Monthly Archives: July 2017

IDC Again Fails to Meet Funding Targets

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the state’s financing arm for industrial development, has abandoned its five-year target to hand out R100bn by 2020.
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, whose department baby-sits the IDC, noted that in the year to March, R15.3bn in funding was approved, with R11.0bn disbursed.  He said this funding unlocked total investment of R47bn.
The Minister admitted the initial target won’t be met, but said that while the five-year target had been “helpful” he complained that “internal capacity just wasn’t there.”
And he said that there is now a “rolling” five-year target, with the aim of beginning to boost total funding to over R100bn in a later five-year period.
Meanwhile, the IDC, which has been presenting its annual results to March, announced it has supported 83 Black Industrialists, to the tune of R4.7bn.
One of the IDC’s largest projects has been support for the BAIC Chinese automotive firm, which is setting up an assembly plant at Coega, near Port Elizabeth.
IDC CEO Geoffrey Qhena said that the project had fallen behind by five months because “we were not happy with all procurement issues.
“It is proceeding now, and the plant should be ready by June next year.”
Patel announced that the IDC board has decided that none of its non-executive directors can do business with the Corporation in their private capacity, even if they recuse themselves from discussions, but he denied that this followed the discovery of any wrongdoing.
Finally, the IDC confirmed that one reason why its recent funding of projects has fallen short of expectations has been the attitude of state power utility Eskom, which has refused to sign up to take power from renewables schemes which had won IDC backing.


Data delight or data deception?

There has been little reason to love our service providers in recent years.  Surveys have shown that we are using less airtime and a lot more data, and our charges are very high by international standards. If data were ludicrously cheap, as opposed to ludicrously overpriced, it is a fair bet that business communications and home entertainment in South Africa would be a lot more impressive.
I have complained in the past about the expiry of airtime and data.   You buy the stuff and have a month to use it.  You don’t use; you lose.   Completely.   It vanishes, never to be seen again.   A rip off?  You bet.
On Friday, I was made aware of another – more subtle – rip off.   Telkom hosted the media in one of Johannesburg’s least glamourous venues to tell us about their new uncapped data packages.
The Telkom geek who hosted us described this promotion as a game changer, and I am sure it will be for many people.
Depending on how much you pay, you can choose a speed and stream away uncapped.  Or not.
However, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  And it is.
The catch is that you get the data to stream at the speed for which you have paid UNTIL Telkom decides you have breached your “fair use” limit.   Then the brakes come on, and it slows down.
I am happy to be believe assurances that for most users, this unfair fair usage policy will not be triggered.
But the fact it is exists suggests yet another underhand way of selling something and then neglecting to fully deliver.
Shame on you, Telkom.  Shame.
Hospitality
The wine at the function was good, but the venue was a sad and drab place.  I had one bite of the cold, solid chicken and left.   The lunch catering put a big cap on my normally uncapped appetite.   The Woolies sandwich on the way home was much nicer.
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Can We Toque?     Lupa Osteria, Fourways

 

Lupa

I am firmly of the belief that it is more important to have good food than to be subjected to a pretentious and overpriced experience.  Give me foams and smears of stuff on the plate, and I will frown.  Give me honest, well-cooked, food and I will beam with delight.

Lupa Osteria in the Design Quarter in Fourways was an excellent choice when I met my mate Mr J for a business lunch.   It’s a very clean, modern looking Italian, with an open kitchen and pizza ovens.    It has a fairly standard menu of pizzas, pastas and more substantial dishes.   There’s a pretty well- chosen wine list, with a few tempting bottles.  The high mark-ups are not unusual for Jo’burg, and I was pleased to see a selection of wine by the glass.

There was a warmish welcome, but it was a cold day and every time the door was opened, an unpleasant draft came through the place.

We both started with ham and melon.   The former was delicious and the portion generous, but the melon was a tad under-ripe.

For the main course, I opted for the Saltimbocca with parmesan chips. The dish was a bit too salty but nicely cooked.   But the parmesan chips?  Oh, dear. They were courgettes, not the expected potatoes, and were soggy rather than crisp.  Big fail.

The other main was from the specials menu and was chicken breast with spinach.  It was good.

We shared a bottle of Villiera Merlot, which was a good choice. And went well with the food.

And to finish, we shared a Tiramisu.  It tasted good, but had a rather dense texture.  And it was a rather mean portion.

With two coffees, the bill came to R703, before the tip.

There were some flaws in the food, but it was welcoming place, and I enjoyed my lunch.

