Friday, May 20, 2016

No More Load Shedding? Don't Rejoice Just Yet

My post published in News24
Dated 09 May 2016

Load Shedding.
First experienced in South Africa around April of 2008.
By March of 2014 we were already bracing for long, cold winters as our state power utility Eskom warned the nation of it’s inability to keep up with electricity supply.
Then last week our President joyfully informed us that Load Shedding was a thing of the past.
No more load shedding? Don’t rejoice just yet.

Before we pop the champagne and celebrate our victory over dark forces, let us unpack this announcement and shine a light on how we got here.
Quoting megawatt production and supply capacity from power stations would be a snore fest quite honestly. To the man in the street who is paying higher tariff rates and more per month on his electricity bill, Eskom’s data on consumption is like the number of illegal immigrants crossing into our borders. We know its high; we know something needs to be done; but quite frankly there’s not much we can do about it.
What we do know is that Eskom asked NERSA (National Energy Regulator Of South Africa) for R22Billion for the 2016/17 financial year, and they were told to bugger off (in more diplomatic terms of course.)
Eskom then said they couldn’t guarantee that the country’s lights would remain on. A veiled threat, but a threat nonetheless. NERSA subsequently granted Eskom R11.2Billion.
Still not convinced that this would solve the problem, Eskom took it’s brightest (oh the irony) and sharpest analysts (and I’m guessing anyone and everyone in management who felt they deserved a holiday paid for by the taxpayer) to a 3-day retreat in order to start the spend on that R11.2Billion paycheck in earnest.

Somewhere between a cut of Wagyu steak and a glass of Pinot Noir (note previous point above as to who was footing the bill for this retreat), an Eskom genius (already on the WWF endangered species list) realized that consumption figures for electricity were falling. This would ease the need for electricity supply. This in turn would take the strain off the power utility. Ultimately meaning that Eskom no longer needed as much as R22Billion to keep the lights on! EUREKA!

Armed with this fantastic news on Day 1 of the retreat, management decided that 2 more days of pampering were in order. After all, the country had just been saved a whopping R11Billion electricity bill!
When management finally did present these new findings to Number 1, Nkandla was forgotten and the new Presidential Jet was ordered.
The South African Money Tree is so fertile and our cup just runneth over and over and over.
Blessed is this land we call Africa!

Economists and analysts will tell you that true electricity consumption is down for the following reasons:
* Eskom electricity production has been declining since 2007
* Consumers and businesses are becoming more electricity efficient
* The biggest consumer of electricity (mines, smelters and big business) have been laying off staff, shutting down operations and down-scaling
* Alternate energy producers have entered the playing field
But let’s be honest, what do economists and analysts really know?
None of them have R250million homes or fly in R4Billion jets.

Eskom not implementing load shedding and our government celebrating this, is like celebrating our annual road death toll figures coming down because we’ve started removing our tarred roads and national highways.
I won’t be celebrating the unemployment levels, loss of mine jobs, inefficiencies at our power stations and consumers just so annoyed and frustrated at load shedding that they’ve had to find alternate means to keep their lights on.
I certainly won’t be celebrating the news that load shedding is a thing of the past.
Those dark forces will simply come back in another form to bite us in the butt!

If there is any lesson to be learned from this whole sorry saga, and one that our esteemed ministers (sleeping and awake) should certainly take heed to, it’s this:
If we fail to plan, we should plan to fail.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Mall Of Africa : One Mall To End Them All

The smartest minds in investment, property and forward planning have just sat down at a polished mahogany boardroom table. The discussion centers around the future of the South African economy, the state of our local currency, and the looming recession. Concern for investors and shareholders is deeply etched into every wrinkle on white capitalist faces. Business and residential foreclosure is at an all-time high. Bad debt is spiraling out of control and household savings is almost non-existent.
Suddenly a voice in the room cuts the doom and gloom with the surety and confidence of a Zuma ‘Finance Minister’ selection.
“What Gauteng and this country really need right now, is a mammoth shopping mall!”
Instantaneous cheer and applause and the popping of champagne as another white elephant is expected to come marauding through Africa.
The idea for a Mall Of Africa has just been born.

With a population of 55 million at last count, South Africa is ranked 6th in the world for most number of shopping centers. While Canada may be 5th on that list with a population of 35 million, let us not forget that the Canadians don’t have half their population living below the poverty line. According to a 2015 report, 27 million South Africans live on an average of R779 per month . Poverty Report
Put into perspective, that’s less than the average price of a t-shirt from Armani Exchange at The Mall Of Africa.

The fact that investment in the country is sorely needed is unquestionable.
The question I pose regards our social responsibility.
We have a booming middle-class who have more exposure to ways of spending disposable income than they do to ways of investing that disposable income. Fancy cars and trendy brand-name clothes compete with retirement plans and long-term investments, and the latter is coming up short. Terribly short.

