Kontras wine tasting podcast

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In our latest podcast, we taste a rewarding Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon, the Kontras.

Michael Olivier orchestrates the tasting, while John Fraser does his best to disrupt proceedings.  The other tasters are Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald, Gumtree Auto’s Jeff Osborne and economic superstar Mike Schussler.

Click below for the podcast:

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Mahindra: a great way to develop a gateway

Mahindra farm vehicles have landed in SA

By John Fraser

Sometimes clichés are valid. Just as Hong Kong has for decades marketed itself as the gateway to China, so, too, South Africa has its own gateway claim.

We boast when a multinational sets up its African HQ in SA, and sulk when instead the choice is, say, Lagos or Nairobi.

The ANC government has invested hundreds of billions of rand into the SA automotive sector, through a series of support programmes, with the result that we have some of the best assembly plants in the world. Now the focus is on boosting volume and local content, as well as exports.

Nissan is doing well in developing not just its SA operations, but also in devising an African strategy. It is not alone.

Of course, not all the auto sector is taken up by the four-door family car.

At its Durban plant, Mahindra is expanding production of bakkies, or pickups, eyeing the African market.

It has also just launched a range of farm vehicles in SA, and as the world’s largest tractor manufacturer, we can see it ploughing its way through the region.

There is some export support for vehicles which are made in Durban, but the real incentive dosh will come when local content is boosted and output reaches higher levels.

Expansion is certainly on the cards, helped by the certainty which is provided by the new government support strategy for the auto sector, known as the Masterplan.

With South African as its chosen gateway into Africa, the Indian company is not just moving from traditional vehicles into tractors, which could, in time, be produced in Durban, but might also expand into production of generators. Certainly, Eskom’s failures should generate a good generator market for some time to come.

With the election behind him, President Ramaphosa will undoubtedly build on the investment drive he launched last year.

He could do worse than trot out the gateway cliché a bit more often.

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South Africa’s poll is more about battles in the ANC than between political parties

File 20190506 103082 1ig8d94.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma and current president Cyril Ramaphosa are supported by different factions.
EPA-EFE/Stringer

Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

South Africans are about to vote in the most competitive election they’ve had since democracy began in 1994. But, despite this, the poll will have far more impact on the factional battle within the governing African National Congress (ANC) than on the contest between it and other parties for control of the government.

The election follows a decline in the ANC vote from just under 70% in 2004 to around 54% in 2016’s local elections. This seemed to signal that the ANC was no longer guaranteed re-election nationally and in most provinces. There has been much talk of the ANC vote sinking below 50%, forcing it to seek coalition partners if it wants to govern.

In Gauteng, the country’s economic heartland, the ANC won only 46% in the 2016 municipal elections and was forced into opposition in two metropolitan areas – Tshwane and Johannesburg. This happened because the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a breakaway from the ANC which espouses a more militant brand of African nationalism, agreed to support the country’s second biggest party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), even though they differ on just about everything. This raised the possibility that a similar arrangement this time will mean the ANC will no longer govern in Gauteng or nationally.

So, is South Africa about to see its first election in which national power changes hands? No. The ANC is almost certain to remain in government in all the eight provinces it controls, including Gauteng. This will leave the Western Cape, which the DA holds and is likely to retain despite claims that it is in trouble, as the only province in which the ANC is not in government.

This prediction is not based on opinion polls which, in this election, have continued their tradition of doing more to confuse than inform. One poll has the ANC at 61%. Another says it is on the cusp of losing its majority. The DA’s projected vote veers just as wildly. The only constant is claims that the EFF will improve although this is not what is happening in municipal by-elections, where its support remains largely unchanged.

So, the polls tell us little and there is a good argument for ignoring them. But they do have one use. They largely agree on what won’t happen: the ANC won’t lose power.

Why the ANC is sitting pretty

Predicting that the ANC will remain in government outside the Western Cape is based on political common sense.

Talk of the ANC dropping below 50% often ignores the reality that, just about everywhere, the opposition is far behind it. The nearest an opposition party comes to challenging it outside the Western Cape is in Gauteng where the DA won 37% in 2016. Elsewhere, the nearest opposition party trails by 30 percentage points or more. The only way the ANC could be removed as the party of government is by another deal between the DA and EFF.

But EFF leader Julius Malema has said that it will not make a deal with the DA and is more likely to look to a coalition with the ANC. What politicians say about coalitions cannot always be taken seriously and later Malema said the EFF would consider a coalition with the DA or ANC if they agreed to improve conditions in the townships where black poor people live.

