Gerald Potash,

Hello again,

We are reasonably used to spring tides but this past weekend we saw something else; a Spring Tide like we have never seen before. The waves and strong wind ignored the walls built to keep the tide away and Gordon’s Bay—just down the road—featured strongly in many of the clips doing the rounds on social media. A popular 93 year-old ex-teacher died as a direct result of the huge, sudden wave onto the road near the Wilderness. In KZN 12 diners were injured when a wave broke windows and flooded a restaurant. In Gordon’s Bay we saw different parked vehicles lifted, turned around and even moved across the road as a result of the flooded roads. The land-mark pub over the rocks in Kalk Bay, The Brass Bell had some of its windows with frames and all completely smashed out by the strong waves.

I was pleased not to have been at Prince Buthelezi’s funeral on Sunday. There were too many speakers and every speaker considered himself the most important and spoke for too long. Princess Buthelezi was upset because she was told to cut her speech short while she was paying tribute to her late father because the President was up next.

Cyril spoke and typically tried to unite the Zulus with the rest of the country because they always consider themselves  different. What he was actually doing was being patronising to them while trying to unite the IFP, the political Party headed by Buthelezi, with the ANC before the election.

One of the big stories of the week is about the upcoming  medium-term budget (beginning November) and our country’s lack of funds. The main problem is the spiralling public debt and consequently the ballooning unaffordability of servicing that debt. Add to that, a relatively new problem which is causing the Finance Minister serious sleepless nights—our ever decreasing tax collections. Yesterday Business Day led on their front page a story asserting that the Rand was heading for a new low before the end of the year.

With Eskom, many municipalities, Transnet and most other SOEs all so indebted to the fiskus —and the power outages affecting so many businesses —are you surprised that we have finance problems?

The cabinet held a special meeting last week to debate the finance issue and apparently there is a lot of resistance from the top-shots to belt tightening. COSATU and other trade unions have also objected strongly to the Minister’s proposed budget cuts. According to the Mail & Guardian newspaper Ramaphosa sent the Treasury back to the drawing board. I don’t see an alternative to the cuts that Finance Minister Godongwana is proposing though; SA has run out of money. It is possible, I suppose that Russian money is coming in under the table which may, in fact, be what is keeping the ANC liquid. Could that be the reason why, not so long ago David Mabuza disappeared to Russia for a lengthy period when he was Deputy President? And is that why Jacob Zuma goes there so often for “medical treatment”.

Hey, our doctors here are pretty good.

As a result of fiscal pressure interest rates are expected to remain high until next year when the government will want to lower the rate to attract votes.  But it is almost certain that VAT will be hiked up by another 2% and possibly even next month.

With load-shedding, higher petrol prices and the unacceptable unemployment figures a reduction of our interest rates anytime soon is unlikely.

Will someone please tell Cyril to cut the cabinet in half? We don’t need 29 ministers. Their cost is exorbitant. Their security entourage alone costs R3.3 billion a year….. that could be saved and/or much better allocated. This was Brandan’s view–taken from Business Day–of the cabinet meeting last week:

Cyril doesn’t miss an opportunity to be in the company of the important people. This week he has been in New York at the United Nations where he made a speech asking for help with Africa and to get an extension of AGOA, the US  pact that gives us trading advantages.  Of course he could not miss a meeting and photo opportunity with Vladimir Zelensky.

The cadre connection knows no bounds in ANC culture. Our deputy President, Paul Mashatile, infamous for living in seriously luxury homes that don’t belong to him, has appointed a new advisor. That advisor is a trustee instructed to probe how his son-in-law came to all his millions (tenders to cadres? is he not a cadre?) —the house Masatile currently occupies is owned by his son-in-law.

Ek sê maar niks. 

The ANC runs the country dismally…..some would say criminally. For more than a decade the staff at two defunct power stations outside Tswane (Pretoria to you) have earned full salaries in spite of not working. The stations have been non-operational since 2012 and they have cost the government (us) R300 million a year in salaries and “maintenance”.

In spite of this and many other such stories the ANC have won two by-elections in the Eastern Cape this past week.

Don’t bank on the ruling Party not being re-elected next year.

We are in for yet another steep petrol price hike. It’s getting to be a monthly thing and is a result of a rising oil price and a falling Rand value. The food price inflation is double our overall inflation figures—which actually retreated somewhat—but the ordinary people are taking a battering. This Siwela cartoon from Tuesday’s Citizen hits the nail on the head, except that the trolley is full and very few can afford a full trolley:

Some good news is that Stellantis is investing heavily in a new plant to build a brand new Peugeot bakkie. And De Beers expects to do even better with their diamond exports as Russian diamond imports have been banned by the G7 countries.

My notable coffee catch-up of the week was with Paul. We go back a long way to our trading days and we haven’t seen each other in years. We arranged to meet in the famous downtown coffee shop that some years ago was voted the best coffee shop in the world, Truth. The place was packed but the service was poor. Cape Town city centre has become rundown and just down the road from the coffee shop, at the Castle the homeless are living in tiny homemade plastic tents on the side of the road. This time of the year they are really struggling with the cold, rainy weather.

As we sat down, looking around Paul commented that “inside this is New York, outside it is Lagos”. We spoke politics and the possibility of the ANC being replaced after the next election and we weren’t in any particular rush. It’s always good to catch up with old friends.

Then for more coffee I joined Dennis, that character of note before we went in to lunch at the CT Press Club. Dennis is off soon on a 28 day journey to China and other interesting places. 

We then met the other usual suspects at the CT Press Club to listen to Dr Max Price talking about his 10 years as vice-Chancellor of UCT over lunch. Well, of the Suspects, Paul was there and so was Henry and Brad is becoming a regular but we missed Robin & Kenny.

The weekend was special and not only because it was our New Year or because the incessant rains stopped briefly but because the sport was so good. First the Tottenham Hotspur game was different because of the extremely unusual 15 minutes of extra-time given after the final whistle was blown. I’ve never before seen a referee awarding that match extra time after a game. It was largely because the opposition goalie wasted so much time, irritating not only us fans but also the ref. 

Well at full time Spurs were 0-1 down and in extra-time our fellows scored twice—I bet the opposition fans don’t like the ref much—to keep their 2nd spot on the log. Spurs have never started a season so well before, so COYS.

Then, the cricket. We were 0-2 down to Australia in the ODI series of 5 games but the Proteas had levelled the series at 2-2 before Sunday’s game, a sold-out final at the Wanderers. And we nailed it!

Who would have thought?

Then our second game in the Rugby World Cup in France was against Romania and although the result was a foregone conclusion the couch was full. The coach was there, Corrie & Elize came, Hendrik (newly moved in) came and neighbour Oom Dawie and Ester were here. All the good seating was taken so the world champion and I sat just behind the couch! The Springboks won too easily to draw any serious conclusions but the spirits flowed and we all had a “JFT”, to quote that character of note, Dennis’s famous line.

For the uninitiated a JFT=a jolly fine time.

As always,


Email:     Phone: +27 82 557 5775
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