Were anyone to ever refer to it fondly, the Medium-Term Budgetary Policy Statement (MTBPS) would be fondly known as the Mini-Budget.
If you are sitting in the executive cock(up)pit of SAA, today’s Mini-Budget represented yet another budget bonanza for the ultra-profligate.
Already in recession, the SA economy has been booted into deep depression by the C-19 pandemic.
The economy is expected to contract by 7.8% this year, while unemployment shoots up.
In global terms, economic despair is the one thing we are really, really good at.
Yet the budget contains another massive cash injection for parasitic parastatal SAA: R6.5bn to pay its debts and interest – plus a further R10.5bn to implement its business rescue plan.
It is, of course, an open secret that the SAA barmy bonuses reflect a defeat for Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who failed to stop the fools in the ANC from allowing him to just kick the national disgrace of a national airline into a remote hanger, lock the door and throw away the key.
Instead, money which could be so, so, so better spent elsewhere – cash which we don’t really have in the first place – is being tossed into the flaming jet engines of SAA, to keep thing fuelled until they next demand a bailout.
And they will.
I am not sure whether they are running any flights. But why should an airline have to transport people or goods to deserve R17b?
This is, after all, an Alice in Wonderland world.
If you replace “an Alice in Wonderland world” with “a shit-storm of note”.
One positive note – if you are a true believer in an Alice in Wonderland world – is a determination by Tito the Tax Tyrant to cut the state’s terminally-obese wage bill by freezing the wages of public servants.
I will believe he can succeed at that as soon as I see pigs fly. (Or SAA planes.)
If you enjoyed this article, do subscribe to ZA Confidential. It will cost you far less than the mini budget. In fact, it will cost you nothing as long as you sign up before or during the Apocalypse.
Hundreds of people have been queueing in the city of Yiwu in eastern China in recent days to get an experimental vaccine for COVID-19. Although the vaccine is yet to complete its clinical trials, it was reportedly given to hundreds of thousands of people in the past few months, and is now being offered under an emergency use licence to the general public.
Around the world, as first waves pass and new waves close in, a coronavirus vaccine has become a focus of hope. For China, quick progress on the vaccine is a matter of both domestic and international politics.
This was not simply a public relations move in a game of one-upmanship with the US – which refused to join Covax. Instead, it forms part of the Chinese authorities’ overall approach to the vaccine, which is informed by the need to tread a path between managing international tensions and presenting the strength of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-led system domestically.
Our own ongoing research, which has been systematically collecting and analysing Chinese government and CCP policies responding to COVID-19, found that the Research Front Team was among one of the few internal groups which actively made policy documents publicly available. From the start of China’s response, the vaccine was visibly high on the agenda.
In August, China’s National Medical Products Administration issued five policy documents highlighting concrete principles and standards for vaccine development. This was another display of the speed of public administrators in pushing ahead with a vaccine by addressing the need for a balance between acting fast and ensuring scientific ethical standards.
‘Full victory’ hangs on a vaccine
From a political perspective, China’s vaccine progress has both domestic and international dimensions. The CCP’s official line is that it has made “major strategic achievements” against COVID-19 – a term used consistently across official Chinese communications. A vaccine would top off this triumph.
This clear message of success is combined with a discursive technique commonly adopted by the CCP: time-based cognitive framing, in which periods or points in time are used to develop a favourable narrative while smoothing away inconvenient details.
At a ceremony in September to commend people who had contributed to the pandemic response, CCP general secretary, Xi Jinping, set out milestones that form the contours of the official account. He said China took: “One month or so to initially contain (the virus) … around two months to keep new daily domestic cases within single digits,” and “about three months to achieve decisive gains in the battle for Wuhan and Hubei.”
Such domestic policy and political considerations are tied up with international ones. The Trump administration has promoted a sharp change in US policy toward China and rejected elements of the current global governance system, including the WHO.
Faced with this challenge, the CCP seems to be trying to drown out rather than engage with difficult discussions. The vaccine is a useful theme to focus on while squeezing out room to discuss China’s initial response.
