Category Archives: Current events

  • 0

Let’s hope Trump is a con

Today was a huge day for the USA and the world. Donald Trump was elected president, against expectations and what polls told us. We were entertained, we were glued to our screens and our social media, we were amused at the absurdity of the whole situation, but we did not expect this to become real. But it did. We had our 9/11. Now the millenneals have their 11/9. All we can hope for is that Donald Trump is a con. That he galvanised feelings of bigotry and racism (in addition to feelings of disenchantment with Washington and the economic direction of the US) and said many horrible things, simply to get elected. Let us hope that now he will follow sensible policies and that his reign will not result in global uncertainty and a reversal of hard-won freedoms for those most vulnerable.

Trump’s acceptance speech was nothing like his utterances during the hard-fought election process. There was no talk of a wall between Mexico and the US; he said nothing about a ban on Muslims; he did not talk about defunding NATO, allowing more countries to get nuclear weapons, bombing ISIS families or starting a trade war with China; and he did not hint at prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Instead, he praised her for her efforts in the campaign and her meaningful contribution to US politics. This was a different Trump, a Trump that had achieved his goal (no matter the cost), a Trump looking for reconciliation, a magnanimous Trump even.

So maybe we will be lucky. Maybe most of the extreme things he said during his campaign were simply uttered so that he could ignite the heartland of America, the rustbelt, the South, the social conservatives, the evangelicals to support him. Maybe he did not really mean these things. Maybe it was all a con to achieve his ends, which was to occupy the White House. Not everything he said was predicated on hate of the foreign, distrust of the unknown and a yearning for a return to simpler times (at least for white people). Much of what he said was aimed at those middle class and working families that have seen their economic exclusion grow over the past 30 years. A grouping that have become exasperated and tired with the way that Washington operates. This is the same group of people that Bernie Sanders was targeting.

So if Donald Trump has just pulled off the greatest con in US political history, what are we to expect? Walls, bans, hate, trade wars, buffoonery and groping? I don’t think so. I see no wall being built and I see no ban on Muslims. Current immigration vetting is already very strong and I would not rule out an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

I would think that his presidency would have an internal focus with much less attention given to global diplomacy. He is unlikely to deviate from current US involvement in conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria, but would likely be pro reducing involvement over time. New hotspots will likely be left to sort themselves out – a new period of US isolationism.

A quick win in the US would be to commence a large (and much overdue) infrastructural spending programme, creating jobs and rewarding his base for their votes. This will likely lead to ballooning debt, but is a price that he may be willing to pay. Tax cuts will likely also be on the cards, but may be phased in over time, especially in the light of large infrastructural spend.

On the trade front, we may see a more protectionist attitude with the Trans-Pacific Partnership being the first victim. The biggest downside of such an approach would be rising inflation in the US, which could also usher in the end of quantitative easing and finally lead to a rise in US interest rates.

Interestingly, even though (Republican) Trump will have a Republican Senate and House to theoretically support his policies, it may not be that easy with many representatives not agreeing with his approach. We may find him having to build coalitions across the aisle to enact some of his plans.

On the positive side (for Republicans), the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is likely to commence shortly after his inauguration. However, it is not clear whether it will simply be rolled back or whether something else will be put in its place. Ironically, many of his (non-traditional Republican and even traditional Republican) supporters will probably favour some alternative rather than nothing at all.

On the negative side (for Republicans), Donald Trump may not be as conservative as Republicans would like in appointing Supreme Court judges. His progressive New York values (as Ted Cruz referred to) probably puts him on the side of at least maintaining the recently won (marriage equality) and entrenched (woman’s right to choose) freedoms. If I am correct (and he was conning his base), he may once again have to build a cross-aisle coalition to affirm his nominees.

If we are very lucky, he may even address inner city decay (as promised) and support reasonable gun laws. This may be overly ambitious, even if he conned the base, but we can hope. Global warming may be the biggest (and most serious) issue that is left unaddressed, regardless. On this topic, all we can do is to continue agitating.