But a DA-EFF coalition seems impossible, whatever Malema says now. For one thing, their positions on land, a core EFF concern, are diametrically opposed. This does not matter in local government, which does not decide on land policy. It would matter hugely in the national government and to a degree in the provinces.

If there is no DA-EFF deal, the only way the ANC can lose its hold on government anywhere is if either party wins a majority or at least enough to allow them to govern with small parties. But in Gauteng, no poll puts the DA above 38% – its numbers elsewhere are much weaker. In North West province, the ANC’s weakest outside Gauteng and Western Cape, the EFF is the second biggest party and it won only 16% in 2016. No poll has the EFF vote improving by more than eight percentage points.

ANC factions

Nationally and outside the Western Cape, then, two results are possible: the ANC wins a majority or is by far the biggest party and the only one able to form a coalition.

The reality which predictions of a change in government ignore -– the absence of another party which could defeat the ANC – means that, even if the ANC does as badly as one poll says it will, it will still be the party of government just about everywhere.

But, while the election will not change the government, it may change the balance between the two factions which compete for power within the ANC. -– One supports President Cyril Ramaphosa; the other backed former president Jacob Zuma.

The Zuma faction is still strongly represented in ANC decision-making forums. The battle between the two factions continues and the difference between them is often greater than that between the ANC and parts of the opposition. It is impossible to make sense of anything the ANC does without knowing which faction was behind it.

Ramaphosa was elected in 2017 because key ANC figures, most notably current deputy president David Mabuza, believed the ANC could not win this election if it was led by the Zuma faction. Ramaphosa’s credibility with some ANC power brokers depends, therefore, on showing that he can stem the ANC’s decline at the polls.

If the ANC improves on its 2016 vote, Ramaphosa will have presided over the first increase in its vote for 15 years. This will greatly improve his chances of winning re-election as ANC president at its next conference in 2022 because it will signal to ANC politicians that he can deliver more seats.

Because many South Africans are excluded from the benefits of the market, seats in municipal councils and legislatures are often the only ticket into the middle-class. So, an ANC gain in this election is certain to strengthen Ramaphosa now and in 2022 by showing that his leadership offers more opportunities to ANC politicians.

Even if it matches the last result or comes close, ANC power brokers could decide that Ramaphosa saved them from the opposition benches.

If the ANC drops to near 50%, whether Ramaphosa would be at risk of losing in 2022 would depend on whether ANC delegates could be persuaded to blame Zuma and his supporters. That is hardly assured. What is clear is that the worse the ANC does, the better the Zuma group’s chances are of removing Ramaphosa at the national conference in 2022.

The two factions have very different approaches to governing and so the battle between them affects the country’s future. It is this battle, not that between the parties, which will be shaped by the election result.

This article was updated to reflect the correct date for when the ANC could remove Ramaphosa if they chose to do so.The Conversation

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Wine tasting podcast: Aristea Méthode Cap Classique Rosé 2016

 

Michael Olivier kicks off our podcast with a Cape bubbly, the Aristea Méthode Cap Classique Rosé 2016.

John Fraser tries to keep order with invited tasters, who are economist Mike Schussler, Jeff Osborne from Gumtree Auto and Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald.

There is also a pre-election chat about the ANC’s slightly scratched economic record.

Check out the podcast:

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So what if you are offended? Don’t support the censorship of Steve Hofmeyr.

Steve Hofmeyr has every reason to frown

By John Fraser

Racial concerns, fear, paranoia and justified outrage are still a part of everyday life in SA and are likely to stay so.

Just as many of we whites find offensive and scary the racist rants of little Julius Malema, so, too, do many blacks feel that Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr projects an anti-black, racist persona. Both have been labelled racist. For all I know, either – or both – may have a strong case to answer.

This is understandable, such concerns are not unique to South Africa, and I will not pretend to know the deepest thoughts of these two controversial personalities, however much they may or may not turn out to disgust us all.

What I do know is that just as it is so, so easy to criticise, to punish, to bully, to censor, it is also so, so dangerous.

We all know of the vile behaviour of actor Kevin Spacey, but I am not sure I wanted him booted off our screens. Call me selfish, but I think the last series of House of Cards was far worse without his menacing portrayal of a deeply corrupt politician.

And I fail to see how any viewer watching this prog or any other of his superb performances should be accused of approving his sexually predatory private life. Art is art, and groping is not.