Rating:  I give it 4*

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.


Government Passes Halfway Mark in Black Industrialist Programme

 

BI PLEDGE

PIC:   Minister Rob Davies arm wrestles FNB’s Kgosi Ledimo

 The Government is now more than halfway towards creating its initial target of 100 Black Industrialists (BIs) with Trade and Industry (dti) Minister Rob Davies announcing that 52 BIs have now been supported by his programme.

The dti is aiming for 100 by March next year, and is offering grant support in a one-stop offering alongside other government agencies which offer loan support.

Davies was in Rosebank to sign an agreement with FNB, under which the bank will use its website to supply information on state incentives – initially just the BI programme.

Said FNB’s Bobby Madhav, who is head of the trade finance department: “The manufacturing sector plays a critical role in the economy.  The long-term goal is to enable a greater number of South Africans access to dti schemes, by making the information more accessible.”

This new FNB initiative follows on from an existing one, which assists companies which sign up for a business account to also register their business.

Said FNB executive Sanjeev Orie: “When businesses open an account, they will be able to integrate with all dti incentives.  How do we make these programmes and incentives available to businesses?  If you integrate FNB and the dti, the customer experience is through a single portal.”

He said the offering would not be limited to FNB customers, and Davies said he hoped other banks will soon offer similar assistance.

“At the moment we have approved 52 projects, with R4.5bn projected investment value, creating 9 000 jobs.   We are open to other banks with similar kinds of partnerships.  We must find ways to support the upgrading of (BI) players who can invest, create jobs and industrial capacity.”

Davies noted that banks have in the past funded too few businesses, with most of their focus on consumer credit.

“We need to see a significant turnaround in the way in which credit is extended in South Africa.  The biggest credit in SA is for consumption.  It is easier to borrow money to buy a car than to start a business,” he complained.

The Hosting

As always, I like to judge an event not just on its content, but also on the way it is hosted. They weren’t on the ball.  I had to ask for the media pack, and then for the programme, and then for an electronic version of the material.  When I asked the MC for his business card, he said wasn’t carrying them because this might have produced a bulge in his suit.  Vanity over efficiency. On arrival, I tried to connect to wi-fi, and was told there were too many users already. Ironic then, that Rob Davies went on about the 4th Industrial Revolution.   I think the Hyatt is still struggling with the 2nd one.  Oh, and we were offered pens and paper-notepads.   How 21st Century can you get?

The event was scheduled for 10, and when I arrived there was a plate of fruit and yogurt.  I would say fresh fruit, but neither the green nor the yellow melon, nor the strawberry was ripe.    The coffee was halfway between unpleasant and acceptable.  I took tea.   Hotels like the Hyatt should be a showcase for our finest fruit and veg.  Not so.  There was a basket of pastries, not one of which would have won its maker an entry into one of the many TV baking competitions.  Five star, it wasn’t.

I heard from a colleague that the event started late because a pampered and inefficient SABC crew was running late.  This is not the first time those of us with manners have fallen victim to the incestuous and fawning relationship between the SABC and government.

The hot breakfast was served after the signing, at 11.30.   Yup, 11.30.  There was cold bacon and stale toast, with quite pleasant egg.  Sausages, mushrooms, steak and other stuff had been put on the plate.

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Can We Toque? Review of Wombles, Bryanston.

wombles

 

Many centuries ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a child, there was a TV show about the Wombles of Wimbledon, a bunch of rodents who lived in a burrow and spent their days processing trash.  Not quite the image I would wish to attach to a pricey steak house.  But what do I know?

Arriving for a Womblistic lunch at Wombles of Bryanston, there was a warm welcome to this vast area, opulently furnished in almost-tasteful African style (The restaurant, not me).

A sommelier came along and recommended a bottle of Vergelegen, and a very expensive bottle of Vergelegen.  I did ask him directly if he was a sommelier, and he modestly replied he was “in charge of the drinks”.  Possibly nobody gave him the proper title as they would then have had to pay him better.  I chose the slightly cheaper Vergelegen Cab/Merlot 2012, and with my arm painfully twisted, I upgraded from a glass to a bottle.   It was really nice.

I ordered some sparkling water which did not come in a commercial-looking bottle.  When I queried the waiter, he said they take tap water and insert the gas.  Is it free, then?  Nope.  Bloody expensive gas, if you ask me.

