Economy & business;
Times are tough, financially speaking, in South Africa today. This is reflected in Famous Brands’ (think Steers, Debonairs, Wimpy, Mug & Bean, FishAways etc.) drop in earnings of late.
Government spending and income has been much in the news with state cost-cutting being encouraged and slated. The Daily Investor went so far as to start talking debt spiral on the back of Treasury disclosing that our revenue growth in August was 8.7% yoy, whilst our expenditure is growing at 9.2% yoy. This deficit was met by increasing the issuance of government debt by R2bn per week. Interestingly, our debt to GDP ratio grew from 48.6% in 2017 to a current 70.7%. This has resulted in debt servicing costs of over R1bn per day – our third largest budget item behind social grants and education. Seen thus, perhaps cost-cutting might be appropriate?
The above, viewed against the latest statistics, show that our tax-paying population is shrinking, compared to our total population. We have some 7 million taxpayers with about 27 million recipients of grants of one kind or another. Put another way – personal taxpayers represent 9.5% of our population compared to an international median of around 35%. Shrinkage of the numbers of the better off will impact on property prices (please see below), the JSE and so on. Looking at the graph below is sobering – a handful of companies dominate our stock exchange:
A note on RSG (saying that the only foreign stock market, which grew in dollar terms over the past 15 years, was the NASDAQ) and a statistic by Codera (to the effect that inward investment into Africa rendered returns of 4.6% compared to 1.6% for outward direct investment) this week, prompted me to look at the average JSE P/E ratio which is, depending on where you look, about 10. Low.
RMB was awarded the leading private bank spot, based on customer experience in South Africa, by Africa Orange Index.
Woman’s year! A woman, Goldin, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for her study of the gender pay gap.
A PPS survey found that the majority of South African students wish to work and live abroad – more than twice the number two years ago. The difficulty with the statistics presented, is that there is a profound difference between someone wanting to work overseas to gain experience, and someone who wants to work overseas with the intent of not returning.
American work-from-home rates have dropped substantially. Only a quarter of households now has someone who works remotely.
The UIF is in shambles. One of the issues at hand, is a project channelling billions into private investment companies, as part of a job creation scheme! Fun, but all in the name of the greater cause!
The above is not unique; the GEPF is pouring money into black empowerment deals by privately owned enterprises. Again, all in the name of a greater cause – thank heaven my pension is not part of that.
NSFAS is embroiled in an irregular tender scandal; yawn…
News of more substance:
A Werksmans article, dealing with the balance between formal dress requirements and the religious prescripts is worth a read – much comes down to the justification for the prescribed dress requirements: Reference
The roiling debate on logistics, encompassing Transnet, and our port and road network, is at centre stage. SANRAL wants private investment in order to help pay for the work but the Prez says privatisation of transport is not going to happen, our ports are/were going to be revitalised by the yoking in of a Philippines-based port operator but Transnet (who wants money from the state) won’t sign and, endlessly, so forth. Lately, in the background there is talk of “roadmaps” and a “Marshall Plan” (ironically defined as assistance by the US to stem communist expansion in Europe) to be led by China, which will help solve these issues. Desperation and China fills the gap.
A short article on restraints of trade: Reference
RAF (our prime newsmaker of late):
The RAF announced the creation of a (customer relations management) contact centre, which it believes will improve its efficiency in finalising claims. Great idea, but questionable, given the RAF’s track record – more so because of its CEO’s rant on attorneys. The intent is to expedite dealing with claims, but is slated as simply giving effect to an onus which the Fund had simply not discharged in the past.
The RAF’s refusal to resume medical aid claimant repayments, has been much in the news of late. Despite an SCA and Concourt judgement against it, the RAF appears to be intent on not complying with these judgements. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to work out that this will have unpleasant consequences for the officials concerned, but then when you are heading up a dysfunctional and broke entity…
The JSC, likewise, is again in the news for the same issues that has caused its infamy in the past: merit giving way to politics. An uninspiring performance and hardly a plaudit to those (the second-best) who are chosen by that August body to lead our legal world.
The concerns, raised by the Deputy Judge President of the Johannesburg High Court, regarding the fire safety of that court, is overshadowed by a picture, published by News24, of the mountain of files serving as a filing system in that court. That our Minister of Justice is not appalled by this, speaks volumes.
A report that there is a stampede of employees leaving the DOJ for greener pastures, simply echoes the dysfunctionality above.
The enactment, loosening the grip of political parties on municipal administration, is set to head for the Concourt. Whatever the failings of our current regime, this attempt at the professionalisation of our public service should be applauded and supported.
State-capture and corruption cases are rare but, don’t be concerned, our NPA has these individuals in its sights…yawn.
More on justice dysfunctionality: complaints on the Master’s Offices’ shambles are increasing – not news to anyone in the profession but, again, hardly drawing the attention of our Minister of Justice. Locally, the delays are exacerbated by the Pietermaritzburg Master having run out of toner for quite a while.
Lawyers and our leaders misbehaving? Yes, recent reports on an SC scamming a client, is distressing. But then, our society silently/ tolerates BS by a leading politician, Mr Malema publicly slating a judgement against him by an East London magistrate as ‘sponsored’; hardly indicative of a civil society or appropriate from a leading member of Parliament.