If, however Donald Trump is not a con. If he meant what he said during his election campaign, the US and the world is in for a rough ride and the most vulnerable in the US and the world will suffer most. So, let’s hope that Trump is a con. Let’s hope that now that he has the position he sought, that sanity will prevail. Let’s hope that he does not do too much damage. And maybe, just maybe, he could do something good.

 

Are you exasperated after the US election? Are you scared of what a Trump presidency may mean? Do you think that maybe he was just conning (at least some of) his supporters to get the position and that his policies will be more reasonable than we expect? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

@realDonaldTrump #USElection #119 #NotMyPresident

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man

Photo by DonkeyHotey


  • 0

Manyi and Gasa almost made history

I got really excited yesterday. I was taking my tea break in the morning and decided to have a look at Twitter. Two of the people that I follow were at loggerheads. The one is Nomboniso Gasa, a researcher, writer and political analyst and the other is ex-Cabinet spokesman, Mzwanele (previously known as Jimmy) Manyi who also recently launched the Decolonization Foundation. These two, who are clearly not very happy with each other, were discussing a lifestyle audit. I immediately took a keen interest.

The previous day they had a heated discussion that involved many issues and accusations. Ms Gasa floated the idea of a lifestyle audit and Mr. Manyi accepted, albeit tacitly.

cvrxefjwgaajp141

Of course, a one-sided audit was never going to fly and Ms. Gasa posted the following Twitter chain, trying to thrash out the terms of a parallel audit.

gasacomment1_v4gasacomment2

Initially, Mr. Manyi took the bait, but with the proviso that other parties, less favourable (in his opinion) to Ms. Gasa be involved. He specifically mentioned Mr. Piet Rampedi.

At this point, I was jumping up and down in my seat. Imagine this, South Africans with differing viewpoints agreeing on the need for transparency and openness and offering themselves as sacrificial lambs to lead the way. Wow, I was envisioning this as the start of improving political discourse in SA, the start of talking to each other and not at each other, the placing of openness and honesty ahead of political difference.

I proceeded to fan the flames by posting the picture below, taking the by-line “Let the #GasaManyAudit begin!” from one of Ms. Gasa’s tweets.strydomcomment

Many people liked this idea (well 61 by today) and some people started tweeting under the #GasaManyiAudit hashtag. My excitement was growing.

Unfortunately, by yesterday afternoon, the audit was off. Mr. Manyi seems to have folded after calling Ms. Gasa’s bluff. The disappointment! These two people for whom I have much respect were about to create history and then … it was to be no more.

However, I retain hope and hence this blog. Maybe with enough pressure from social media, commentators and colleagues, this process can be resurrected. What is key though is that the right parties are found to produce this audit, parties that are seen as independent and are acceptable to both candidates. The parties should also really be willing to do this pro-bono. This lifestyle audit should be seen as more that settling a personal score between two people, but rather as a public service, moving our political discourse in a positive direction.

I therefore request the following, if you are interested in a parallel lifestyle audit between Mr. Manyi and Ms. Gasa:

  1. Tweet under the #GasaManyiAudit hastag to build awareness and pressure;
  2. Contact Mr. Manyi (@KrilaGP) and Ms. Gasa (@nombonisogasa) on Twitter or directly and ask them to proceed; and
  3. If you are a reputable and independent auditing firm, please offer your services on a pro bono basis to Mr. Manyi and Ms. Gasa directly.

Do you think that lifestyle audits of politicians, political commentators, business people and others would improve our political discourse and reduce the risk of corruption? If so, please throw your voices behind #GasaManyiAudit and let’s make history.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

#GasaManyiAudit #LifestyleAudit @KrilaGP @nombonisogasa

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 1

Investment boycott is perverse

Following the halting of lending to six state-owned enterprises (SOEs) by Futuregrowth, there has been increasing calls for an investment boycott or even a tax strike in SA. I believe such steps would be perverse, considering the fact that even during the worst days of Apartheid, no such steps were implemented by SA firms or taxpayers. An investment boycott or tax strike would be very damaging to the SA economy and risks fuelling the flames of division within our country even further.