One only needs to view the auction pages every week to see the number of cars and homes being sold at the drop of a hammer. Simply because a middle-income earner with a promotion or new high-paying job was enticed to compete with his neighbor for the shinier German car or spankier home, without being educated about looking after his or her personal finances. The auction houses are doing brisk trade. Banks are doing brisk trade. Unsecured loan companies are doing brisk trade. Unscrupulous loan sharks preying on the desperate are doing brisk trade.
The guy trying to make ends meet while deciding between his Sandton bond, his BMW installment, his Versace store account, or his case of 2-minute Noodles bought on his Credit Card as a priority… that guy isn’t doing anything briskly accept dodging phone-calls.

What then is our social responsibility?
Maybe we should start with educating ourselves about the difference between “Wants” and “Needs.”
As Walter Slezak once said, “We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” All in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, who quite frankly are trying to keep up with someone more in debt than they are.

Where do we start then?
We start by embracing and promoting a culture of saving.
Here’s a scary statistic to show just how bad South Africans are at saving:
Our BRIC’s partners have saving ratio’s ranging from 5% for Brazil to 30% for China (that’s the percentage of household saving compared to income). How do we compare? Try -2.3% for size. Yes, that’s negative 2.3%! Household Saving Crisis
We suck so badly at saving, we’re practically borrowing money when we do try to save!

This financial education needs to start at primary school level. We need to start teaching our early generation of learners the importance of money, and the importance of saving money. We need to have programs in place throughout our schooling system that focus purely on fiscal management. We need to have more, many many more, courses for our middle-income earners and adults and pretty much everyone earning a salary. Courses that focus on savings and investments. Courses that teach the difference between Wants and Needs. Courses that teach about the perils of Impulse Buying, of Credit and of Interest.

Failure to do this ultimately leads us down a slippery slope of more malls, more borrowing, more debt, more poverty, and more social crisis.

The smartest minds in investment, property and forward planning have just sat down at a polished mahogany boardroom table. The discussion centers around the future of the South African economy, the state of our local currency, and the looming recession.
Suddenly a voice in the room suggests an investment in more public schools better equipped at teaching finance and economics to the youth.
Instantaneous cheer and applause and the popping of champagne as another inspirational project is expected to bring prosperity through Africa.

Friday, April 1, 2016

President Thuli Madonsela?

Local and international media headlines have been dominated by news of the South African Constitutional Court ruling on the Nkandla matter. Articles and blogs and airwaves abound with expert opinion and analyst quotes regarding the future of the country. Even the embattled Rand, long regarded as the whipping boy of currencies by forex traders, rallied to pre-Nene malarkey lows against the Greenback.

In all the joyous celebration of justice prevailing at the highest court in the land, one couldn't help but wonder at the response from the ANC Women's League.

Once proudly seen to be the bastion of rights and equality for all women, the league was previously led by tremendously strong and accomplished women. However, this arm of the ruling party has of late become much of a disappointment in championing the cause of the fairer sex.

An organization with as much clout and influence as the ANC Women's League cannot be seen to be struggling with the advancement of women's rights. It certainly can't blunder on the issues facing women.
One will recall the "Steenkamp must rot in jail" comment by none other than the the league spokesperson. This blunder would have been funny had the headlines across every media format not made evidently clear that Steenkamp was in fact the victim, and Pistorius the accused. News24Link
More recently, the exposing by some of their members of buttocks and breasts at a Tshwane protest against the outcome of their party's general meeting didn't win them much favor. Social media was quick to react at the insensitivity and irony of the champions of women's rights, expressing themselves with lewdness and gratuitous nudity. News24Link
Less than 24hours after the Constitutional Court ruling, the Women's League once again found itself in the headlines; this time for showing its unwavering support for the President after the judgement. No surprises there. News24Link
The ruling party has been challenged to find within it's ranks a suitable female candidate to lead the country from the highest seat of power.
A female President.

Many suitable candidates with sterling leadership records and more that the required skill-set have been discussed and proposed. Many elders within the party leadership think the time could be right. Citizens from all walks of life outside the party would not disagree.

If a poll were done immediately after the Constitutional Court ruling, and if anything of substance could be taken from callers on talk-radio stations across the country, there would be an unprecedented landslide victory for one name: Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

She has been the finest example of integrity and measured calmness this country has seen in recent years. That statement holds true across all sexist and political lines. She seems to be a unifying force able to harness popular opinion by her sense of righteousness and honesty.
If she can't be counted for the post, the very least the current leadership can do is learn from her office.

