Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hlaudi With A Chance Of Meatballs

My latest article published in +News24.com

Sometimes a story is so far-fetched and beyond belief, you’re left wondering if it’s simply satire or just a slow booze-induced week at the local papers. Unfortunately this story about SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng is neither satire nor some drunken fabrication for laughs. It seems that management at our public broadcaster really have gone off the rails, and things at Auckland Park really are Hlaudi with a chance of meatballs.

The debate still rages on regarding the SABC’s recent fatwa to all their stations demanding 90% of local music content to be aired across the airwaves.
There are two sides to this argument and objectively one can easily understand both. Understanding doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with. While I understand the need to increase local content exposure, I quite frankly don’t agree with the manner in which the SABC has gone about it.

I think the SABC bit off more than they could chew with this 90% local content decree, and I think Hlaudi’s choir is going to be singing a different tune in the not too distant future.

I’m not a huge fan of Lotus FM simply because I find the content on Highveld Stereo more appealing to my taste in music. However, one can safely assume the demographic and target market of Lotus FM to be Indian. The station is one of only a handful which caters to the Bollywood-loving Indian community, and keeps its tiny audience of listeners tuned in by playing the very latest hits from the Bollywood circuit. Advertising revenue to the station is the grease which keeps the cogs turning, and advertisers target this niche audience with ads tailor-made for the Indian community.
Asking this microcosm of minorities with it’s own unique language and culture to suddenly embrace a 90% influx of local content to their radio station would be akin to having The Natal Sharks Board call you up and inform you that they need to house 20 species of shark in your goldfish bowl or else you don’t deserve goldfish.

Someone called in to a radio station the other day and said the problem can easily be rectified by simply increasing local content providers or getting more Indian musicians to submit their material to Lotus FM.
I can only imagine the caller had never heard local Indian music.
I have.
That’s why I listen to Highveld.
Take nothing away from the talented local Indian musicians out there, and I’m pretty sure this new decree will benefit them. But can they make up 90% of local content? The good one’s at least? I have my reservations about this.

I think Hlaudi is going to need his choir.
He’ll certainly need them to drown out the sound of dissent coming from the smaller radio stations who simply can’t fulfill this 90% local content quota.
I hope I’m wrong.
I hope that within a year our airwaves are bustling to the sound of local music.
I hope the SABC is lauded for making our radio stations proudly South African.
I hope the choir at the SABC know the words to “Hlaudi With A Chance Of Meatballs.”
For in this wonderful nation of ours where leadership make hasty decisions, costing taxpayers millions and doing no favors to Brand South Africa, one can only hope.

Hlaudi is doing to the SABC what Malusi has done to tourism and what Dudu continues to do to SAA. Where there is a lack of accountability and no regard for consequence, the words “Corporate Governance” are simply big phrases found in useless textbooks.

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.