The aim of an investment boycott or tax strike would be to force the government to take a number of steps supported by some opposition parties and some sections within big business. These steps would likely include the cessation of the actions against Pravin Gordhan, the halt of the nuclear project, increased oversight of SOEs, seriously addressing corruption and probably the resignation of President Jacob Zuma.

In my opinion, an investment boycott or tax strike would represent the nuclear option for SA, which would be very damaging to our economy and to our most vulnerable citizens. It could limit the government’s ability to deliver on its promises: including the National Development Plan; it could put pressure on infrastructural spend; and could even limit its ability to fund budget increases, which could put pressure on areas such as education, health, etc. In addition, it could damage the country’s reputation if it were to lead to a reduced ability by the country to finance its debt. If we are looking for a credit rating downgrade, an investment boycott or tax strike would go a long way to achieving it.

In addition to the damage that such actions could cause to our economy and reputation, it also is not guaranteed to succeed. Even overwhelming participation in such actions (which would be needed, but is unlikely, in my opinion), may lead to the opposite reaction from the ruling party than is desired. It is much more likely to unify the ANC and cause it to close ranks. If this were to occur, the pain experienced by our country would be extensive and long-term.

In addition to the economic and reputational damage that an investment boycott or tax strike could cause, it could also be very harmful to the social fabric and our desire for unity and equity. It would serve to flame the fires of the “white capital” narrative that is increasingly being bandied around in our country and is creating increasing divisiveness. And it would be correct to do so. The plain truth is that the same people and institutions who are calling for an investment boycott or a tax strike, were silent on these topics during Apartheid.

There is no doubt that international sanctions against the National Party played a meaningful role in leading to the demise of Apartheid. However, it was never supported by SA business or by SA opposition parties. Not even the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) who was the precursor to the DA supported these actions. No large SA corporates became involved in sanctions and none of them came even close to an investment boycott. This was despite significant human rights abuses and disenfranchisement perpetrated by the Nationalist government. There was also no real talk of a tax strike by South Africans.

We can see the lack of action by SA big business, opposition parties and white citizens in the 1980s and before as complicity. We can choose to believe that they were happy to live under Apartheid and for many, I am sure this is true. However, we must not under-estimate the impact that fear could have had on inaction. An investment boycott or tax strike by SA big business and white citizens would likely have led to a substantial crackdown by the NP government, which was too ghastly to contemplate by many. And here is the rub. We lived in a police state during the 1980s, under an almost constant state of emergency. We lived in a country that was not free, even for the beneficiaries of the system. That has changed.

Say what you will about recent actions by the ruling party, about corruption, about lack of accountability, about our President being seemingly untouchable, we still live in a free and democratic country. If you have any doubts about this, go and have a look at what newspapers write every single day about the government and the ANC, without fear or serious reprisal. Go and have a look at what people have to say on social media and how many of them are arrested for it. Gone are the days when you had to watch what you say, who you interact with, who you gather with, who you protest against. Gone are the late night knocks on your front door, the arrests, the detention without trial, the “suicides” of those in custody. If you are still not convinced, go and have a look at who governs Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay metros. If we were not substantially free in this country, if we did not have a vibrant democracy, this would never ever have happened.

In addition, go and have a look at what ANC loyalists and previous leaders have to say about the SARS wars, about Nkandla, about the constitutional court ruling and about electoral losses. The vast majority of South Africans and leaders on both sides of the aisle can see what is going wrong with our country and are adamant to make it better. The majority of people are on the right side of history and we will see positive changes in the near term. I am confident and optimistic.

However, if you want to divide people, if you want the racism card to be played more often, if you want the “white capital” narrative to grow, if you want to devastate the economy, if you want to hurt the most vulnerable and if you want to damage the country’s reputation, then you must support an investment boycott or a tax strike. I seriously hope that this is not what you want.

