervention. But then, why would we fix what is broken and collect what is due, when there is an easier solution: tax top-ups!

Think (drumroll) proposed new local taxes for advertisement, construction, hotel occupation, fire and drought levies, amusement tax, to name but a few. And, to make it worse, those imposing the taxes, are part of the defaulting institutions in terms of not paying its rates.

Is it just me getting old and cantankerous, or is our society in need of a Damascene epiphany. The fact is that our state is broke and will not fix the system, but will feed it more. The political hoohah about borrowing money from the IMF is irrelevant: our frail economy needs cheap money and, whilst not irrelevant where we borrow from, payback of our loans is looking increasingly dubious.

Hocking the family heirlooms: Eskom is selling the world’s largest oxygen producing plant to Air Liquide and seeks a buyer for part of its Lake Charles project, at a 50% discount, nogal; not to speak of its attempts to sell power stations. We, the taxpayers, paid for these assets and deserve to have them kept as part of our national investment.

The fitness industry will be joining others in protesting the effect of the lockdown on its 29,000 direct employees. Good, we need some muscle behind our pushback!

 

 

Business

The intermittent closure of government-related sites owing to CV19 incidents, follows on state prescribed sanitisation procedures which require a two-day settlement period after sanitisation Oddly enough the private sector is able to sanitise and reopen, often on the same day – why? My understanding of this is that state uses overly noxious chemicals in sanitisation and is poep-scared of unions which insist that government workers should be protected at all costs. Balderdash: I believe that our civil society, business, and all those interested in or doing business with the state, should dig in their heels and protest. Even the Limpopo Health Department has said that such closures are unsustainable – a Damascene moment for a consequence that was obvious four months ago! The fact is that you cannot close an institution for three days every time someone gets sick with CV19. Given that we will require a 70 – 90% infection rate before we achieve herd immunity, most of the employees in every building in South Africa will become infected; a three-day closure for each such event will result in that institution being closed for a heck of a long time over the next six months or so. Our state wishes to stimulate the economy – how will it do so when its own offices repeatedly closed down making interaction with the state virtually impossible.

You have to love this: the insurance industry worries about reputational damage over its failure to compensate clients for BI owing to CV19. Santam then throws a sop (a non-refundable freebie, because they are nice guys, in case they are liable – not an acknowledgement mind you, just to help us out for the time being, while a judge decides whether they are liable or not) to its clientiele, whilst it hunkers down to fight its case. Would the scales but fall from Santam’s eyes to realise that the reputational damage ship has sailed.

To whom are our ministers responsible? Deputy finance minister Masondo was asked to step down from his post, given accusations made against him which had the effect of bringing the ANC in disrepute. He asked for further guidance from the ANC. Health MEC Masuko will step aside owing to accusations of corruption involving the Gauteng Health Department, in order that he might be investigated by the ANC’s integrity commission. Our presidential spokesperson, Diko, lamented her husband’s company having sought to do business with the Gauteng health Department, expressing regret, accepting that years of cronyism had created an environment of mistrust and suspicion when individuals who are close to political office and influence, are seen to benefit from the state in ways that may be unethical. Public pressure brought the potential downfall of these three: now, the ANC investigates, not the state. One is tempted to assume that these worthies are responsible to only the ANC and not to us, alternatively (and probably), that the ANC does not give a hoot about what Parliament thinks?

Whilst on state compliance: the BBBEE commission reports a drop in compliance by JSA-listed entities on reporting to 42% of those who should: all state entities should so report and run at a compliance rate of only 15%. Whilst waxing biblical: would the state but remove the beam from its own eye first.

August is women’s month…

New terminology is fempire and fempreneurs.

You can report motor-vehicle accidents online rather than go to the nearest copshop: Reference

The above grouping is intentional… 😊

Working overseas and need tax guidance? See Reference

Toyota will be opening the first African petro-electric car plant at Prospecton.

 

 

Property

The excessive post-sanitisation procedure of the deeds offices cannot continue: I believe that conveyancers, estate agents, banks and everyone interested in that sector, must object vociferously. An example of such insanity, affecting primarily estate agents, is typified in an article by Property Professional in which it says that the EAAB has been open only seven days in the past three months: Reference

By way of example: last week Monday the Pietermaritzburg Master’s offices, the Pietermaritzburg deeds office and the Pietermaritzburg rates department were all closed; the latter until this Monday (oh yes, civil servants are more easily infected than others).

