Please let the SAA Chairman Fly Other Airlines.

What a laugh.   Those reports that the less-than-impressive SAA Chairman Dudu Myeni had been spotted on a British Airways flight were a wonderful reminder of about how clueless and arrogant these parastatal parasites are when it comes to reputational damage.   To be fair, though, there’s not much more she can do to damage the reputation of leech-like SAA, an even bigger drain on the national purse than our beloved President.

Were I her spin doctor (our should that be tailspin doctor?) I would have said it was all part of a benchmarking exercise.  She wanted to see how BA do things so she can learn lessons of what is good and less good about SAA. One is tempted, though, to believe the reports that she flew SAA because it offered business class comfort on a route where cattle class was the most the state’s rival service could come up with.

What would I suggest?  I would give Myeni and all the other SAA Board members and execs the right to fly any airline any time, when on official business.  There would be just one catch.   No first class; no business class.   Just the cramped misery of economy.

Let them stop eating cake, and instead get them to taste the pig swill the rest of us are served after being shoe-horned into our economy class seats.   Let them join the long queues for the toilets, read the vomit-spattered in-flight mags which have been there for days or even weeks.

In short.  Let them suffer.

Then just maybe they might concentrate less on plundering the public purse, and more on boosting staff morale, refining the food to humane standards, and finding ways to provide comfortable conditions for the many of us who are larger than four foot tall.

And who knows, if the Board Room chairs are more comfortable than those instruments of torture which they expect the rest of us to occupy, then maybe, just maybe, they will attend a few more Board Meetings?

If they can’t rescue SAA, then let it crash into oblivion.   Then we will have no problem with Ms Myeni flying BA, or whatever other airline she chooses.  She will have saved us billions.

Tweet of the Day

Jewish Comedians (@JewishComedians): Allan Sherman: Somewhere, over the rainbow, Way up tall, There’s a land where they’ve never heard of cholesterol. | #Quotes


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Book Review: The Unconventional CEO by Mario Pretorius

Mario Book

Some of my best experiences have been with books, and some of my worst.  As a student, I endured textbooks which were unbelievably badly written.  The authors were clever, knew a lot about their subject, but knew nothing about plain, clear writing.

It’s the same with business books.  You start to read them and before long you realise that your hands still turn the page, your eyes still follow the text, but your brain is on leave.

That is why ‘The Unconventional CEO’ is such a good business book.  It’s a good read.  Now, that’s a rarity.

The author, Mario Pretorius, runs a telecommunications company, and has put his thoughts on management into a slim volume.  If you only read one book on how to run a company, this should be it.  The same applies even more to your boss.

I do have to declare an interest.   Mario is a good mate (which my spell check cheekily changed to ‘good date’!) and asked me to help with the editing of the book.  What a pleasure.

This book is devoid of charts and spreadsheets, devoid of refined theory and lofty prescriptions.

It is a book on how to be the CEO of a business by someone who is the CEO of a business.   It deals with issues in a style which may seem a bit homely, but which contains the wisdom of how things are done, not some theorist’s vision of how thing should be done.

One of my favourite sections deals with what to do when you visit a client.   Mario’s advice is to take along a melktert (Milk Tart), a sweet and delicious traditional South African treat.    This advice may not appear in many business books, but it should be in all of them.

The layout is practical, too.    No long chapters; most fit on a page, a few spill over.  You can dip into it, or read it in one go.   It won’t boggle your brain.

Why take my word for it?   Click on to Amazon and buy the damm thing.  Mario doesn’t need the cash, but chances are that you need the help.


Tweet of the Day

William R King (@phil_osborne):  According to the directors commentary, Pirates of the Caribbean is historically accurate in the sense that they all wore a ton of mascara

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Do We Need Jobs More than Robots?