I therefore call on opposition parties to speak out against these voices looking to damage our country. Refer back to your and your predecessors’ arguments against sanctions in the 1980s. I call on big business to distance themselves from these moves. Remember what side of the argument you were on during Apartheid and consider what this could do to the economy. I call on ordinary South Africans to be patient. We are moving in the right direction and forces for change are gathering momentum. Trust that the hard-won democratic process allows for your voice to be heard.

Are you a supporter of an investment boycott or tax strike and why? Are you not concerned about the negative impact this could have on the economy and ordinary South Africans? Would this risk the hard-won unity that is developing in SA? Would it not add fuel to the “white capital” narrative and racism allegations? Should you not have the same approach as when you were against sanctions in the 1980s? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

#InvestmentBoycott #TaxStrike #Futuregrowth #SARSWars #Sanctions

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man

Photo by twicepix


  • 2

Brexit could be reversed

On 23 June, UK voters decided to leave the European Union (EU) in the much touted Brexit referendum. The fall-out was immediate and severe, both politically and economically. Buyers’ remorse prevails with UK voters having the worst electoral hangover in recent history. Unlike most elections, there are very few people who are celebrating and an increasing number who are ruing their decision. The question now is, whether there is any way to reverse this increasingly unpopular decision? I believe so. The actual exit from the EU will only commence once the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. If there is sufficient public pressure, enough political will and a clear mandate for the UK to stay in the EU, this may never happen. It may be embarrassing for the UK and its leaders, but it may well be the best thing for its citizens (especially the young), the EU and the wider World.

Following the Brexit vote, the British Pound declined by over 10% to the dollar and hit a 30-year low over the past week. By last Tuesday, global equity markets had lost more than $3 trillion following the vote (although there has been some recovery since). On the morning of the vote result, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced his resignation and the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has been under immense pressure from within his own ranks. He will likely not survive.

It is no wonder that the fall-out was so extreme. Britain’s proposed departure from the EU has created huge uncertainty and is expected to be very negative for the economy. In addition, there are concerns over what this means for the stability of the EU (already parties in other countries have called for similar votes), what this means for the stability of the UK (Scotland is asking for another referendum on independence and in Northern Ireland there are talks of uniting with Ireland) and what this means for relations with foreigners in the UK (with a number of reported racist incidents following the vote).

Support for the Leave camp of Brexit emanated across different UK political parties and regions. The main party that wholeheartedly supported it was UKIP under Nigel Farage. The Conservative Party was split with the Prime Minister, David Cameron supporting the Remain side whilst Boris Johnson (previous mayor of London) supported the Leave campaign. The Labour Party purportedly supported the Remain side, but many believe that its leader, Jeremy Corbyn was ambivalent and did not provide strong enough support for this side. As a result, many labour MPs and supporters voted Leave. Three areas that overwhelmingly supported Remain were Northern Ireland, Scotland and the City of London. Another grouping that supported Remain were the young people in the country with polls showing that only 19% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 supported a Brexit.

A strong theme that has emerged post the results is that the Leave vote for many people (and even supporters) was a protest vote and not necessarily the outcome that they desired. An online petition to rerun the Brexit referendum has already attracted more than 4 million signatures. The question now is whether there is any way for these protest voters who now regret their decision to be given another opportunity to vote? I believe that this is possible.

As it stands, no political leader is willing to contemplate another referendum. David Cameron has said that another vote is “not remotely on the cards” and Boris Johnson has said that there will be no general election if he wins the Conservative Party Leadership. However, at the same time, Cameron is not willing to invoke Article 50 yet, which is a prerequisite for negotiations towards an exit to commence.

Many UK leaders may be hoping for informal negotiations with the EU to commence to provide more clarity prior to invoking Article 50. The EU, however, are adamant that no discussions will occur until Article 50 is invoked. They are playing hardball and are unwilling to make this process any easier for the UK. They want immediate action so that they can move forward without uncertainty overhanging the future of the EU. This line from EU leaders could put additional pressure on UK politicians during a period of uncertainty.