An even more repellent showbiz type Harvey Weinstein is rightly in the Hollywood doghouse, but I suspect western culture would be much worse off if we were to pull the plug on all the productions with which he has been associated.

If he has done all he has been accused of having done, he should be locked up. His sweaty porky paws and protruding penis are vile. But if we were to delete, censor, obliterate every work of art created by someone whose character or utterances or sexual predation or racist views are offensive….who would be left?

MultiChoice, you bullying shits, you cannot be so selective in targeting Oom Steve.

Perhaps you have not always behaved 100% ethically yourselves, you have not always broadcast the finest art, the noblest creations of man and woman, and it is a disgrace that your hounding and censorship of all past and future output of one of this country’s most popular singers should go unchallenged?

I have little interest in much of the material broadcast by these satellite sods, but I do subscribe so I can access the stuff that interests me.

The more the competition is allowed to thrive, the closer I will come to cancelling my monthly subscription.  I eagerly await the day when I can cease to take it and can leave it.

After all, I am sure I could buy stacks of Steve Hofmeyr CDs, DVDs and concert tickets with the money I will save.

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Wine podcast: a francly excellent Cab Franc

A legend on two legs and a robust walking stick Michael Olivier joins us for another wine tasting and chat.

The wine on offer is a Cape red, The Garageest Bruce 2015, which is a Cabernet Franc.

Joining Michael and John Fraser in the studio are analyst and writer Chris Gilmour, Gumtree Auto’s Jeff Osborne and Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald, who also handled the recording.

Click here for the podcast

 

Don’t steal books; buy them.

By John Fraser

The fine folk at Penguin (the publishers, not the ones with the funny walk) deserve to be taken seriously.

They are threatening legal action against a few obscure politicians who think it normal to advocate theft. Not that we have never before seen the words politician and theft in the same sentence.

There is what I believe to be an excellent book, which I have every intention of purchasing for real money, called Gangster State, which alleges that a very, very, very senior ANC politician is a crook and a swindler.

Not yet having read it, I shall have to rely on my instincts. That it is pretty close to the mark. I stand to be corrected, but do not expect to be.

This is what the publishers had to say:

“Penguin Random House is appalled by the ongoing illegal distribution of a pirated PDF of Gangster State, which is widely being disseminated on social media. It is of even more concern that prominent individuals appear to encourage this unlawful activity.

“The distribution of pirated copies of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh infringes our copyright as well as that of the author, and it is unlawful in terms of the Copyright Act of 1976.”

The problem, though, is that piracy is rife. I wrote recently about the demise of the DVD and Blu-ray. I, like so many others, have built up a collection of movies, concerts, comedy shows. Many, many of them.

These days the resale value of a pre-owned disc is tiny, with that of a CD even lower.

This is not the point, though. I own these discs. I paid for them. I can watch them when I choose, lend or sell them when I choose. And when I made each purchase, in almost all cases the artist/s got some cash.

Where I might have been tempted by pirated content, it has almost always been because the people who hold the rights to whatever I wish to watch and listen to are not publishing and selling the stuff. Their fault, I would argue.

I am currently reading an excellent book, the first for a while. I paid for it, even though it is in electronic format.

I read it on my iPad, on the Amazon Kindle app. And I own this copy, although what will happen to it when I no longer (dis)grace you all with my presence is concerning.

The physical books I own can be disposed of, will retain some value, and some are really worth reading. Especially the cartoon collections.

But back to the Penguin problem. I fully condemn those who advocate the theft and then diffusion of printed works, recordings and any other material which they do not own and which have not been given to them.

Just remember. If it no longer becomes viable to expose and then publish details of the rampant corruption, looting and hypocrisy of our rulers, then we will all be the poorer.

Don’t support those who wish to deny an honest author a decent living.

Buy this bloody book, and many others.

It will make you a better person in so, so many ways.

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Regulation of Airbnb is draconian

By Chris Hattingh

Government published the Tourism Amendment Bill on April 12. If this had happened on April 1, one could have believed that it was an April Fool’s Joke, so comical is the logic underlying the bill. The amendment, once adopted, will mean that all ‘short-term home rentals’ are legislated under the Tourism Act. 

The thinking behind the bill is so misguided that it will also allow the Minister of Tourism to specify certain ‘thresholds’ for Airbnbs in SA; these thresholds could include a limit on the number of nights a guest can stay in an Airbnb, or even how much income an Airbnb can earn.
This proposed amendment is draconian – it grants the Minister too much power and severely limits the income and job opportunities people can generate for themselves and others through establishing an Airbnb hosting.

