Daan Steenkamp's Snippets

Gentle Reader ,

So, the fruit of my loins (the borrowed from Trovato) and I go biking in Georgia (the country). The most used single word was Pa!, an expletive employed when the subject of their attention-

  • sat when he should stand;
  • employs colourful language; and
  • f@rts.

To explain:

  • Bikers, when in dire straits (in my case, most of the time), should stand, allegedly to improve  control of the bike, helpfully added to by son no 2 saying that if you do fall, at least you are not pinned under the bike!
  • Plat Afrikaans has a wonderful directness about it: take the polite English version for being in dire straits: oh my goodness simply does not cut expressing the prospect of imminent death – Afrikaans has a three letter word (think of Marelize riding that bicycle) which expresses a wonderful range of sentiment and gets down to the essence immediately – and Georgians don’t understand Afrikaans!
  • Go biking with a vegetarian and eat beans for 14 days, courtesy of said vegetarian son no 2. Consider, as background, permanent buttclench, induced by impending death (heck, by now I can pick up, gatpennie style, and fold a R5 coin – no hands!). The Georgians don’t mess around when you order beer or wine – it comes in a 2L bottle. The relaxation, induced by this, releases 8 hours of gas buildup…hardly my fault? 

On a more serious note, mother Russia casts a long and unpleasant shadow, as it does in the Baltic states. The latest example of Mr Putin throwing his weight around, is that Russia simply took 20% of the land area of Georgia for geopolitical ends. Going back into communist/Georgian history produces even more horrific examples (echoed in the history of other vassal states in the Baltic area). Anyone wanting to emulate such conduct is insane – perhaps Mr Mantache reads his history selectively? On the other hand, when it comes to governing for ever; Mr Mantache could well take lessons from this gentleman – what are the odds of Mr Putin losing the current elections?

Advice for South Africans visiting Georgia: local goods and services are extremely cheap (we once bought 2.5 L of beer for just over R10), and rent yourself a Japanese bike. Sophisticated KTMs, in a developing country (where you buy many things, including fuel, in a 2L coke bottle), are not the way to go.

Daan

Economy

Our economic news is mildly interesting:

  • our economy grew by 1.2% in the 2nd quarter;
  • Old Mutual forecasts a 5.5% economic growth for South Africa, next year;
  • our economy is some 11% bigger than we thought, shown up by the rebasement of our GDP; and
  • Zimbabwe’s economy is set to grow by 7.8% next year.

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Much more interesting is the BIG proposal and the proposal that a compulsory government-managed retirement fund be introduced. The former has been withdrawn by the Minister after generating a furore around the affordability thereof (interestingly our Minister of Finance was not consulted and had said that the proposal was unaffordable). The tail end of this debate resulted in comparisons and the like which are quite illuminating: consider the following –

  • the estimation was that the BIG grant would cost 5% of GDP and would require a 10% rise in personal income tax;
  • South Africans pay the highest personal and company taxes in Africa and, if secondary taxes on goods (think fuel, VAT and the like) are added, these rates are even higher. In fact it is said that if one looks at our total tax burden, South Africans are second only to Sweden, whose citizens pay the highest taxes in the world;
  • our Treasury estimated that government expenditure on itself could reach 41% of GDP.

The fact is that our jobs backlog is such that the majority of our young adults face a life-time of chronic poverty: the core problem is that those who benefited from apartheid and from BEE cannot generate enough income to employ the South African poor. By way of example: some 4.3m South Africans entered our job market last 12 months yet only 793K could find jobs.

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One result of endemic poverty is that the wealthy, faced with the possibility of insurrections,  protests, and higher taxes, have increasingly started to leave (the estimate is that some 9000 taxpayers in the R750K+ income bracket have left the country in the last two years). Such emigration not only deprives South Africa of tax and the poor  of employment, but impacts on FDI and probably, more importantly, gross fixed capital investment by the private sector, which is at its lowest level in 40 years.