Within the next three months, we will see a new leader of the Conservative Party and likely a new leader of the official opposition, the Labour Party. It is highly likely that these developments will put increasing pressure on leaders to hold a general election so that a fresh mandate can be obtained from the electorate. Even if Boris Johnson wins the Conservative Party race, he may not be able to stop the increasing pressure for a general election. If Theresa May (the other main candidate) wins, a general election would be very likely, in my opinion. She was a strong supporter of the Remain campaign.

If a general election is called, there is little doubt that the campaigns would focus aggressively on the UK in the EU question. The elections may turn into another Brexit referendum by proxy. If I am correct and the recent uncertainty and remorse from Leave voters shifts support convincingly to the Remain camp, the winners of the general election may well have a fresh mandate to not invoke Article 50.

This would inevitably lead to another Brexit referendum, which the Remain side would likely win. Article 50 would then never be invoked and the UK would remain in the EU. Although this would be embarrassing for UK leaders, it would be good for their citizens, the EU and the wider World. It may also lead to further negotiations that could improve the way that the EU functions and how the UK operates within it. The post-Brexit hangover can then finally subside.

I was a strong supporter of the Remain side. I believe that the EU is a very important institution to help drive a peaceful future in Europe and the World; that a weakening of the EU would be negative for race relations and the immigrant question; that the EU is positive for the global economy and markets; and that the EU is an important force for good when it comes to the sharing of progressive ideas. I recognise that there are shortcomings, but I believe it is better to address them as a unit than for countries to go their separate ways. As a result, I would be overjoyed if the UK reverses its Brexit decision. Fingers crossed.

 

Were you shocked by the Brexit decision? Were you surprised by the pressure it put on currencies and the markets? Do you think it is a good idea and why? Do you think there is a chance that it could be reversed? Would that make you happy or angry? I would love to see your opinion.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#Brexit #UK #EU

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 1

Don’t lose your money in one of these schemes

If you are invested in a scheme that offers you a 30% return per month (or are thinking about it), you are in dangerous waters. You run the risk of losing all of your money. If you are one of the lucky ones, you may be getting your returns from the poor souls that invest after you. When it comes to such a pyramid scheme, someone is going to lose. Do you want to be one of them? Do you want to make money because someone else is losing?

People in SA are feeling the pinch of tough economic conditions due to rising prices, rising interest rates, higher unemployment and drought. They are getting desperate and will do what it takes to make ends meet. Their options are usually limited. If they have savings in traditional bank accounts, they can expect maybe 6% growth per year, which is not enough to make up for rising prices. They can borrow from micro lenders, but the interest rates are high (around 30% per year) and it is becoming more and more difficult to gain approval (because people are already very indebted). They can join stokvels, but that only helps if their payout is early in the year and even then, they are still not getting out more than they put in over a year. So what must they do?

An option that more and more people are taking is to invest in schemes that offer huge returns. One of these schemes offers the possibility of earning a 30% return every month. That means that you can double your money every three months. Wow. It sounds too good to be true. That is because it is too good to be true. It is impossible for any organisation to provide their investors with a 30% monthly return on a sustainable basis. Not unlikely. Impossible. What you are looking at is a typical pyramid scheme.

It is true that sometimes assets can appreciate greatly in value over a short period. This happens when you invest in something that is extremely under-priced (because people don’t know enough about it at the time) or when you invest in something before very positive news about it emerges (profits rise significantly or they literally strike gold or oil unexpectedly). The thing is that good news spreads fast. Once the news is out there and once people find out about it, the price goes up significantly, but after that the pace of increase slows down. For something to go up significantly month after month, year after year, continued fresh good news has to emerge. This is very unlikely, because people love a great story and will look extremely closely at a fast-rising asset, which makes it increasingly difficult for good news to remain hidden. What is more likely to happen is that the hype around such an asset will cause it to rise too fast. It will become more expensive than what the underlying news implies and a bubble is created. More often than not, the news can’t keep up with the price, the bubble bursts, the price collapses and people lose their money.