A spokesperson for the Department of Tourism told BusinessTech that: “These thresholds are not about being hard on (Airbnb) owners but making sure that everyone gets their fair share”. It is far, far removed from the moral remit of government to decide who gets their ‘fair share’ of anything; by what measure does the Minister, or representative of the Department, decide what constitutes a ‘fair share’?

As always with these laws and edicts by government, the measure by which government decides who wins and who loses is left out of the discussion.

The philosophy behind this bill indicates that the Department views itself as the judge and jury of what you are ‘allowed’ to earn as an Airbnb host.

What you earn as a host should be completely up to the rate you set and agree to with your customers, the demand for the accommodation you offer, and the quality of service you render.

To presume that a government department must ensure that each bed and breakfast earns their ‘fair share’ indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of business, and of wealth, which is: Each person is not entitled to a slice of the economy; wealth is created by each person, for himself.

Each person’s wealth is his own pie, to increase or lose based on his own decisions and choices. For the Department to place itself in the role of wealth ‘granter’ clearly shows that the officials who work there are completely ignorant of the concept of wealth; wealth is made, not granted or given.

Airbnb has enabled people previously unable to do so to make a living for themselves.

Just as Uber opened up a whole new market for people in transportation, Airbnb has the same transformative potential in tourism.

South Africa’s tourism is one of its last remaining and strongest selling points for foreigners to travel here and spend their international currencies. Anyone who tries to establish and run an Airbnb, just like a bed and breakfast, should be praised for the success they manage to attain.

Taxes increase year on year; the price of petrol goes up, and, with it, the price of food. People are struggling to make a living and now the government is going to make it yet more difficult for those who are trying their utmost to improve their lives.

If a customer decides to stay in an Airbnb instead of a ‘traditional’ B&B, that is because they think they can get more value for their money at the Airbnb. It is each customer’s free, voluntary choice to trade with the establishment of his choice.

And it is up to each Airbnb host and all other establishments to make their product as alluring and competitive as possible. Every business, whether it is an Airbnb or any other, must stand or fall on its own merits, without government favour.

If the Department of Tourism is truly concerned for the welfare of traditional establishments, it could remove restrictions on those businesses to make it easier for them to compete with Airbnb hosts. Once government regulates some businesses over others, it distorts the market and any potential for supply and demand to interact as they would in a free market.

This, in turn, distorts prices for consumers and they will suffer in the long run. Furthermore, if any traditional B&Bs are calling for regulations on Airbnb, they must know that such a request is deeply immoral.

To call for government force against one’s competitors indicates that one is unwilling to earn the customer’s money; these older establishments already have an advantage over new entrants because they are well-known. They are playing a very dangerous game; government can very quickly turn its expanded regulatory powers on any target it deems ‘too big’ or ‘earning too much’.

This Bill is an attempt by government to punish successful people who are working hard in an effort to better their lives.

You do not encourage economic growth by imposing regulations; you encourage economic growth by removing as many regulations and restrictions as possible.

Chris Hattingh is a Researcher at the Free Market Foundation

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Could someone please save my bacon?

By John Fraser

This is life, gym, but not as we know it.

My snooty gym has just changed to a new franchise for its in-house café. Better coffee. Better service.

But no bloody bacon.

You see, some dictator somewhere thinks that if you visit a gym, you must be so keen on health, wellness and all that silly stuff that you will want to make your meals as miserable as your workouts.

So they have all sorts of low-fat, gluten-free shit, but no bacon.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are health concerns about bacon, and that some people don’t touch (or swallow) the stuff for religious, or vegetarian, or vegan, or other fanatical reasons.

That’s fine. I do not insist that you should get as intimate with pigs as David Cameron was in his student days.

Take it or leave it. I have no problem with that.

But why, oh why, do you insist on me following your dietary preferences? Bugger off, say I!

I enjoy a good bacon ’n egg brekkie every now and then. Who are you to say I have to eat your fat-free, gluten-free, fun-free, flavour free rabbit food for my breakfast?

And this is not an isolated example of the rasher and rasher crusade against beautiful bacon.

From time to time (never more than five times a day) I enjoy a good burger.

Sometimes I want a few slices of bacon in my burger.

But don’t ask Colonel Mac, or whoever is in charge of the MacDonald’s fast food franchises (it was once our dear Cyril, but I assume he now has other things on his mind), to fill my buns with bacon.

Not allowed. They are a halal operation. No pork products.