I don’t envy our Trade and Industry Rob Davies. He has a tough job serving a President he wants to remove, and the challenges he faces are really daunting.
He was in action the other week, opening a factory owned by Black Industrialists, which makes industrial cables. The Alberton United Industrial Cables (UIC) factory is testament to genuine BEE, as Davies himself stressed.
This factory will be the only one in Africa to make at least one sort of specialist cable and it was good to see how state grants and incentives have worked well in getting this venture going.
Of course, there is no perfect solution to SA’s industrial ills. This factory is full of machinery imported from China, and does not look as if it will be a major employer.
Same problem at a Germiston factory formally opened last week. Lucchini RS, an Italian manufacturer of forged railway products, has invested R200m in a new factory.
Almost R38m has been given by government in tax and training allowances, and the factory is modern and impressive. So far, so good. But where are the jobs?
We were told 38 or so jobs have been created, which makes it around R1m a job if you look at the state support.
The R1m-a-time job creation initiative will reduce imports, has brought new skills, and will form the foundation for future inward investment. And there are BEE partners who are benefiting, all of whom seemed to have smarter suits than the dti Minister.
But with the economy in recession, with unemployment at crisis levels and rising, are we getting enough job creation?
A review is underway of the whole arsenal of government investment incentives. Let us make sure that job creation remains at the front of our minds.
Of course we want sustainable and skilled jobs. But we need tens of millions of them.
And we just can’t afford to create jobs at R1m a time.

Tweet of the Day.

Sean Leahy (@thepunningman): Interviewer: Under skills you put horse whisperer and able to see ghosts

Me: Ask that horse if you don’t believe me

Interviewer: What horse?

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Can We Toque About Fermier?

Fermier Restaurant in Die Wilgers, Pretoria

There are many food trends which alarm me.  If I go out for a meal, I want a meal.  Not a series of minute blobs of food on smears of slime.
So when I heard they had a nine-course fixed menu at Fermier Restaurant, I was worried.  I would probably have never ventured there, had it not have been a big thumbs up from my Wine Master chum Debi van Flymen.  What I mean is that she likes the place, not that she has big thumbs. And I had a visitor from Europe, who needed to be convinced how classy we are in Africa.
The restaurant is not enormous, but has a warm, rural feel (without any of the rural smells to which one might object).  It is hidden up the hill from Lynnwood Road, and has no useful signage.    However, there were enough diners there to give the impression that word of mouth is positive, and effective.
I have been to similar restaurants in SA and elsewhere with small tasting plates, and rarely have I been happy.  All too often chefs can get the taste right, or make it look good, but not often both.
And at R550 a head, before the wine, you really don’t want anything other than excellence.
Happily it was 9/9 on the evening I visited.  Canapés, fish, meat, venison, cheese and pud were all superb.  Interesting flavours, all natural flavours.  You could taste the ingredients, and there was pride and creativity.  They grow a lot of their own produce, and source stuff with care and knowledge.
The dishes were all small, but when combined they made a satisfying and impressive meal.
The open kitchen allowed us to watch the chefs at work, and they were meticulous, hard-working and took a pride in what they did.
So what didn’t I like?  We arrived after dark and the signposting is not great.  The waiting staff were efficient and friendly, but tended to rattle off the details of the dishes, which was annoying as one of my guests does not have english as her first language.
The wines paired with the food were all fine, but only a few were really impressive.  Having said that, there is a very good wine list, and next time I will choose my own.
One thing I noticed which illustrates how Fermier Restaurant strikes the perfect balance between fine dining and zero pretension ocurred at the next table.    A group of about eight included two children, and as the evening wore on, the kids lay down on blankets and rested.  Some people might have found this a bit too casual.  I found it brilliant.
It is very rare that I leave a restaurant, bursting with desire to return.  Happily, I now have a new addition to my list of faves. Thanks Debi.  I owe you!

Rating:  I give it 5*

Key to the Ratings….

1*    Dog food is nicer

2*.  Cat food is nicer

3*.  Not bad if Woolworths is sold out of ready meals.

4*.  I like it

5*.  I love it.  Not to be missed.