Daan Steenkamp's Snippets

News:

  • Judge Davis, quite startlingly, has ordered SARS to hand over the Nummawan tax returns, based on the argument that a blanket security provision of tax information is not justified. I would be surprised if either SARS or Nummawan does not appeal (would such an appeal be tax-deductible?).
  • Four potential chief justices have been recommended to the Prez; one of them a woman. Calls are being made for an anti-patriarchal appointment…wait for it.
  • If you are not doing your work – make a law! The tender blacklist is bare – the answer is that a new bill will make it obligatory to name and shame! Problem solved.
  • The new High Court terms for 2022 is out – ask me for a copy.
  • Wonderfully, the CCMA faces a strike threat by its staff on the issue of salary increments (do read above – they wanted 10%). One wonders to whom the dispute will be referred? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

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Hard news:

  • The ink had hardly dried on the ANC repercussions of a customary marriage when another dispute on the validity of customary marriages is reported on (we wit ouks don’t really read this sort of thing as the clients involved would never bother approaching us): http://www.saflii.org.za/za/cases/ZAWCHC/2021/234.html
  • The NPA/PSA took on the Minister of Justice, attempting to force him to implement collective agreements relating to remuneration (do read above) entered into in 2010. The problem was that the wrong forum was picked as an unfair labour practice should be dealt with in terms of the LRA: http://www.saflii.org.za/za/cases/ZASCA/2021/160.html
  • The latest RCRs have been made available by the Chief Registrar of Deeds. Having looked at the resolutions, very little is news save the requirement that a TDR should be lodged with the cancellation of a section 20 contract. Ask me for a copy.
  • Fundamina has published a series on the history of judicial review in South Africa – ask me for a copy.

Economy

Some salient economic issues are:

  • Old hat, but still –
    • Our Post Office is in financial trouble; unsurprisingly, when last did you post a letter? What is not nice is that the Post Office has not paid  over taxes on salaries, despite having deducted this. You try this and see what SARS does to you.
    • Denel has been ordered by a court to pay the outstanding salaries to staff, which it probably can’t.
    • Telkom is short.
    • Half of our 26 SOEs suffered losses last year.
  • The World Trade Organisation, in its Goods Barometer, reports that world trade growth is slowing, owing to production disruptions and cooling import demand.
  • The question is being asked whether our State of Disaster should still be enforced?

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Much more interesting are –

  • Localisation (think cement), was introduced because supporting domestic products would increase our GDP, expand employment and help new businesses develop? The difficulty with the rosy side of this suggestion, is that those who will be supported by this drive, are intrinsically not competitive, yet will be benefited at the cost of the public at large. In fact, protectionism will reduce competition and the incentive to become more efficient. At best Mr Patel is gambling. The idea sounds great, but probably isn’t.
  • So, why would our businesses need protection against overseas competitors, who have much higher delivery costs than ours? We seem to have an abundance of raw materials and labour and should, on the face of it, be capable of producing the same quality goods at a lower price than can be imported? This is a complex question, well beyond my pay grade but (what the hell), drawn from Reserve Bank publications, are the following two graphs: the first shows our productivity, compared to that of our international competitors. South Africa reflects in negative territory whilst, by way of example, China is way ahead of the rest. This brings one to the cost of labour which is in the news daily, in terms of increased wage demands and the like. In principle (and a assuming a fair starting wage) one should only pay an employee more, when he produces more. The second graph illustrates just this: wage growth in South Africa – keep in mind that we have a civil service that is, by international standards, bloated, yet it keeps demanding above-inflation pay increases. The result of continued labour cost rises, for what is produced, will be being out-priced by others. Depressingly, unless one cuts employment, by especially the state, and pushes up production, our nation will become poorer year by year (which is now the case, as has been confirmed by a Bloomberg publication, showing that our political and economic decline is accelerating to the point where, in some six years, we risk becoming a lower-middle-income nation).

And, you have to love this, the GEPF insists that it is doing its bit for South Africa by investing government employees’ pension funds only in South Africa. Good, our civil servants deserve only the best…

And, the best, for last – did you know that we have a state-created (in 2014) bunch called productivitysa? Jip, take a look: https://productivitysa.co.za/index.php … Unfortunately, that named-in-hope institution does not live up to its name: take a look at the publications list on its website: nada!