President Thuli Madonsela
Finally a name that would make all the headlines for all the right reasons.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Leathered Shoe

It was the leathered shoe
That sheathed the weathered foot
That had walked countless measured steps
That whispered to me
In hushed tones of tired limbs across polished wooden floors

Of a life lived
Lived in the rich tapestry and splendor of nothing
Nothing more majestic than the ordinary
Ordinary in every way but for the stories
Stories of a life lived

By a leathered shoe

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Buccleuch Muslim Community Defeats Residents Association At High Court

Masjidul Khaleel in Buccleuch

"Over my dead body!"
A quote from one of the directors of a marginalized Buccleuch residents association. So certain were they that the Muslim residents of Buccleuch would never have a masjid of their own.
Today the residents were triumphant and victorious in proving that a community can never be dictated to by the whims and fancies of a mere handful. The battle was taken all the way to the High Court, and sanity prevailed. The masjid will open as planned and service the community as intended.

Well done to the community and the trustees of Masjidul Khaleel for putting up a good fight and never wavering in their commitment to have a place of worship in Buccleuch, just as every other religious denomination is catered for in this beautiful suburb .
Justice has prevailed and the sweet sound of democracy can now fill the homes of every Muslim resident of Buccleuch at least 5 times a day.

In other news, the Buccleuch Steering Committee (BSC) which is an all-inclusive body serving the interests of every resident within the suburb will continue to denounce and eradicate the scourge of elitism and bigotry so prevalent in associations who haven't yet embraced the spirit of Ubuntu more than 20 years into our new democracy.

The winds of change are sweeping across our universities, across our boardrooms, and across our suburbs.
Let us never find ourselves on the wrong side of history, for we will be judged and judged harshly.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Winterschool Diaries

            An evening with the legendary Pops Mohamed at this years VANSA Winterschool.

I came to Winterschool to rediscover my writing.
To find the reason why I enjoyed putting pen to thoughts.
I came to get unstuck.
To learn and experience and absorb.

I left with a better understanding of my journey.
I left with new-found bonds.
I left unstuck and deeply satisfied
But mostly I left with my senses invigorated and alive!

Let the story begin.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

America Expecting A Bumper Crop Of Terrorism

We've all read about or heard the claims that a great many terrorist organizations operating throughout the world are creations of the CIA.
I used to think that this was crazy conspiracy-talk, until I actually started reading up on the subject matter.

I'd go into the long and sordid history of the CIA and it's links to these organizations, including it's funding of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but there are hundreds of online sources that would do a much better job of it including this one right here: Counterpunch

That the Middle East is an absolute quagmire of death, desperation and dollars and will remain so for as long as the West can profit from oil and arms to the region has been apparent for longer than the words 'Peace Treaty' have been bandied about. What is interesting though is how the fallout from the perfect shit-storm that's embattled the Middle East for so long is now being felt in the very heart of America.

I spoke to an Egyptian friend of mine not too long ago. He travels regularly back and forth between his home country and South Africa on business. On his last trip home he engaged a family member of his who happens to be very involved in the political situation in Egypt.
The Arab-Springs and the great hope that the Egyptian people had for democracy.
How they realized very quickly that the will of the people was really no match for political maneuverings between the Egyptian army and America.
How Sisi was chosen to be a proxy-leader long before the first bullet was even fired in Tahrir Square.
How revolutions are stage-managed to deliver a pre-determined outcome and the role the media plays in advancing hidden agendas.
Only a select handful of those in the know really do understand what the end game is about.
It truly was eye-opening for me to realize that activism and revolutions are really up against a foe a hundred-fold more powerful and prepared than the cause they think they're fighting.

With all this lobbying and stage-managing, it turns out that the one thing the West and in particular America never could control was it's own people in it's own backyard.

When American citizens commit acts of terror, both law enforcement and the media are galvanized into a frenzy of pigeon-holing either victim or suspect. They need to assign labels to better stage-manage public perception and the resultant reaction.
So black, minority, non-Caucasian or Muslim suspects of acts of terror will immediately be labeled 'terror suspects'.
White suspects will invariably be labeled 'sick', 'deranged', 'lone-gunman' or 'troubled individuals' with no mention of religion or ethnicity.
Read this piece from The Washington Post

Why this burning need to differentiate between American-Caucasian terror and American-non-Caucasian terror?
Well because the CIA, war lobby groups, the NRA and the White House are and always have been white institutions. By acknowledging white terrorism, they would need to acknowledge the terrorism within their ranks. While the immediate perception to those highlighting this bias in reporting would be one of racism, the underlying reality is actually a massive failure by white America and it's Board Of Directors to keep the leash on it's own.

How then do we make the link between American-led wars throughout the world and especially in the Middle East, and homegrown American terrorists plying their trade from within?
As my friend so aptly put it, once you create a culture of impunity against gross acts of violence by the state against another, you can't expect it's citizens to be law-abiding. More-so, if those acts were justified by virtue of an "Us-And-Them" mentality, as is the case with America and Arabs or America and Any-Other-Nation, then it really isn't a great leap to see how terrorism within America is between Whites and Blacks, or Whites and Minorities, or Whites and Muslims.

The chickens have come home to roost in cities across America, and until the leadership doesn't change it's war-rhetoric from "Us-And-Them", they shouldn't expect it's homegrown terrorists to.