I am extremely proud of my friendship with economist and strategist Chris Hart, who is one of the most impressive thinkers I have ever known. I edited the book he and colleague Glenn Silverman wrote on the BRICS, and last year spent many days working alongside them. I am worried at the backlash against one of the tweets Chris put out. While it may have been poorly worded, any suggestion that Chris is a racist or intended to be racially offensive is quite ludicrous, and he has apologised for any offence which he may have inadvertently caused. The subsequent eruption of hatred against Chris is a symptom of the very deep wounds in South Africa which have yet to heal. We have a society which still bears the scars of apartheid, and where many millions have failed to enjoy a better economic future since the advent of democracy.
I also have to declare that I have endured a difficult relationship with Standard Bank, which has sometimes treated me fairly, but which has also been puzzling unresponsive to my more recent requests to be kept up to date, in breach of personal assurances by CEO Sim Tshabalala.
But I assume my own discomfort is nothing compared to that of Chris, who was suspended following his tweets, and suffered the indignity of his employer publicly distancing itself from him. This was a knee-jerk reaction, although one would have expected a top bank to act with caution, with judgement and with fairness. In this instance you were sub-standard, Standard. I have no idea how many of their customers have been in touch to seek an explanation of their betrayal of Chris, but I hope there have been many. The career and reputation of a fine and sensitive man has been irreparably damaged and his employers have failed in their duty of care.
Meanwhile a totally false and further damaging public discussion is taking place on Chris’ academic qualifications. If course, had he lied while he was negotiating his latest move to Standard Bank, that would be a serious matter. I really doubt it. A caring employer would by now have put out a statement assuring people that Chris acted honestly and with integrity, and that he was hired because of his obvious and impressive analytical and communications skills. Standard Bank has once again acted in an odious manner, and is, for me, the real villain in the current saga. Unless, of course, they have put out a statement on Chris’ credentials, and have once again forgotten to send it to ZA Confidential as well.
The Economy in 2016
As we prepare for a return to crowded rush-hour roads and our kids head off for another year of schooling, which will prepare them so efficiently for a life of unemployment, it is worth wondering what 2016 will bring. Over the past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to have chats with a number of esteemed economists, all of whom are a bit worried about the South African economy, and not all of whom have been suspended. The consensus seems to be that there will be sustained pressure on the rand, which will weaken further, and that this will lead to higher inflation and hikes in interest rates. It will be difficult for South Africa to avoid further ratings downgrades, which will speed up this negative spiral. There are all sorts of political undercurrents battering the economy, and these may increase the danger of tax increases in next month’s budget. Last month’s musical chairs in the finance ministry will not have helped matters. Meanwhile, there are tensions with the US, which may explain the failure to conclude AGOA negotiations on time, and consistent concern that SA business has yet to find a firm voice in its dealings with our wayward politicians.
ZA Confidential Introduces Animalia.
ZA Confidential was launched as a business newsletter, but is evolving. One issue which no progressive business can afford to brush aside is that of Sustainability. And we are now part of a new initiative being launched, called Animalia.
There is something very tragic about the way in which man has become such a menace to wildlife, through the destruction of habitat, and by hunting animals not just for food, but also for gain and for sport. Something needs to be done to inform and to educate before the rhino, the elephant, the panda, and the tiger join the dodo on the list of extinct species. Animalia is part of this initiative. It is a virtual kingdom, where animals enjoy human rights, are nurtured, protected and loved. By joining Animalia, people are pledging their support for the wildlife on our planet, and taking a stance against the hunters, the poachers and all other humans who are threatening our fellow creatures. Animalia was founded in South Africa by the Fraser brothers, but will grow to become a global movement. This Kingdom will seek new platforms to promote its message, through conferences and publications, its website and an application to join the United Nations
Animalia is a virtual Kingdom, ruled not for man but for the animals. Anyone with an interest in, and a concern for, wildlife can apply for citizenship. We will spread the message through news updates and through our website; we will build a comprehensive and authoritative database on wildlife; and we will lobby against the enemies of the animal kingdom.
More information on Animalia will be provided during this launch stage through ZA Confidential.
People often ask how they as individuals can help to make a difference. Now you know!
Out and About
From time to time, ZA Confidential is invited to events, and although we do not always report on them, they add to our understanding of the world, and enable us to meet and greet some fine people. A few highlights of the last few months are worth recalling.
Tsogo Sun invited us to the re-launch of the Grand West Casino, and added an extra level of luxury by arranging one of those services which drives you and your car home at the end of the evening. The music was a bit loud, but they have done a good job, the CEO’s speech was mercifully short, and it was a special evening. The nicest casino I have visited outside of Monte Carlo.
We were also invited to the Stellenbosch at Summer Place gastronomic event where Stellenbosch food and wine were highlighted. The food was almost universally fiddly and unimpressive, but there was an excellent selection of wines, I loved the brandy, and really enjoyed my evening.
I was also invited (possibly by mistake) to a Standard Bank evening where CEO Sim Tshabalala launched the All From One campaign – an initiative to celebrate our common African heritage. It was impressively organized, the hospitality was lavish, and there were several interesting and impressive guests.
There is still quite a backlog of the Die Vine Intervention Wine Tasting Podcasts which I host with the legendary Michael Olivier, but we hope to post more of these in the coming weeks. In the meantime, why not wander through the archives? These are not stuffy and snobbish events, but the aim is to enjoy a lot, learn a bit, and convince people South Africa is a wonderful booze-producing nation, despite the efforts of more than one government ministry to clobber our producers.
Tweet of the Day
ANN7Reporter (@ANN7Reporter): In finance news, we can confirm that the rand can buy you… nothing. Absolutely nothing.
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