I was first to arrive and asked for some bread to match the three butters on the table.  Nothing arrived.  But then I saw them bring some to the next table.  And then they served their starters.  Still no bread for me.   It did arrive more than 20 minutes after I requested it, with surprise from the waiter that I had been so spurned.   I tried a mini-loaf with the garlic butter.  It had a good garlic flavour but was otherwise badly under-seasoned.   After I had eaten it, a chap in a white shirt came to apologise for the miscommunication.  I said I quite understood, as they were so busy.  (There were three of us in the section where I was seated.).  Sarcastic me.

As my dining diva Mrs P (who was late) was paying, I was able to splash out, and not just on the water.

I went for an old-fashioned favourite, the duck liver pate, at R90.  It was very good, if slightly under-seasoned, and the portion was so generous I was able to feed some to Mrs P, who had skipped her starter.

I then ordered a 260g fillet (as did my hostess), with mine coming with Béarnaise sauce. Chips were cheeky added at an extra R25. The waiter said there would be complementary veg, including fresh garden peas.  When I asked whose garden they came from, he checked with the chef, who said McCain’s.

The steaks were very fine, but Mrs P ordered a medium and got medium-well while my medium-rare was medium.  You would think that a steakhouse would have a better ability to cook steak to order, but maybe the chefs were distracted by their Wombling, sorting out the trash.  My chips were well prepared and tasty, but Mrs P’s sweet potato chips were overdone.

HOWEVER.  The Béarnaise sauce was a total disaster. There was a heavy taste of vinegar, none of tarragon, and the texture was so cloying that when I turned it upside down it stayed in the jug.  I wanted to hold it upturned over my head, but Mrs P told me to behave.  Had I wanted wallpaper paste with a nasty taste, I would have ordered it.  They took it off the bill, but too late.  My meal was ruined.  I ate a few bites of steak, a few chips, and sulked.

Pud (just for me) was Crêpes Suzette –  tasty enough, but sugar, rather than orange, was the dominant flavour in the sauce.  The theatre came with the waiter pouring a puddle of flaming brandy over the dish.  Not sure why he bothered, because all the brandy flavour appeared to have been cremated out of the final product. The ball of ice cream served with it thought it was an Arctic iceberg, and insisted on melting too fast.

The coffee was OK, and the bill case to just under R1 000, before the tip.  It included R28 for that tap water with gas.

My rating?  3.5*

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.

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Can We Toque? A Tavola, Claremont

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

One of the highlights of any trip outside town is that special meal with special friends.  Mind you, the friends are optional.  I have had some superb but solitary meals while travelling on my own, and need to search far and wide for company as excellent as my own.

However, when I was recently in Cape Town, I took the opportunity to dine out with two favourite foody friends, Mr and Mrs M.

They suggested a restaurant near my hotel, and so we ended up at A Tavola in Clarement.

It is a bustling, welcoming place, and was very busy on the Thursday evening we went.   Having brushed aside the offer of some Italian mineral water, we went for the local stuff, as you don’t know how much longer you will find local water in CT.

In breach of every rule of restaurant reviewing, we all opted for the same starter – gnocchi with gorgonzola.   They were all excellent.  Super texture on the gnocchi, which appeared to have been home made, and a beautifully cheesy, but not too cheesy, sauce.

For mains, I had veal saltimbocca.  The veal with ham and sage seemed to have been breaded and was covered with a dense tomato sauce, which overwhelmed the other flavours.   The veal was way overcooked and the coating was crunchy.  I am sure I could have done a far better job myself.

Mrs M had pasta ribbons with calamari and seemed to enjoy it, while Mr M had what I think was lasagne.  He liked it, too.

He had an ice cream for pud, and pronounced it good.  Mrs M and I shared a cheese platter.  What a disgrace.  Tiny chunks of waxy cheese, served in a part of South Africa where such superb cheeses are made.  An awful end to a meal.

Service was OK but a little offhand.

We ordered two bottles of a 5* 2013 Cab Franc from Chamonix, and loved every drop.  Mr M was the only one driving after the meal and behaved himself.

The bill, with tip, came to around R1 600, with tip, but would have been a thousand-ish without the wine.

Was it OK?  Yes.  Was it great/memorable/a must-visit?    Nope.

Rating:  I give it 3.5*

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.

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One Road Death is One Too Many

 

leonrun&memorial.jpg

For quite a while, I had planned to write a piece defending the motorist – the King of the Road.    You hear all those statistics of road deaths, and wonder whether it was really the chap behind the wheel who was responsible.   Daily, I have to slow down, or hoot at jaywalkers, at people wandering along with more attention to their cellphones than to their lives.