The US rejection of the WHO’s attempts at international vaccine cooperation offers the CCP a valuable source of rhetorical righteousness. It can use loud platitudes about China’s support for the current institutions of global governance and back up its claims with money and technology. By focusing on its willingness to cooperate on a vaccine, the CCP gains twofold. It can shield itself from accusations of culpability – and win praise for its global-spiritedness for being willing to step up, contribute and collaborate internationally while the US refuses to do so.
Anton Harber, the veteran South African journalist, editor and journalism professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, has a new book out. So, For the Record: Behind the Headlines in an Era of State Capture is a deep dive into the conduct of the media as mega corruption and state capture engulfed and eventually brought down President Jacob Zuma’s administration. Politics editor Thabo Leshilo asked the author to provide the highlights.
What prompted you to write the book?
For one thing, it is a great story to tell, complete with all the ingredients of a thriller: brothels, spies, brown envelopes and honeypots, all laced with intrigue, deceit and backstabbing. My interest, though, came from a concern that our community of journalists was not dealing properly with the series of journalistic fiascos at the Sunday Times, the country’s biggest and most powerful newspaper.
I was on a panel commissioned to conduct an internal investigation at the paper in 2007, after a similar series of journalistic disasters. Our far-reaching recommendations were not implemented. And so, perhaps inevitably, the paper went off the rails again in 2011-6 with another series of stories that boosted those trying to capture state institutions for corrupt purposes. The paper had to retract and apologise for these disastrous stories.
As journalists, we hold those in power to account and demand full transparency from them. But we also wield public power, so I think it is crucial that we hold ourselves to account when we mess up. If we don’t, the politicians will step in and that would be a disaster.
Media self-criticism is not just important to improve our journalism, it is a political, professional and moral imperative. That is why I thought it important to take a deep dive into what happened at the Sunday Times.
The other reason is that this same period saw some of finest and most effective investigative journalism in this country. The #GuptaLeaks exposé in particular contributed to bringing down a president. The email leaks provided the evidence of the extraordinary and malign influence the Gupta brothers– who stand accused of having captured the South African state for their enrichment – had over the president and his family.
Taken together, I thought these parallel tales would provide insight into the highs and lows of journalism, showing its importance and value, but also its limitations and problems. I hope to enable a better public understanding of the work of journalists and the media, as I think that there is confusion over what we do and don’t do in our newsrooms.
This was not just a Sunday Times issue, but it was about the nature and state of our media, and hopefully I offer some insight into that.
As someone who was involved in the 2007 report, knew all the characters well, and who had been part of judging panels for the Taco Kuiper Award for investigative journalism, which recognised the Sunday Times for one of these stories and then withdrew that recognition, I had a rare personal perspective on events.
In a way, the book is a personal account from an insider, and I hope I bring to bear an understanding of journalism derived from 40 years of practice, including my own fair share of journalistic blunders.
Why do your findings matter?
I hope that I show how good journalism nourishes and feeds citizenship and democracy, but also that it is an imperfect profession working in imperfect structures in an imperfect society – and we need to face up to the reality of what this means.
Journalism can do some good, and it can do a lot of harm, and it usually does both. We have to try and understand how to try and do more good and less harm. This is particularly important at a time when the work we do is facing the triple onslaught of political, financial and disinformation storms.
An important element of the story is how state structures, such as the State Security Agency and Police Crime Intelligence, deliberately and malevolently interfered to distort and harm our journalism for their own purposes. The question to ask is:
what was it about the Sunday Times that made this newsroom fall for these tricks, when others didn’t?
We have a lot to fix in this country, and as journalists we can start by trying to fix our journalism and our media.
What are the implications for the media?
What I highlight is that this is not a problem affecting one newspaper. The problem runs deep in the structure and history of our media. Hopefully, those reading my book will get a better understanding of this and be better equipped for a discussion about what needs to be done to make our media and our democracy work better.
We are facing an onslaught of disinformation, enabled by social media, and we cannot counter it unless we rebuild journalism so that it is a valued and trusted part of our society.
How can media houses and journalists fix the problems you identify?