Business

Shorts:

  • Chery is going to expand its dealer network in South Africa;
  • two years from now, 50pp diesel will be phased out in South Africa;
  • Shoprite has reported profit margins double that of Pick n Pay or Spar, outperforming even Walmart, AldiI and the like; 
  • we only recycle some 14% of our plastic waste yet, those who govern us, plan to import plastic waste in order to meet our plastic industry’s needs – go figure;
  • a map of dysfunctional municipalities may be found at: https://businesstech.co.za/news/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Municipalities-2.png
  • the national food poverty line has been drawn at R624 per month, whilst the lower and upper-bound poverty lines areR890 and R1335 per month;
  • the Pietermaritzburg municipality has, for many years, ignored those who steal water and electricity through illegal connections. For the first time, it now considers charging those involved – at the point where our municipality is so bankrupt that it pleads poverty in court cases where it is called upon to provide services. In eThekwini, lack of maintenance of infrastructure has resulted in a situation where it will take R8bn to remedy this: a legacy of nouveau appointees embarking on feel-good projects

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Legal stuff:

  • the North West court decision, which handed the control of the local authority’s water and sewerage works to residents, had been reversed, and the stage is now set for appeal against that reversal;
  • may you offer a voluntary severance package in lieu of retrenchment? https://www.golegal.co.za/financial-incentive-resignation/
  • the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates the cost of regulatory compliance for US listed companies to be 4.1% of capitalisation. Such a study is coming showing the cost to South African banks of regulatory compliance – wait for it;
  • desperation: our government wants to launch a new investment company to manage Eskom, Transnet and other SOEs; a clear indication that neither our Minister nor their boards are able to this?

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Building a great team? What do such teams have in common? Take a look: https://ideas.ted.com/the-3-things-that-great-teams-have-in-common/

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Broke? Our Public Enterprises Minister needs R100bn to expand the Durban port so that it might, in ten years time time, handle 60% of all the container traffic in and out of South Africa. This sounds like the SAA debacle: who would invest into an entity, which, despite having virtually no competition, has had a straight loss-making record?

Speaking of which, the Black Business Chamber wants to take South African banks to the Equality Court and the Competition Commission, alleging discrimination in that only R30bn of the available R200bn, made available by the government in its Covid19 support programme, was dispensed and, to make matters worse, not primarily to black-owned businesses. I have doubt that Mr Zuma’s legal team will be available, as they clearly specialise in wishful suites.

Practice

News:

  • On 15 October the Gauteng High Court will hear an application challenging the appointment of the RAF CE by the Minister of Transport. The basis of the application is that Letsoalo is seen to be a threat to the proper functioning of the RAF (he is accused of victimising certain firms).
  • The 30-year Hlope J saga is not yet over. Justice Hlope has reportedly appealed to the Prez as well as filing a (569p) court application against the JSC and others. The question is whether consideration of the issue by Parliament, can be prevented by a court.
  • The US is reportedly dismayed by South Africa’s decision to extradite Mozambique’s former minister of finance to face the largest corruption trial in Mozambican history in that country. The US wants him to face the music in America.
  • The conduct of South African practitioners, acting for politicians and their ilk, have caused me much misgivings of late. A De Rebus article on the presentation of misleading evidence by a practitioner may be of interest (although not on all fours with the issue raised): https://www.derebus.org.za/is-a-legal-practitioners-involvement-in-presenting-misleading-evidence-a-breakdown-in-the-justice-system/ . See also https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-09-15-judge-lambasts-blatantly-dishonest-cape-town-advocate-over-trial-delays-refers-to-legal-practice-council/
  • If the EE Bill is of interest to you: https://www.golegal.co.za/employment-equity-act/
  • On 9 September the Department of Justice and Constitutional development issued a statement to the effect that it’s IT system had been breached by a ransom ware attack. This caused chaos. If the Pentagon can be hacked, presumably state software anywhere can be hacked. The incident does, however, leave a lot of questions unanswered – primarily about a backup system that was all was not held.
  • The ongoing dispute over the filling of vacancies at the Constitutional Court by the JSC, does that organisation’s already tarnished reputation, little good.

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Hard news:

Property

Rode reports that the property market, in general, is continuing to recover. The industrial property market is still in the best position compared to the other non-residential property types, the latter which suffer from a large supply overhang. 

The office market is still plagued by CV19 issues and rentals are down; he predicts, in this respect, that old office spaces will be converted rather than new ones built. 

Residential properties are buoyant with a nominal price growth of about 4% in February this year and 3.4% in July. Regrettably, this market is starting to cool (the FNB assessment is a deceleration of growth to 2.6% for August with the burning question being what interest rates will do. Flat vacancy rates are standing at about 12%.

