Why Ramaphosa had to delay appointing South Africa’s next cabinet

President Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office at his inauguration by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. EPA-EFE/Stringer

By Dirk Kotze, Professor in Political Science, University of South Africa

The delay in the appointment of South Africa’s new Cabinet after the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa on 25 May 2019 reflects the impact of two institutions: first, the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) integrity commission, and secondly, the Public Protector. 

The ANC’s integrity commission’s job is to root out unethical conduct in the party. The Public Protector’s responsibility provides oversight over the government. It’s empowered to “investigate, report on and remedy improper conduct” by all state organs.

Ramaphosa needs both if he is to succeed in cleaning South Africa’s body politic of corruption. He, therefore, can’t afford to run roughshod over either. 

All the incoming presidents since democracy in 1994 have announced their deputy presidents, cabinets and deputy ministers on the day after their inaugurations. Ramaphosa is the first who has not done so. 

Since the inauguration, and until the members of a new cabinet are sworn in, South Africa is without a cabinet. For this period, Ramaphosa is the only member of the Executive. Not even the Deputy President is available.

The Constitution is clear about the fact that the President must assume office within five days after his election by Parliament. And that the first sitting of the National Assembly after an election must take place not later than 14 days after the election results are announced. 

But it’s silent on the Cabinet. Theoretically, at least, this means that the President can continue without a cabinet for an unspecified period. 

The main reason Ramaphosa hasn’t been able to act with haste is that the integrity commission has made unfavourable pronouncements against some prospective Cabinet members. One of them is his deputy David Mabuza. And, the Public Protector has recommended he take disciplinary action against Pravin Gordhan, his trusted former Public Enterprises Minister. 

Ramaphosa couldn’t appoint people with a cloud over their heads, especially given his stated commitment to a clean and effective government.

ANC integrity commission

The ANC’s integrity commission was established under the party’s constitution. Any member accused of unethical or immoral conduct that can bring the ANC into disrepute can be referred to the commission by the party’s top six officials as well as its national executive committee (NEC). This is its highest decision-making body in-between its national conferences. 

The integrity committee is made up of nine ANC veterans chaired by former Robben Island prisoner George Mashamba. 

The ANC’s NEC flagged 22 people on the party’s 2019 parliamentary candidates’ list as potentially being improper. This included Mabuza and the Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. Both are also part of the ANC’s top six leaders. They are respectively the party’s deputy president and national chairman. 

The integrity commission could potentially develop into a powerful organisational instrument in Ramaphosa’s drive against corruption, and to renew the ANC. 

Public Protector

The Public Protector is one of the institutions established by the Constitution to support and protect South Africa’s constitutional democracy. 

The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has recommended that Ramaphosa take disciplinary action against Gordhan, a trusted ANC colleague who has served as public enterprises minister, the country’s finance minister on two occasions, as well as head of the South African Revenue Service. 

Mkhwebane has accused Gordhan of behaving illegally by approving an early retirement agreement with the deputy head of the South African Revenue Service, Ivan Pillay. Gordhan disputes the accusation and is challenging the public protector’s report in court. 

It would be indefensible for Ramaphosa to ignore Mkhwebane’s report and to appoint Gordhan. Only a court judgment could set aside the public protector’s report. 

The office of the Public Protector has the potential to be another indispensable instrument in Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption arsenal. He cannot, therefore, undermine it by ignoring a decision it has taken.

On the other hand, he will be loath to sacrifice Gordhan.

Uncertainty

The seriousness of these considerations – and their dire impact on the executive – shows how respectful Ramaphosa is of these anti-corruption institutions. 

The fact that he stood aside and allowed Mabuza, who was key to his election as president of the ANC in December 2017, to be put through the integrity commission’s processes even though this meant not pulling off a speedy appointment of the cabinet, is a testimony to his determination to respect due process. Ramaphosa has also left Gordhan to deal with the Public Protector’s report.

After being cleared by the integrity commission, Mabuza was due, belatedly, to be sworn in as an MP.

This has removed uncertainty about his future as Deputy President. But it’s given him ammunition for the future – because he can point to the fact that he’s been exonerated of any wrongdoing by his own party.

Ramaphosa is inching closer to being able to make his vital cabinet appointments. He will want to do so as soon as possible. Constitutionally, the country’s executive power is vested in the President – but he exercises most of his power in concert with Cabinet members.

That’s not to say that this lacuna has left government departments entirely in limbo. They are still managed by directors-general, and the laws they have to implement are not affected by this situation.

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

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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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Whine Celliers. But will it lead to SAA Reform?

 

Jacques Celliers, CEO First National Bank

I am not quite sure what to make of this tweet from a top bank boss:

Jacques Celliers (‪@CelliersJ1)

2017/08/14, 06:36

As from today I’m not flying on SAA anymore .. instead I’ll be supporting the honourable alternatives .. this abuse has to come to an end!

The head of FNB has a good point, but is Celliers being a bit celly?  Certainly, if SAA were in the rail business, they would be a train wreck.  Corruption at Board level, unpleasant flying experiences, and an ability to burn cash at the speed of sound.  Airline fractures all over the place.

Few South African can be happy about the current state of affairs – and I, for one, would celebrate the privatisation or closure of SAA.  This is a jumbo airline disaster and  a national disgrace.

However, Celliers works for a banking group which has come off badly in previous skirmishes with government.

In 2017, Paul Harris, who then headed FNB’s parent group RMB, got into hot water with government over an anti-crime advertising campaign which appeared to attack government.

In January 2013, Celliers’ predecessor Michael Jordaan was in trouble over a YouTube campaign featuring children, some of whom were critical of government.

So there are worrying precedents for the current FNB boss to fret about.   Government has massive economic clout, and if it wants to punish FNB it certainly has the ability to do so.

However, there has been a recent tendency for business to be more critical of government, and of state-owned parasitals like SAA.

So maybe Celliers will get away with it?”

He certainly has my support.

 

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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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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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