And those cyclists.  Damm, they are annoying.  Expecting me to slow down, weave around them, and to show them consideration, when they leap on and off pavements, show no regard for traffic lights, ride the wrong way down the road.  Fail to travel in single-file.

All this changed, though, with the death of Leon Baker.  He was run over and killed earlier this month by a hit and run driver– most likely by a commuter taxi – while out on an early morning jog.

I had done some work on websites alongside Leon – he would provide the technical genius, me the bullshit.  I liked him a lot.  He tolerated my awful jokes about his obsession with running, always had time to explain complicated IT things time and time again.   I never saw him stressed or angry.

He was a great person, a family man, much loved and respected in the jogging community, had built up his own business and did what he did very well.

And then on the morning of July 4th he went out for his morning run, and was never seen alive again.

I went to his memorial service, to learn that not only was he such a good bloke; he was a great bloke.   And not only that, he loved his coffee and red wine.  A man of superb taste, as well.

I still use my hooter a lot when driving, but I am little more thoughtful now.  If I need to slow down or stop, I do so.  I am more aware than ever of the vehicle as a killer machine, as it has killed someone for whom I cared.   I speed less, drink less, stay more alert.

Can’t we all be a little more careful, less impatient with the runners and cyclists, more aware that we drivers do not own the roads?

There are some wonderful people who take risks just by going out on the road – for a jog, to walk the dog, to get to and from school, work or the shops.

Let us think, people.    And drive better.

Miss you, Leon.

NB:    Leon’s running buddy Duane Newman passed on a few safety tips for runners:

  1. Wear reflective clothing
  2. Don’t wear anything in ears, such as earphones
  3. Run towards traffic
  4. Wear identification with medical aid number, emergency contact, name
  5. Run in well-lit areas
  6. Don’t run alone
  7. Tell your family where you are running
  8. Run on roads with as little traffic as possible

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Government should be less dismissive of Business – given its own record for business disaster

The Manufacturing Indaba is becoming established as a leading forum for discussion of issues affecting the besieged SA manufacturing sector, which has been in decline for some time.

Industry body Manufacturing Circle says 1m jobs could be created if the sector were restored to its rightful place, contributing a far higher share of GDP.

So, it was rather surprising that after a meeting with the manufacturing bosses at the Indaba last week, that Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies described their plans as “smoke and mirrors”.

Given that the dramatic decline in South African manufacturing has occurred under Rob Davies and his predecessors, it is both unfortunate and disturbing that he was so dismissive of the Manufacturing Circle. He did say he was open to more dialogue. But his message was mixed.

The Manufacturing Circle’s strategy involves the reversal of the decline in the Vaal Triangle, once a heartland of industrial activity.   It also includes a skills initiative, targeting middle management.

And the body holds regular meetings with ministers and officials, for instance to give input on the planning stages of new industrial incentives, or to criticise loony new tax plans – like the new sugar tax.

Maybe business and government aren’t so far apart.  Is it just a matter of mutual respect and good manners?

The timekeeping of ministers and officials is pretty dire, although Davies is better than most.  He appeared to chop and change the time of his own address in the run up to the Indaba, and the event and its fringe SME forum started late on three days out of three. This was due to the late arrival of municipal officials, who then proceeded to give speeches on how wonderful Ekurhuleni is for business.   One MMC even gave an almost identical speech two days in a row, which included a ten-point plan for industrial regeneration.

By the time I had digested this ten-point plan for a second time, I was driven to launch my own ten-pint plan.

These municipal officials say they want their own University.  A good idea, if it provides courses in good manners and timekeeping.

In contrast, the Chairman of the Manufacturing Circle was spotted well over an hour before the start of the Indaba, ensuring his own slide presentation was going to work well, eager to get things moving.

The sour note hit by Rob Davies was a shame, as this Manufacturing Indaba was better organised and better structured than in the past, and even the catering was improved.

We see time and again that Government’s record in business is a disgrace – just look at corrupt state train tenders, the record losses at PetroSA, the continued scandal of mismanagement at SABC and SAA, and so on…….

So, a little more humility, a greater willingness to listen and to learn, might be welcome.

Rob Davies may think he knows it all.  But he doesn’t.

 

Tweet of the Day

Terry F (@daemonic3):  [superfriends lunch]: BATMAN: There’s an underwater nuclear threat

SUPERMAN: Aquaman, go!

AQUAMAN: [stares at watch] Gotta wait 30 minutes

 

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