First we need to understand the problem and its causes. That is what I explore in the book. Part of this is to see that this is not a problem for media houses or journalists alone. This is a social, political and economic problem that can’t be solved by the media industry on its own. We have to work with the private sector, the public sector, the philanthropic sector, civil society and the state to ensure we have a media that meets our society’s needs.
We cannot deal with the issues of professionalism and accountability without solving the problems of the fundamental economic structure of the industry. To be a quality industry, we need to be a strong one, and to do this, we need to find a new way to restore its financial foundation.
We are in the extraordinary position where philanthropically funded journalism appears to be more sustainable than the traditional advertising-driven model. This is an inversion of what we always accepted as reality. We are caught in a bind: we need citizens to value us enough to pay for our services in some form, but we don’t have the resources to produce the journalism that would show that value. We first have to recognise that this is a national and societal problem, not just a media one, and then we can tackle it.
Recorded before the latest easing of the lockdown, but still of vital relevance, a top-tier panel chats about the Covid-19 impact on the food and wine sector and the SA government’s heavy-handed approach.
Joining me are lunch-out legend David Bullard, food and wine guru Michael Olivier, business strategist Duane Newman and Klerksdorp’s own James Lennox.
Listen, laugh and learn.
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Wanna hear a great joke? Cyril believes history will give him the thumbs up.
OK, he is not alone. Trump, Boris and that bozo from Brazil also stuffed up the Covid response, with millions paying with their lives for the inept political leadership.
South Africa was a case study, though, in both daft regulation and inept government communication.
That awful Zuma woman, fine-print freak Patel and the bore of the year Jackson Mthembu (who is supposed to be good at communications but isn’t), aided by the prat in the hat who is (scarily) in charge of our police, could not have done a much worse job.
The tone was wrong, the message off-focus, and the legislation woefully misguided.
I cannot think of a better way of messing up the message and pissing off millions of citizens than they achieved by their jackboot bans on booze and cigarettes.
Heavy-handed, daft , unenforcible and unjustifiable measures have led to a mass resistance in South Africa – not to Covid-19, sadly, but to ministerial messaging.
Cyril makes the occasional speech and often he does say all the right things. But the damage is being done by the preening politicians in their so-called ‘Command Council.’ Set the DeLorean for 1984, Mildred!
Far, far too many South Africans – maybe the majority? – feel the panic is over, now that the booze and tobacco bans have been eased, shops are open and we can all go back to work.
Not that it is entirely business as usual. You still cannot buy alcohol from a South African shop on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These nanny Nazis are still on the rampage.
This ineptitude by our leaders is not a victimless crime. Every time I venture out to go shopping or to have a meal, I see the regulations being shat over by a public which either doesn’t realise the dangers, or which doesn’t care. Are they so retarded they don’t appreciate that they are a danger to themselves and to everyone else?
Wear a mask? Most do, some have it jauntily below their noses – and that includes food-preparation staff!
Keep your distance? I try, and am greeted with laughter or hostility. From staff and from other shoppers.
It got so bad in Dischem that I now boycott the store. And it has not been a good week to switch to Clicks.
Just today, in a Pretoria East greengrocers I had to use my trolly to keep at bay a staff member who wanted to squeeze past me in an aisle which is so narrow that it was almost a squeeze just going along single-file. (The lockdown has not been kind to my waistline).
They really do not give a toss.
So what do we do?
Unusually, I think Boris has had an excellent idea this week, with his suggestion of a team of Covid Marshals – people to police the regulations.
Why is this not happening in SA?
There is no shortage of unemployed, the health rewards would be massive, and an army of marshals could really help to control the brain-dead shoppers, and the often brain-deader staff.
While we are at it, why are shops not being forced to close down where they do not widen their aisles to allow people to pass one-another safely?
Where are the existing teams of State inspectors? Too busy fiddling PPE tenders?
Now if Cyril were to pop up on TV and announce that the bullshit is over, and government intends to enforce the simple social-distancing rules that its droning politicians have decreed, that would be a wise move.
I would even endure another briefing from Tannie Zuma or Jackson the insufferable if – for once – they stuck to the point and announced something sensible.
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Did you hear the one about the three ANC Ministers who walked into a bar?