What estate agents need to do is to get the national franchises to publicly speak out against these practices and, at local level, to pressurise chambers of commerce/business and the like to voice their disapproval. If you wish to hold hands on this, drop me a note; old f@rts deserve a crusade now and then.

The following topics may interest you:

How does one do due diligence on a commercial property transaction? See: Reference

What costs are involved for a seller of property: Reference

Zimbabwe has announced a historic undertaking that it will pay out farmers the estimated 4500 farmers who were displaced during the repossession of land by peasant farmers. Not quite as rosy as what one may think: compensation will only be paid for infrastructure on the property (presumably because the land belonged to the people in the first place) and only 50% of that will be paid initially with the balance over a five-year period. And, oh yes, someone else must pay for this. What is funny though is that the EFF condemnation of Mnangagwa for his capitulation to white monopoly capital, was slapped down, citing the Zimbabwean constitution! Yup, the Zimbabwean government is acting constitutionally, albeit somewhat late and with some pushing.

 

 

Practice

Selling your soul to the devil? Perhaps: it is very difficult for a personal injury lawyer to get up and going and, aside from sourcing a loan from a bank, this lender (no, this is not a recommendation) attracted my attention in the past week: Reference

It is not often that one’s lawyer insults one in public – this week past Mkhwebane’s advocate sought to explain his actions, when disapproved of publicly by our PP: she does not know the basis of our legal system. WDD!

South Africans have good cause to doubt the legal system: R1bn has been spent on commissions dealing with corruption; very few prosecutions came from these. Lawyers need to make a living too!

An interesting site, that I chanced upon, is that of Caselaw – do take a look:
Reference

Two cases that you may find of interest:

does an exclusion of negligent conduct, by a security service provider, exclude liability for gross negligence: Reference

does the failure of a co-director, to ensure proper bookkeeping, justify her being struck from the roll of attorneys: Reference

 

 

Quotables

“Indeed, he (Mlangeni) had very good cause to be concerned. I am sure all of us will recall one of the important messages that came out of the 54th national conference of the ANC where it said, for instance, that there is a loss of confidence in the ANC because of social distance, corruption, nepotism, arrogance, elitism, factionalism, manipulating organisational principles, abusing state power and putting self-interest above the people.”

– Mbeki

“One of the free market’s biggest strengths is not just that it rewards successful, well-executed ideas with handsome profits, but also that it punishes bad ideas or bad execution with swift failure, at limited or no cost to anyone other than the idea’s proponents and investors.

With government, it’s different. When the government has a bad idea, or implements it badly, there is no competitive pressure to make it fail quickly, and there is no parallel competition that might succeed.”

– Vegter

 

 

Comment

Eskom has undertaken an education drive on the dangers of illegal connection, overloading networks and its impact on communities. I’m fascinated: do those who steal electricity not know that their actions are wrong? If the drive is to make those who steal power understand that, if they do not desist, the overloaded transformers will not be replaced, I am less sceptical, save to say that the choice faced by those, who do would so steal, is be immediately self-cut off (community spirit and all that) rather than be cut off a couple of months later when the transformer fails? Hobson’s choice.

Asinine: the English Department at Rutgers University will, in support of BLM, change its approach to grammar correctness by incorporating a critical grammar approach in favour of a more inclusive writing experience. This places an emphasis on the variability of English rather than accuracy. The thinking is that requiring academically correct English places those with a non-English background at a disadvantage. WDD.

On accountability: above I had mentioned that ministers appear to be accountable to the ANC only. Presidential spokesman Ms Diko explained her husband’s foray into CV19 provisioning by saying that this was owing to an error of judgement. Clearly, in her words, she had no inkling that such actions could possibly be questionable. Just a moral lapse?

Similarly we have two high-ranking officers, caught smoking at a funeral: factually there can be very few South Africans who still smoke cigarettes that they bought (to last for five months) in March. Such nonsense is driven by the illusion that it is not wrong to smoke, just to buy cigarettes.

Accountability in South Africa is selective, as is who enforces accountability.

A pox on you: biological warfare in the Middle Ages took the form of plague-ridden bodies being cataputed into fortified cities and so on. The Mongols and the Tartars were amongst those who first employed this tactic. But, wait, there’s more – see below…