I get to attend quite a few conferences. They may be less fun than a prostate exam, but sometimes they educate, inform, entertain. It can be useful, too, to hear directly from key players in industry or government about their thoughts and fears, wives and mistresses. The Africa Energy Indaba this week could have been worthwhile. Indeed, a side-show on the eve of the event on SA’s gas economy was useful, despite the non-appearance of the Department of Energy’s delegate and the boss of Coega. Both dti speakers were present, informative and worth a listen.
Today, however, was disappointment all round. The main event was due to have seen a rare public appearance from our beloved Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. It was not to be. She pulled out, withdrew and buggered off without having arrived in the first place. My journo chum Angelo and I asked why the star attraction had become a black hole? The response was that it is the Budget in Cape Town tomorrow.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but today is today, and the Budget speech is due at 2pm tomorrow. And it takes 2 hours to fly from Jo-burg to CT. Or is the Minister planning to walk? And do we really believe that with knives hanging out of every vertebrae, our endangered finance minister Pravin Gordhan would rise to his feet, let out a frantic howl, and ask what had happened to his mate Tina, sulking until she could be rounded up? This is clearly bollocks of the most bollecular variety. The real explanations are probably as follows:
Firstly, the Minister had a commitment to this event and could not be bothered to pitch. Not unusual, as Ministers and officials do this all the time. They don’t seem to care that it is rude and disruptive. After all, they are the Gods and we are the mere mortal scum whose desires and wishes are irrelevant.
Another, unlikely, explanation is that the Conference organisers never thought the Minister would pitch at all, but still put her name on the draft programme to pull in the pounds and the punters. There was certainly no apology or explanation from the opening speaker, who kept on insisting what a wonderful event this was, and whose long windedness could have powered a large city for an eternity.
Of course, I may be in a toxic mood because the event was held in the Sandton Convention Centre, a location where the catering is awful and – as I pointed out recently on social media – there is nowhere to plug in a computer. The provision of a pen and notepad is really no substitute for modern facilities. Maybe that is why they call it the Con-vention Centre?
There is a serious concern here. The Convention business is big business, even when events are held in Johannesburg and not in the more delightful Cape Town.
People pay big money to attend, to get here, and on essentials while they are here, such as food, shopping and prostitutes.
So it is not good if the word goes out that SA Conferences don’t deliver, that you can’t plug in your laptop at an Energy Conference, and that if you leave early they won’t give you a free parking voucher (as happened to me).
But the biggest concern is that we have a Minister of Energy who needs to be powered up. You bring the batteries and I will not be so indelicate as to advise where to insert them.