That is if you’re investing in an asset. But what if there is no underlying asset? What if the scheme you are investing in relies on you transferring money directly to people that joined before you and the money that you hope to get out will come from people that join after you? Such a scheme is just like a stokvel, but a stokvel without a bank account (that at least earns an interest rate). Imagine you join a stokvel in January and put in R1000. What would have to happen for you to get out R23000 in December (which is what you would get if you earned 30% per month)? Well, either the stokvel must win the lottery or the number of members in the stokvel must increase 20 times and every R1000 put in by those 20 people must come to you. Of course these 20 people will also expect to get 30% per month, so at the end of year 2, the stokvel needs to find R500000 to pay these people. Where will this money come from? Eventually people are going to lose their money and for every one person that wins, there has to be 20 losers!

Schemes such as this can’t be sustained without rapid growth in membership. They depend on people going out and recruiting more people. Those that have put in money tell their friends and family and encourage them to invest. They post testimonials online, sharing their success stories. They organise large community meetings all over, sharing their stories of quick riches and encouraging more people to join. The hype continues to increase and the pyramid scheme continues to grow.

The problem is that because you need to grow membership by at least 20 times per year, you are going to run out of people at some point and once that happens, at least 20 out of 21 people are going to lose their money. Let me explain the difficulty. If a scheme starts with one investor in year 1, by year 7, you will need 64 million people to keep the scheme going. The next year, you will need 1.3 billion people (almost 20% of the world population). By year 9 you will need 26 billion people. Do you see the problem?

So why do people invest in these pyramid schemes? They do so because they are desperate, uninformed or greedy. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is, the outcome is not going to be good. You will most likely be one of the unlucky ones, the 20 out of 21 people who will lose their money. If you are very lucky, if you get in early enough, if you make your returns and if you take your money out soon enough, you will only achieve this because you are hurting other people. Your actions will mean that many people who invest after you will lose their money. It may not be next month, it may not be next year, but it will happen eventually. How would you feel about that? How would you feel if you get rich because of many other poor and vulnerable people losing their money? Will you claim ignorance? Will you say, “it’s not my fault”, “the company lied to me”, “I didn’t know”? If you read this piece or others like it, please know that you have been warned.

I have seen schemes promoting themselves and people on social media defending these schemes, choosing to vilify the banks, to discourage people to use normal banks and to encourage them to invest in schemes instead. Comments include: “Why do the people bring their money to the banks at the exorbitant interests? Because they have no other choice. Banks are monopolists”; “Why should banks worry if citizens choose to be ripped off? Banks the thieves”; “Today’s banks are faithful servants of the Federal Reserve; they are greedy and avid bloodsuckers, small ghouls in the service of a giant and evil monster, modern earl Dracula”; and “free yourself from financial slavery”.

Whether or not banks are offering you a good deal is a different debate. I have written about this before. There is certainly more that can and should be done by banks to help the most vulnerable in society. However, please do not allow yourself to be sucked into a dangerous and unsustainable pyramid scheme that is likely to cost you dearly or cause you to hurt others, simply because you are unhappy with ordinary banks. Please remember, if something looks to good to be true, it probably is.

 

Are you invested with a high-return scheme or are you thinking about it? Where do you think these high returns are coming from? Does it make sense to you? If it doesn’t make sense to you, do you care? Are you aware that you could lose your money? Did you know that if you make money, it is likely because other people are going to lose their money and be hurt? Would you still invest if you knew you were going to hurt others? I would love to see your opinion.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#PyramidScheme #PonziScheme #Stokvel

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 11

Should #fallists get time of day?

After a short holiday break, #fallists are back in full swing on South African campuses. What we mostly hear about in the media and social platforms are the repercussions of their campaigns, including the tearing down of statues; the burning of art; clashing with private security, police and rival groups; the burning of vehicles and buildings; and the closing down of campuses. What we hear about less is what drives them, what their demands are, what their ultimate goals are and what will make them stop their disruptive activities. The key questions asked by many ordinary South Africans is whether #fallists should get the time of day or whether universities, the police and government should simply crack down aggressively so that normality can return to our centres of higher learning.