Speaking for myself, the constant bombardment of FICA information, and courses that one might attend, is becoming a pain, as I find the assault on my mail inbox, with offers to teach what I don’t need to be taught, irritating. Of some use is our JP informing us that the KZN dies non will be from 6 December to ? January and then proceeds to set out the dates for 2026!
The Master has published Directive 8 of 2023 dealing with the Beneficial Ownership Register for trusts. Ask me for a copy.
Paddocks’ series on Understanding Life Rights has two more articles available – ask me for copies.
West published the city of Tshwane’s circular 19/2023, dealing with sectional schemes opened on farmland within its jurisdiction without having followed the requisite process for township development – ask me for a copy and good luck!
Tax matters: the difference between a suspensive time clause and a suspensive condition and two courts on the same issue: Reference
Piercing of the corporate veil and the codification of our law by section 20 (9) of the Companies Act: Reference
Non-compliance by a spouse with the obligations imposed in terms of a Rule 43 order and contempt of court: Reference
Parties married by way of an accrual regime marriage may be awarded redistribution of assets by a court: Reference This is an important judgement and should be noted by those involved in marriage law.
RAF ordered to pay compensation where a claimant committed suicide owing to never-ending pain, stress and depression: Reference (prompted byTech4Law)
More on the RAF: “An order, granted in a party’s absence, is not appealable but may be set aside by way of a rescission application”: Reference
Is a curator entitled to fees on a realised capital asset? Reference
Trust resolutions must be signed by all trustees: Reference
May a sectional title owner litigate in his own name for the repayment of unlawfully paid body corporate funds? No: Reference
House prices are, on average, still trailing inflation, as is well illustrated by the following graph:
The above sentiment is echoed by Seeff who says that there are fewer buyers in the market – some 30% to 40% less, which matches the statistics on deeds office volumes which I published last week – resultantly, house prices are lower and houses are slower to sell. This is driven by emi- semigration, high interest rates and slack economic conditions. So, if our population has grown, should demand not have grown also? No, we may have more people in the country but fewer economically active participants. Not good news.
Some 18% of residential tenants in South Africa are in arrears on their rent – better than during Covid when this figure stood at 25%! Buy to let purchases make up some 12% of total purchases of residential property – more or less normal, but, considering the current interest rates, possibly not a great investment. On the other hand, this same metric drives more people to rent rather than buy.
Office landlords are battling; the SAPOA office vacancy rate stands at 16.4% with reports holding that office rental renewals are down on price – going as low as -12%. This market is still oversupplied and the trend towards hybrid office attendance “makes a return to normal vacancies over the next few years unlikely”.
The storm surrounding the so-called hijacking of the Johannesburg Property Company continues unabated. The norm for municipal entities…
In the same vein is a report that the City of Johannesburg has not paid its debt collectors, despite their having done their work – but then, only the desperate would want such work.
The water and sanitation crisis in eThekwini has driven the resuscitation of the uMkhomazi Water Project by the national government. Lots of plans (think the uMkhomazi dam and terms like ‘Vision’ being thrown around) but little being done to address what is politely termed non-revenue water – think leakage.
CSOS published a draft Practice Directive on section 39 (7) (b) in which it instituted novel adjudication orders. Don’t bother much – Paddock opines that these are beyond the powers of that entity – Reference
Uplifting news of sorts is that Khaya Lam has provided 10,000 underprivileged South Africans with land and houses (think the much-maligned Anton Rupert).
Enough is enough? This is the name of an anti-extortion campaign launched by the City of Town; at last, something is being done to address this cancer in our society.
An article. which drew my attention, was one centring on the question whether the body corporate of a scheme may reveal an employee’s criminal record to members. On the one hand, given the need for security, this might be necessary. On the other such information impinges on the right to privacy of the employee. The article in question does not really give a black and white answer and I suspect that the question is more academic than the real.
Our Minister in the Presidency, responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, says that 90% of our municipalities are in trouble, in terms of their capacity to deliver services and achieve developmental outcomes. Of these 163 municipalities are distressed and 66 dysfunctional.
West published a case in which the Pretoria High Court held that where a sale is entered into subject to the suspensive condition that a bond is obtained, that suspensive condition is not fulfilled until all the conditions to which the bond grant was subject to have been complied with. This is an important change of direction which agents and conveyancers should note. Ask me for a copy.
“There is no such thing as public money – there is only taxpayers’ money”
Three issues deserve comment:
The Department of Public Enterprises received a ‘grim audit report’ from the Auditor-General which highlighted basic failings in oversight, and which also singled out the due diligence performed on the SAA preferred partner as being ‘poor’; perhaps the time has come for our Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Gordhan, to retire?
Stats SA losing the plot again? In 2001 our population census undercount stood at 17% and we were promised that such errors would be a ‘thing of the past’. Our latest census reveals a population undercount of 31% in our previous census; that entity blaming Covid, riots and flooding for the errors. Such errors affect our budgets and should not happen.
Speaking of flooding, in her corruption trail the former (ANC) eThekwini mayor, has blamed flooding for the loss of original documents. Imagine the flood that must have raged through those municipal offices…