One tried to close it down, another to arrest all the drinkers in possession of car keys, while the third got merrily pissed.
If the Covid-19 crisis has told us anything about our government, it is that it is Hydra-like, with its many heads often in disagreement with one another.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who seems more sensible than some in his Cabinet, is nominally in charge, but one does not get the feeling that he is in control.
Although she denies it, Nanny Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who delights in articulating the government’s response to the pandemic, seems to be in the driving seat. She is the face of the Soviet-sounding Command Council, and seemingly delights in droning on at media briefings – once in english and then again in zulu.
I suppose one should not draw attention to this unnecessary, time-wasting duplication, for fear that she will then insist on using all 11 official languages – turning each brief and businesslike media event into an even longer linguistic marathon.
These are tough times for SA drinkers, and every fresh rumour is also a knee in the groin to our wine farms and restaurants
This week we have seen panic-buying in the bottle stores and rumours of a reimposition of pandemic prohibition.
The rumours were denied by a government whose credibility is in freefall, but we have since seen further reports that the temperance twats are indeed at it again, pushing hard for a total turnoff of the tipple taps.
As one distinguished commentator questioned: “How can they be both so puritanical and also such thieves?” Corruption hasn’t been controlled under the lockdown, so why is there so much focus on booze-bashing?
One voice of reason in the darkness is my DA chum Dean Macpherson, who warned that the Democratic Alliance “has been reliably informed” that there is a strong lobby within the ANC by certain Ministers to reintroduce another ban on alcohol as soon as possible.
“This group of Ministers includes Police Minister Bheki Cele, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,” he said.
Yet while the flames of fear and concern are being fanned among the drinkers of SA, the vast majority of whom are not the wife-beaters and drunk-drivers the ANC appears to be concerned about (as are we all), another arm of government has been actively boosting our booze industry – as long as the foul stuff is only exported to gullible foreigners.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the DTIC, whose duties include export promotion, has today been hosting a “Virtual Wine mission to South Korea”.
Does this mean that the SA government backs the beating of South Korean wives and supports drunken South Korean drivers, or is it that they think that South Koreans are much more responsible and well-behaved than their own citizens?
They can be trusted with booze. We can’t.
And if the alcohol problem is so, so serious, why did they wait until the pandemic to tackle it?
There is some credibility to the excuse that booze and tobacco use will lead to more pressure on the pandemic-pounded health services, but does this justify the response? Only if there is some hidden, temperance-tainted agenda.
With power should come restraint and responsibility, unless we are to be government by a bunch of bullies.
It is all a mess. Mixed signals on this issue of alcohol have harmed more than just our drinkers (and our smokers are in a similar bind).
By making the clampdown on booze and tobacco so central to their Covid-19 fightback messaging, they have distorted the picture, moving the focus from the REAL challenge, of stopping the transmission of the disease.
This is why a visit to most SA stores or supermarkets is a scary, dangerous experience. The message on social distancing is not getting through.
Why? Because the main evangelists in our government have hijacked the anti-pandemic campaign to pursue their own ends.
And far too many South Africans are paying for this puritanical distraction. With their lives.
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Ok. This is not the first time I have been told I was wrong, out-of-order, unwanted.
Although I have followed virtually every ministerial briefing since the arrival of the pandemic and studied most of the statements on the virus, I apparently know nothing about social distancing.
For what little it seems to be worth, I favour the 2-metre exclusion zone, as that is close to my height, and it is therefore fairly easy to judge if I am too close to another human being.
However, if you closely study the photo of the entrance to the Kings Meat Deli at the Lynnbridge Mall in Pretoria, you are likely to conclude that it offers a quite narrow opening into the store.
The chap at the entrance with the sanitiser spray device was standing just to the side of the door when I arrived and initially rejected my request to stand aside so I could safely enter. He offered a social distance of centimetres, not metres.
Eventually, reluctantly, he made a small step away from me and I nervously passed inside. More fool me.
Once inside, I headed to vent my fears at the checkout, where the staff are normally kind and helpful, but I was intercepted by a burly, aggressive butch butcher, who I assume was a member of management. He was not carrying a cleaver and so was probably undercover.
