Daan Steenkamp's Snippets

Untouchable; is what the newspapers is calling JP Hlope. His decision in the Bongo prosecution was publicly dissed by a previous Concort judge. One wonders how our Chief Justice can be sanctioned almost immediately by the JSC, for publicly taking a religious stance, but Judge Hlope’s aberrations have not been seriously addressed in many years.

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An interesting twist in the Public Protector saga is the SCA order, that her application as an alleged spook with the SSA, should be made available to the DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach. Objectively a post as immigration official in China, does not necessarily make one unsuitable for the post as PP: it does make one wonder about her legal training – which, given the headwinds encountered by her, seems justified?

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The above is probably symptomatic of what is happening throughout our judicial system. Increasingly, of late, voices have gone up saying the whole justice system is broken (which is probably an exaggeration) but there are delays in deeds registration, much worse delays in Master’s offices (I am told that files are expedited for the price of a lunch), the SAPS and so on. But, you know all this…

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Last week I commented upon the impracticality of forcing BEE on all practitioners but those at the bottom end of the financial ladder. Refer to the EAAB issues above: the reason why the LPC is able to introduce legislation like that under consideration, is that it has become a controlling body rather than a representative body. The LPC may, at best indirectly, have your interests at heart, but I have little doubt that it has become a implementor of government policy and that the independence of the profession is lost for ever. 

Economy

Our economy shrank by 7% during 2020 – no longer news but, you might recall that, a year ago, a GDP shrinkage of 7% was the minimum projected loss when lockdown was introduced. Upper GDP loss limits were estimated at some 15%. Even our projected maximum state debt is down at some 89% of GDP, rather than the 95% that was predicted by some. Standard & Poor has, nevertheless, been talking about another downgrade; piffle, the previous downgrade seemed to have little impact on how we do business…

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Bloomberg sees the Rand averaging at R15 per US/$ in the second quarter of this year. Predictions are that, as the commodity price boost to our economy tapers off, the underlying risk may well weaken the Rand against the US/$. Heck, no one really knows.

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The Reserve Bank has issued a consultation paper on the feasibility of issuing a domestic credit/debit card, in order to benefit underserved communities by giving access to cheaper and safer payment methods. Eish – imagine what the banks must be thinking of this!

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Electricity delivery is but one state-led sector in trouble. The Prez had, in 2018, mentioned a Masterplan in terms of which a Water Resource Infrastructure Agency would have been introduced, but little has happened since. The fact is that, this country will, over the next 10 years or so, increasingly have water delivery issues and, if one looks at the losses reported (page 3 on this link: https://www.intellidex.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Policy-Brief-Water-policy.pdf) then attacking this issue cannot wait but, of course, funding will be a problem…

Speaking of funding, reports hold that between 147 and the 167 schools in the Eastern Cape are without water owing to the state not having paid the supplier; of course, once new infrastructure is in place the state might just pay?

Business

Sin? Tobacco is but another agricultural product, as is sugar, wine and weed. I understand that a packet of cigarettes costs some R6 but that the tax thereon is R20. This has led to approximately half of all cigarettes sold nationally, being off the black market. Legitimate producers and sellers complain, and rightly so: the problem is regulation run amok; which simply invites avoidance. Imagine being taxed at thrice the cost of the original product. PS, you might consider ordering a still from me.

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How much does it cost to charge an electrical car: not that much as may be seen from the following –

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The latest storm in a teacup is a proposed levy on all households to pay a broadcasting licence. The obvious advantage is that it casts the net wider than does a mere addition to tax (unless you go for VAT) but, pragmatically speaking, the poor are by far the majority in South Africa. How do you collect such a small tax from each household? The sum involved does not make prosecution worthwhile and, if one looks at the old TTLs, such as the major part of the Eastern Cape, I would be surprised if any monies would be collected there.

Property

The EAAB will now be audited on the say-so of Ms Sizulu – the intent being to get to the root of the issues affecting that governing body: so what? Any estate agent can tell you what most of these issues are out of hand. The problem is mainly that it, like the attorneys’ LPC, the EAAB is a regulatory rather than a representative body, and the only incentive for support/compliance is a penalty. The incumbents in charge complain about an outdated IT system, but how difficult can this be to fix? That, after all, is their job.

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Good news for some:

  • Standard Bank reports granting a record number of new home loans applications in 2020, up 13% on the previous year. More interesting is the statement that the loan to value of these loans has exceeded the 90% mark for the first time in five years (i.e this bank is lending more with less deposit). FNB says that its affordable/first-time homeowners housing lending book grew by 24% year-on-year. Interestingly very few of these customers actually took up theFLISP offering from the state: why? Because of the challenging process – and then we say we will reduce red tape?
  • The optimistic point out that it is now a home renters’ market in that residential rental growth was down to -0.3% in November.

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This has not been announced formally yet, but I gather that Deeds Offices will again go into slow mode on instruction from HQ: this means that staff work in rotation with only 50% of staff on duty per week. The irrationality of this is that those on duty have to be paid overtime, to make up for those not on duty. Those on duty may take work home, but those off duty may not fetch work to do from home. On my questioning this, the reason given is that some labour issue prevents those from not being at work, being given work… The irrationality of this is manifest: what is apparent is that this reasoning/fearfulness has and will cost all those engaged in the property sector, a great deal of money.

Quotables

All of this highlights the state’s disregard for South Africa’s people, even as they fund the state institutions that abuse them. 

The state has broken its contract with its citizens by policy regimes that have undermined the prospects of achieving this sort of growth and the opportunities that would come with it.

Corrigan, 

Comment

Hard news is interesting only up to point. Much more interesting is knowledge that carries one into the future. An interesting comment on this is a note written by Sanei on motivation and discipline, on the face of it, two ends of the spectrum when it comes to getting things done. Does one wait to become motivated or does one simply dig in and commit?  https://www.news24.com/news24/columnists/guestcolumn/opinion-how-to-commit-to-life-in-an-uncertain-world-20210311

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The so-called fertile crescent, a.k.a. Mesopotamia, was identified as an area within which our civilisation germinated, owing to the presence of domesticable animals, potential grain crops and so on. A very interesting, if long, history of this area may be found in a YouTube presentation on the history of the Sumerians; do take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2lJUOv0hLA

Amongst other things the presentation explains where sixty seconds/minutes come from.

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Of late there has been much talk of renewing our social contract in South Africa: the idea being that we should set our eyes on a future goal, hunker down and apply. Sure; And the the rainbow blanket cast by Madiba, this was possible. How does one do this when one’s leaders are underwhelming, are divided amongst each other (witness ACE doing the do-it-alone Zuma thing and telling students to stand up for their rights whilst we all know that the government, which he represents, is bankrupt, his party is corrupt, and his motivation for that speech probably more of a platform for election then any real intent to implement) and talk of impending collapse is everywhere.

The above leads me to speculate why people emigrate? BusinessTech ran an article on PwC statistics in which 37% of those under 30, said that they would leave South Africa in the long-term. The article did not go into the reasons for this but I suspect that, a few years ago, the top answesr would have centred around personal security; I suspect that financial security is becoming much more of an issue with a Zim scenario on everyone’s mind.

Lighten up

On personal social contracts:

Contributed by:
Daan Steenkamp Attorneys
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