Although many people believe that there is a political force behind the #fallist movements, it is my view that this is a grassroots movement, born from frustration with the state of higher education in SA and spilling over to address inequalities in the wider SA. As a grassroots movement, without clear leadership, there is a distinct anarchist dimension to the #fallist movements. They lack discipline, co-ordination, clear singular goals and organisational structures. This makes them a difficult group to negotiate with.

However, dialogue and negotiation is key not just to address the concerns of these movements, but to ensure that we can get back to the business of education, creating employment, growing the economy and making SA a better place for all. A crackdown is likely to lead to the more radical elements in the #fallist movements gaining prominence and power, whilst dialogue and engagement is more likely to favour the more pragmatic elements within the movements. It is vital that pragmatism reigns over chaos. Hence, we must give #fallists the time of day.

The demands of #Fallist movements are wide and varied and in some cases extremely radical. At the most radical end, many #fallist movements are calling for decolonisation, not just of higher learning institutions, but of the country in general. The implication here is that they want to get rid of all vestiges of British colonialism and apartheid. This is a very dangerous aim in my opinion, which risks destabilising the economy, alienating large swathes of the country and destroying higher learning institutions, exactly the institutions that the #fallists want to gain more access to. This ideological aim has to be nipped in the bud and banished to the intellectual fringes where it belongs.

Other demands of the #fallists are more reasonable, but still difficult to achieve, especially considering the current financial constraints on the country and universities. These include free tertiary education, free accommodation, the cessation of outsourcing, the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of education, etc. These are areas for dialogue, discussion and negotiation, but pragmatism is required. #fallist movements should not be allowed to use disruption and violence to extract concessions that are not economically viable; fair and equitable; and good for education and the country as a whole. At the same time, these valid and deep seated concerns cannot simply be dismissed. These movements must be listened to and engaged with open minds and empathy, pencils have to be sharpened, wallets have to be opened and solutions have to be found that can address these issues or at least put a process in place that will address them over time.

At the same time that higher learning institutions and broader society opens their ears and minds to the concerns of #fallists, they should also have demands of their own. Disruption and violence must stop, #fallists across the country must put in place organisational structures and commit to a negotiation process; and #fallists must commit to the necessary building process required to improve higher education for all. It is one thing to simply demand concessions from the establishment, but there are many areas where #fallists can contribute.

At institutions of higher learning, they can contribute to the academic process (while at the same time addressing diversity) by becoming tutors, lab assistants etc. #fallists who graduate, should seriously consider staying on at universities to teach and do research. #fallists can become involved in fund-raising to help fund tuition and accommodation for students in financial need.

#fallists are also in a strong position to address the elephant in the room, which is the poor quality of education in general in SA. Despite their protestations, #fallists are in fact privileged in the context of the overall education system in SA. They are in an elite group of only 1/3rd of their grade 1 classmates that passed matric and only 12% of their grade 1 classmates that made it to university. There is significant room for #fallists to become more magnanimous in their approach and to contribute to the broader improvement in education in SA. There are many things that they can do. They could volunteer at underperforming schools in their communities as tutors, sports coaches, etc. They could use the momentum created through the #fallist movements to demand higher standards at schools, reduced absenteeism and improved teaching techniques. Once they find themselves in the professional world, they can become involved with NGOs who are active in improving underperforming schools, like Partners for Possibility.

It is my view that despite the havoc created at higher learning institutions and the bad reputation that #fallist organisations have with the broader SA population, that these are important movements that cannot be ignored. We must give #fallists the time of day. We must listen to their concerns. We must use their energy to improve education in this country and to move us towards a more prosperous and equitable future. I therefore appeal to universities, private security and the police for restraint. At the same time, I appeal to #fallist organisations for pragmatism. It is time for you to take the energy created by your movements and apply it to the building of institutions. The best way for you to ensure sustained change, is to become involved.

 

What do you think of the #fallist movements at our campuses? Do you know what their demands are? Do you think that their demands are reasonable? Would you support dialogue and discussions? Do you think #fallists can become a valuable force in building up our society? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#fallists #fallist #FeesMustFall #RhodesMustFall

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 1

Why are unions against pension tax changes?