Business

Interesting new business news is:

  • A note by the World Bank, that manufacturing-led development (which includes agriculture), which has been the traditional model for development for the past three decades, is set to be overtaken by services industries (such as hospitality, tourism, banking, transport and the like) which currently accounts for 45% of GDP in developing economies.
  • ShopRite has launched a basic transactional bank account which can be linked to its savings rewards cards.
  • A glass-bottle shortage has been caused by a shift in consumer behaviour. Premium products are bottled and glass has become preferable to, for instance, plastic and, furthermore, many now drink at home rather than in the pub (from a pub bottles are easily recyclable).
  • Money talks: Shell has divorced itself from Amsterdam and will be moving to interestingly London; one would expect a transition to, for instance, Frankfurt? Part of the problem is a 15% withholding tax that the Netherlands imposes. So much for Royal Dutch!
  • CDH has published an interesting note on secondary strikes: https://www.cliffedekkerhofmeyr.com/export/sites/cdh/en/news/publications/2021/Employment/Downloads/Employment-Law-Alert-12-November-2021.pdf

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New but more depressing news is:

  • Nova, the Sharemax rescue vehicle, is in a precarious financial position and may even be put into business rescue. Off the shoulder calculations show that it had earned around R576m selling Sharemax properties, but had paid out only R176m.
  • The SATV is broke – 82% of TV licence holders do not pay their licence fees. Guess what: it wants to introduce a licence-fee amnesty so that it does not have to worry about back payments! (Makes eminent sense doesn’t it?) Of course, the current system is set to be replaced by a wonderfully termed device-independent tech-neutral public media levy for public broadcasting, to be paid by all (read taxpayers – after all how do you collect from those of whom you have no record).
  • New sector-specific BEE equity rules is to be introduced next year – all current employment equity plans will fall away and new plans will have to be aligned with five-year targets. Self-regulation will become big-daddy-regulation.
  • All must by now be aware that many state services/responsibilities have been “privatised”. Security stats show that, in 1994, there was an equal ratio of police to private security persons (I am so PC!). That has morphed into a 1:5 person ratio in favour of private security persons. Of course, now it must be regulated and in tandem with this, our Transport Minister has announced a plan to deal with the vandalisation of rail infrastructure – dada!: build a concrete wall around rail corridors and around substations – presumably using local cement! 

Property

There has been little property news in the past week. As expected, the rental property market is stabilising. The only interesting snippet I could find, was a write-up on cybercrime, entitled Cybercrime – the biggest threat to real estate transactions (really?).I expected to find more than the usual tramelling of Internet fraud, as the heading would suggest. The fact is that if you take payment details manually, as conveyancers and estate agents should, there is very little risk.

Quotables

Pass fewer learners/students, and make subjects more relevant to the world of work or expect more hunger and poverty and far higher inequality. Teach the ability to work for yourself and to see gaps. Teach thinking and doing.

Steinberg

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The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. 

Aristotle

Comment

In my day (said with a quaver)…if you got 70% for a subject, at varsity then you were doing very well academically. A mark above 80%, in the humanities, was virtually unattainable. Yet the NSFAS requirement for a student, to be funded for the following year, is a 70% pass mark in all subjects. Heck, that’s not much, I know people whose child has an average of 98% pass mark. This upward slide of university pass marks, is described by Steinberg as follows: Few would want this repeated in public, but a dozen or so lecturers have told me that a 60% mark today is not worth a 40% mark of about 15 to 20 years ago.

Education, in the broadest sense, is necessary for the transition of a nation into maturity. In our efforts to broaden education, we have cheapened it. We should focus, to quote Steinberg, on stopping funding for all and focus on funding only the good and the great at university level. 

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Political intransigence – or being practical? The non-cooperation promises of political parties and non-fielding of unsuitable mayoral candidates, is hardly two weeks old. Enemies are getting into bed, saying, “we did it for you”. The Kannaland top two are a child rapist and fraudster respectively – so much for promises. But wait, there’s a solution: as was noted above, if you lack the self-discipline to enforce your promise, pass a bill – in this case, a prohibition on the re-employment, in governance, of municipal officials, involved in corruption. 

Lighten up

Teacher: I want you to tell me the longest sentence you can think of.

Pupil: Life imprisonment!

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A linguistics professor says during a lecture that, “In English, a double negative forms a positive. But in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, in no language in the world can a double positive form a negative.” A voice from the back of the room pipes up, “Yeah, right.”

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A teacher asked her first grade class what their favorite animal was. One little boy says, “Fried chicken.”

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Contributed by:
Daan Steenkamp Attorneys
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