The idiot told me insistently there was no risk at the entrance of the store, and I stood no chance of infecting others or being infected when entering his shop – as I would be “moving” and you can not catch Covid-19 when you are moving. I suspect he has a severe case of butcher’s block.
The fact that one needs to stand still to receive a droplet of disinfectant on the hands from the charmless greeter, and would, therefore, not be moving all the time did not seem to have occurred to him. Even if his dismissal of the basic principles of social distancing were valid, he stuck to his guns, made me feel like the villain, and was as welcoming as a tarantula who has invited a fly to dinner.
He then forcefully and unpleasantly asked me whether I planned to purchase anything -as if I normally risk life and limb to wander around displays of bits of dead animals for no reason.
When he had succeeded in making me feel very nervous and very, very unwelcome, I flung down my shopping basket and stormed out.
It may not surprise you that I will never again return to that store after the arrogant, ignorant and threatening way in which I was treated. Which is a pity. Their butchery is far superior to their manners.
However, we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic – and while this butcher’s shop is used to dealing with dead creatures, I have no wish to be counted among them.
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A ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ is an apt description for the current lockdown regime, yet there are ways out of this increasingly costly mess. This is what can be done to save tourism.
Africa’s game lodge and viewing industry has been badly hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, with the prohibition on foreign and domestic leisure travel. Can something be done to save this industry – a vital part of the country’s tourism trade – and return it to contributing to the economy?
Wesgro – the Western Cape’s agency to promote economic growth – has helped to compile a report with the Game Lodge Industry Group on what can be done to save it right now: the safe and considered reopening of domestic tourism. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism sector directly accounted for 2.8% of South Africa’s gross domestic product, or some R139 billion in 2018.
“Many of the lodges in South Africa face imminent closure due to COVID-19 restrictions” reads the report. “The immediate and safe opening of domestic leisure tourism could help sustain these businesses until our international borders are re-opened.“
The agency is hoping to redirect some R83,7 bn that is spent annually on international outbound tourism by South Africans to visiting local lodges for game viewing.
The report says the 496 private game lodges in South Africa:
• Employ some 19 700 people in total, of whom 16 600 are from local communities;
• Pay salaries to local employees amounting to R1,5 billion a year;
• Spend R1,2 billion annually on local procurement;
• Based on tourism job multipliers, sustain a total of almost 33 625 jobs in the local communities and areas in which they operate;
• Spend almost R789 million annually on conservation programmes, excluding concession fees; and
• Spend R190 million annually on community projects such as clinics and schools and SMME support.
The report argues that visiting local game lodges would be safe for domestic tourists, saying “inter- and intra-provincial domestic leisure travel for stays in game lodges and provincial and national parks can be enabled with low to no COVID-19 risks.”
This is because lodges can easily comply with standards for business operations during Covid-19.
“The lodge experience is largely outdoors and in the open-air, for dining, walking and observing game and open game vehicle drives. Adhering to the protocols, open vehicles will ensure unconnected individuals are not seated together.”
Domestic tourists would travel to lodges in private vehicles and lodges were small, averaging 13 rooms, usually spread out with guests spending time on their own patios or in their rooms.
With usually no more than 14 guests at a time, guest-to-guest contact can be minimised and would be much less risky than most other consumer-facing industries.
The game-lodge industry was involved in the development of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s (TBCSA) comprehensive health and safety protocols for all elements in the tourism value chain and will adhere to these protocols which have been reviewed by an epidemiologist, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) and the Department of Health (DoH) and have been accredited with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travels stamp.
Allowing domestic visits to lodges would help sustain this industry which is a vital cornerstone of the larger tourism industry with 45% of overseas visitors to South Africa enjoying wildlife experiences in 2018.
“Without the private reserve and safari lodge industry, there would be a vastly reduced offering to international tourists visiting South Africa for leisure tourism.”
“In addition, on average, each lodge spends R1,6 million rand annually on conservation and conservation education. Applied to the 496 lodges, this equates to R789 million spent on conservation by the lodges.”
A smarter lockdown is essential to the retention of jobs. Game-lodges are a good place to start with the tourism industry.