Retail spending at malls is recovering slowly.

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Property practitioners should take a look at the following link: https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/companies/slew-of-new-property-laws-will-have-most-dramatic-effect-on-agencies-and-agents-experts-ef24f82a-3d99-4969-b106-84fb72dd33ce

Notable is that the Estate Agency Affairs Board will be replaced by a statutory board of authority which is destined to govern all property practitioners: in our profession we had a similar development, we were governed by practitioners acting in our interest – this was replaced by a somnambulent statutory governing authority, which is more concerned with regulation than representation.

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Asides:

(note that I certainly no not recommend the use of either of these websites – for interest only)

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The only write-up on property, which I found remotely interesting, is a discussion on whether one should buy a home for cash? I grew up with the sure knowledge that owing anyone anything is a bad thing and paying cash for anything is a good thing. But, this might be too one-dimensional: https://propertyprofessional.co.za/2021/09/17/should-you-really-buy-a-home-for-cash/

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The eThekwini municipality has passed a bylaw which places additional duties and responsibilities on a conveyancer including the lodging agent. Some of these are:

  • checking the quote provided against the Seller’s current billing statement;
  • checking the quote against the municipal valuation roll;
  • checking the clearance certificate against the municipal records;
  • validating independently the information provided by the municipality in its clearance certificate; and
  • checking whether the municipal quote is correct in terms of the paid-up status of the’s municipal account.

This bylaw intends making a conveyancer liable for information that is presented to him – if this offends you, do drop me a note and I will send you the text of the bylaw concerned. I believe that, as a profession, conveyancers should not stand for a municipality passing its obligations on to others.

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The Pietermaritzburg deeds Registry had been behind for months: no longer – in fact the contrary is true and some deeds lodged came up for fees/prep two days after lodgement: a feat I have not seen before in 40 years of practice!

Quotables

If it is true that the former president is terminally ill or in any other way, is with the provisions of the law, then there’s no problem with his medical parole. However, everything the Department of Correctional Services has done and said in the past week indicates that there was political interference here that did not comply with the provisions of the law.

Roets the Ethekwini municipality in section 34 C

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“Mr Zuma had multiple opportunities to bring these arguments to the court. That he opted not [to] cannot mean that the court committed an error in granting the order. To his peril, Mr Zuma declined to participate in the contempt proceedings and disdainfully dismissed a further opportunity when invited to so. He only attempts to justify his absence now that the shoe pinches,”

Khampepe J

Comment

From Russia with love: I had started off with a sideways comment about Russia simply taking a part of Georgia for geo-political ends. I embarked upon a reading of the history of the Baltic states and both Russia and Germany are uncomfortable neighbours. An example of the latest conduct by Russia; it has declared that champagne producers must now include the designation sparkling wine on the product imported into Russia whilst only Russian-produced sparkling wine, manufactured according to the traditional champagne method, may feature the designation “Shampanskoye”, a clear contravention of the TRIPPS agreement, of which it is a signatory.

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There seems to be a groundswell of resistance against those who will not vaccinate themselves against Covid19, citing personal freedom, choice and the like. Those who resist, seem to forget that much of our freedoms are curtailed on the altar of the public good – I was shown a text listing these (and which I cannot now lay my hands on), but these included examples such as a prohibition on driving without a licence, owning unlicensed firearms, jaywalking, crossing national boundaries and the like. There is no reason why the conduct of a person, who exercises his right not vaccinate, should endanger others and I have little sympathy with those who will not.

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Mr Zuma’s release on medical parole calls for an explanation, primarily because of the survival of his friend, Shabir Shaik, whose release on medical parole, is widely believed to have been engineered by Mr Zuma in one way or another. I would be surprised if this is resolved amicably.

Lighten up

An attorney was working late one night in his office when, suddenly, Satan appeared before him. The Devil made him an offer: “I will make it so you win every case you try for the rest of your life. Your clients will worship you, your colleagues will be in awe and you will make enormous amounts of money. But, in return, you must give me your soul, your wife’s soul, the souls of your children, your parents, grandparents, and those of all your friends.” The lawyer thought about it for a moment, then asked, “But what’s the catch?”

Contributed by:
Daan Steenkamp Attorneys
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