April 3rd, 2022 | Business, Economics, Practice



Broke? A report on Defenceweb dealt with a litany of woes, revolving around funding which has resulted in inadequate training, lack of readiness, the un-serviceability of combat craft and so on. Much the same may be said of our civil service which is well-paid but has infrastructure which is failing it. Reports on this issue is legion. The difficulty with our civil servants is that they, like Oliver, want more. Our Minister of Finance refers to this as a trust deficit leading to the lack of a common understanding of the (financial?) challenges facing the country. It is said that the driver of wage bill growth in the civil servant sector has not been an increase in the number of civil servants, but rather the annual adjustment of remuneration itself. Whatever; a trust deficit? Hardly just that, a deficit of understanding and leadership.

Godongwana wants, logically, to review the skills base and fitness for work and productivity of the public sector; I would eat my underpants if this came to be. You will recall that the Minister of Education tried this on teachers some years back and that teachers refused flatly to have their skills tested. The fact is that if capable you cannot be threatened by a test but, if not capable… The result is that we still have teachers who should not be teaching on-the-job. Likewise, we have civil servants who should not be in their positions – witness my standing in a passport queue a week ago where no one was serviced for more than an hour as the capturer of the information did not know what to do with someone who had no fingerprints. The thought of speaking to his supervisor never occurred to him.


The talk shop on reviving the economy is just that – investment by the general government declined substantially and that by state-owned companies by 42% in the first three years of Ramaposa’s reign. Infrastructure-led recovery, my ass.


Selling the family jewels? A temporary reduction in the fuel-price levies is in the offing. Nice visible publicity but the fact is that giving the fiscus a R90bn haircut without recouping that tax from someone else, is hardly possible. In fact, just the reduction of R1.50 per litre will cost the state R6bn. At the same time there is talk of surcharges on income tax to fund the NHI…


An interesting debate, which is now surfacing, is Russia’s demand that its oil should be paid for in roubles. This has resulted in other oil-sellers being tempted to sell oil in denominations other than dollars or euros. The pre-eminency of the dollar for oil purchases, is being challenged.




NSFAS bursary holders should be applauded for vasbyt, if nothing else: Marginalrevolution ran a note on such applications: to fill in the application form there are seventy-nine pages of instructions and a 10-part instructional video series.


Aside from the usual one-day/ongoing scandals (the competition commission is now investigating our fresh produce food market, a plastic bag tax scam, state inability to provide licences, unwillingness to migrate to digital TV, move to pre-owned luxury items, Sassa/Postbank theft), there are rays of hope in that the construction mafia is being taken on, landlords are reducing rentals by an average of some 20% and, importantly, a ManpowerGroup report that South African organisations are expected to see a significant growth in hiring sentiment this quarter.


Two recent reports stand out: the first is that the UIF’s reserve and sustainability is being eroded by increasing claims against that fund. To be expected.

Also, to be expected but instructive, nevertheless, is a report on ACSA’s private shareholders being dealt with roughly by the state. The fact is that anyone going into partnership with our state is brave, or …


The impact of state neglect of infrastructure has a very tangible effect on business. Aside from the well-known “challenges” of attempting to use our rail system, is a report on rail services failing the timber industry in favour of coal exports. The effect of this is that it pushes millions of tonnes of freight on to our roads, which are not geared or maintained for this purpose. Reports of potholes are rife, with some roads becoming virtually impassable for ordinary traffic. This shifting of priority to last resort facilities, impacts on the businesses affected, downstream service providers such as the tourist industry, accommodation, food suppliers and the like.


It appears that the Water Sisulu University has issued degrees which were not registered and accredited by the Council on Higher Education. If this is the case, one wonders if anyone be held accountable for this neglect?




A Propertywheel report held that residential property market bounced back substantially last year, driven by low interest rates and a shift to work-from-home employment. Nevertheless, the number of transfers last year was still down on pre-lockdown levels. Interestingly, the low-value-market sector has declined, as opposed to that of mid-and high-level transactions. This leads one to speculate that middle-class (and better-off) homeowners weathered the economic storm better than the poor?


In step with this is a report that the industrial and commercial markets are normalising.


Another interesting development is on the Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill, which will make it possible for township dwellers to start running businesses within their precincts. Good, if properly controlled, there is little reason to ban small businesses from operating from home.





  • notes on litigation legal costs may be interesting for laymen: https://www.golegal.co.za/guide-legal-costs-south-africa/ and https://www.macrobert.co.za/insights/posts/misconceptions-of-cost-awards-on-attorney-client-scale
  • law reform or development via our Commission is slow. Ex its reports delivered to our Minister of Justice, this week past:
    • a report on legal fees and access to justice (an intractable debate); and
    • a report on Uthuthwala, a practice of forced marriage: not all customs are good.
  • A report on alternative directors may be of interest: https://www.golegal.co.za/alternate-directors-proxy/
  • A citation/rationalisation for courts in KZN has been issued by the DOJ – ask me for a copy.
  • The Pietermaritzburg Deeds Office has, of late, been insisting that the description of EUAs follow their formal designation as in the plans of the scheme involved. The difficulty is that this was not the practice in the past and examiners are insisting that existing titles be corrected despite their having been acceptable to our Deeds Office at the Time. Factually, however, the attitude taken is correct, as the SG is the final arbiter on the description of a property.
  • Doctors are increasingly having a go at the RAF for non-payment of their fees by that institution. The RAF blames the situation on the practitioners it removed from its panel (as it could not afford to pay them).


Hard news:




There are signs that Zimbabwe may be turning the corner away from virtual dictatorship in that the recent by-elections seem to point to fairness in voting and an ousting of the incumbent government.


Earlier in this newsletter mention was made of teachers/civil servants being verified as fit for purpose: the latest nonsense is of military veterans, in KZN, refusing to be verified as such by the government. One suspects that a part of the problem is the lack of proper records and the co-option of youths into self-defence units against the IFP. So, should the latter be regarded as freedom fighters? Surely internecine strife should not qualify as such?


Much has been written on operation Dudula – civilian action against foreigners in business. Whatever the right and wrong of this; the fact is that this is an action driven in part by xenophobia and the inability to compete with others better qualified or who will work at cheaper rates. More importantly for lawyers, this is a form of self-help, which is never justified in our legal system. The mere fact that the government is prepared to countenance such an action, is a disgrace.


Radicals: the past weeks held reports about the Taliban imposing rules for school attendance, s*xual discrimination between boys and girls and, of late, dress-rules for men. Such discrimination should be resisted strenuously, and I find the silence of those of the same faith against this, unsettling.




“We are a hard sell for a variety of reasons…” “We’ve just come out of [a period of] State Capture, corruption [and] crime… The dysfunction of some state-owned enterprises is impacting the economy, whether we are talking about electricity or talking about logistics, all of those things are working against what we are trying to achieve.”



Lighten up


Adam and Eve

Eve: “Adam are you seeing someone else?”

Adam: “No, you’re the only woman on earth!”

Adam: “Now what are you doing?”

Eve: “Counting your ribs.”


A Brit, A Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the garden of Eden

“Look at their reserve, their calm,” muses the Brit. “They must be British”

They pondered this possibility, but the Frenchman and the Russians soon shake their heads in disagreement.

“Nonsense,” says the Frenchman. “They’re naked and so beautiful, clearly they are French”. The Brit and Russian agreed on this point, but the Russian soon raises an objection to this.

“No clothes, no shelter and they have only an apple to eat but they’re told this is Paradise. They are clearly Russian”



Author: Dr Daan Steenkamp



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