Which is fine for those who choose, or who are ordered by their religious leaders, to avoid swine grub.

I, however, have no such religious obligation.

So, once again, someone else is taking a decision on what I can and cannot eat, imposing rules for something to which I have no affiliation.

How dare they?

Maybe it is time I started a boycott of all the cafés and food outlets which ban my favourite pork products.

I am not a bad cook. Perhaps it is time to bring home the bacon. After all, my gym fees could easily purchase a lifetime’s supply of my perfect porky preference.

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Notre Dame: how a rebuilt cathedral could be just as wonderful

File 20190416 147522 qbcpyn.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The spire collapses while flames are burning the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Ian Langsdon/EPA

Claire Smith, Flinders University and Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

The destruction of Notre Dame cathedral is lamentable. A wonderful icon has been largely destroyed by fire. However, we should not despair.

Part of the reason this loss is so upsetting is that we are immersed in a Western way of thinking that equates authenticity with preserving the original materials used to create an object or building.

But not all societies think like this. Some have quite different notions of what is authentic. Iconic buildings such as the Catherine Palace in Russia and Japan’s historic monuments of Ancient Nara have been successfully restored, sometimes after great damage, and are today appreciated by millions of people.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with firemen at the cathedral.
Yoan Valat/EPA

The preamble to the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, (the Venice Charter 1964), states that “Imbued with a message from the past, the historic monuments of generations of people remain to the present day as living witnesses of their age-old traditions … It is our duty to hand them on in the full richness of their authenticity”.

But in our diverse world, the definition and assessment of authenticity is a complex matter. The World Heritage Convention guidelines state that properties may be understood to meet the conditions of authenticity if their cultural values “are truthfully and credibly expressed”.

Accordingly, a building’s authenticity is determined in relation to its location and setting, use and function, spirit and feeling, and well as form and materials.

Japan’s NaraTodaiji.
Wikimedia

Japan’s historic monuments of Ancient Nara – comprised of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace – provide important insights into the nation’s capital during the 8th century. These buildings are not less authentic because they were extensively restored after the enactment of the Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Law in 1897.

A palace gutted

The Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin), south of Petersburg, was gutted during the second world war. When Russian people first saw the damage, they must have despaired.

Nevertheless, the government provided the resources to allow room-by-room restorations. The restoration of the Amber Room, one of the most famous palace interiors of the 18th century, is a triumph.

Panels that had been looted by the Nazis were recreated over 25 years with an investment of $11 million. Today, the Palace is fully restored, a spectacular icon that attracts millions of visitors a year.

The Catherine Palace ballroom.
Wikimedia

What about the relics and artworks?

The fire at Notre Dame has endangered a vast collection of Christian relics and artworks housed within the building and on its grounds, including the crown of thorns. First responders saved many, but not all, objects. At the time of writing, we did not yet know which ones have survived.

Does the argument regarding authenticity also apply to these relics and precious artworks? Well, yes and no.

Couronne d’épines, Crown of Thorns, Notre Dame Paris.

There are two scenarios. The first is that the relics and artworks are partially damaged by fire, smoke and falling building materials. Within this scenario, the focus will be on restoration – and marvellous things can occur in the realm of materials conservation.

The second scenario is that (some) relics or artworks are virtually, or entirely, destroyed. Within this scenario, the artworks can only be replicated, not restored. Such replication would have a precarious tie to the original works.

From the viewpoint of restoration, there is a crucial difference between portable and non-portable artefacts. Other than those that were part of the fabric of the building, the relics and artworks were not made on-site. The building itself, however, has a continuity of identity and function through being located within a specific landscape.

What now for Notre Dame?

One way forward is to use the Venice Charter (1964) to guide restoration. This would mean that the new materials used in preserving this historic structure would be kept distinguishable from the original construction.

Conservation of the city gate in Lecce, Italy, undertaken according to the Venice Charter.
Gary Jackson

Another way forward would be to restore the structure in a similar manner to that of Catherine I’s palace, in which an untutored eye finds it difficult to distinguish between the old and new parts of the structure. Given the extent of the damage, this would be the more aesthetically pleasing and less jarring approach.

Unlike other places of deep cultural significance, which may be destroyed forever due to commercial development, Notre Dame can be rebuilt. With modern technology, it is entirely possible for the cathedral to be recreated with near-accuracy to the original. We can do this and keep the previous building’s spirit and feeling.The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University and Jordan Ralph, PhD Candidate, Archaeology, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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