Over the past months, there has been a great deal of discussion on new pension tax laws and their impact on provident funds. So vehement were the objections from unions (especially Cosatu) that the implementation date has been changed from 1 March 2016 to 1 March 2018. Why are unions so against this act? Could it be that at least in part, it will make it more difficult for protracted strikes to occur, reducing the bargaining position of unions?

The new Tax Amendment Act and will have a particular impact on provident funds, allowing for their treatment to be more in line with pension funds. As a result, upon retirement, a member will only be allowed to take one third of their pension as a lump sum and will have to buy an annuity (a stream of income from retirement to ultimate death) with the rest; and upon resignation, an employee’s contributions to their fund will be subject to tax (where provident funds withdrawals were tax free before). The changes will not impact any historic contributions to provident funds and will only affect future contributions.

The clear motivation behind these changes is to create an environment where workers save more for retirement and are less of a burden on the state in their old age. This is a worldwide phenomenon and imperative. With people living longer and longer, governments want to ensure that their citizens are able to look after themselves.

The problem in SA is that we have high unemployment and that employees who lose their jobs are often not able to find new employment readily and tend to dip into their pension and provident savings to survive. Many retirees also tend to withdraw their entire benefits to look after their extended families, due to low employment levels. The net result of this is that these people, even though they spend many years being gainfully employed and contributing to pension and provident funds, do not have sufficient savings in their old age to survive. As a result, they become a burden on the state.

In most countries with developed pension systems, laws surrounding retirement and early withdrawal are very strict, with either no early access to pensions or a high pension tax. Workers are actively encouraged to preserve their pensions upon early withdrawal (to save them for retirement and not to use them for spending) and to annuitise (buy a monthly income stream from retirement date to ultimate death) upon retirement.

Unions (Cosatu) appear to be very concerned about preservation being actively encouraged in SA. In response to the new Tax Amendment Act, Cosatu claimed that the Act “had introduced the issue of preservation through the back door”. According to them, “preservation cannot and will not be implemented outside the Comprehensive Social Security & Retirement reform”. Why are Cosatu so against preservation?

The main argument presented by the federation is that we suffer from a “current environment of high and stubborn unemployment and poverty in our society without a clear social security system in place.”. They intimate that it is important that workers receive a “lump sum payment upon retrenchment, change of employment or retirement” to allow them to survive financially. However, they concede that “in the long-term the cash runs out, leaving the worker to lead the rest of their life in poverty.”.

Cosatu therefore appears to be very concerned about people who cease to be workers, join the ranks of the retired or unemployed and stop being members of their unions. Fair enough and very altruistic, but could there be another reason for their aversion to preservation that may not be so altruistic?

SA has been suffering from protracted strikes for many years and more often than not, unions are able to extract healthy benefit increases from employers. The longer the strikes last, the more concessions unions appear to be able to extract from employers. If striking workers were to become strike-weary early on in the process, there may be a distinct risk that fewer concessions would be obtained. In the current environment without preservation actively encouraged, striking workers can at least look forward to cashing in their pensions if their actions result in dismissals or retrenchments. This reduces the risk of continuing with a protracted strike. If workers were forced to preserve their pensions upon retrenchment or dismissal, they might be less inclined to continue with a protracted strike and may be more willing to settle early with employers.

Is it therefore possible that unions are against the introduction of preservation, at least in part, because it would weaken their bargaining position when it comes to industrial action? If this were the case, are unions acting in the best interest of their members? Although the cashing in of a pension helps a retrenched or dismissed worker to survive in the short-term, it leaves them vulnerable in the long term (as per Cosatu’s own admission). Would workers not be better off remaining employed, but settling for lower benefit increases?

In an environment where employment levels are higher, there is no doubt that preservation and annuitisation upon retirement are desirable as it would reduce the burden of the state to look after people in their old age. Our focus should therefore be to increase employment levels. The unions in SA have an important role to play in this regard. To increase employment across the board, it is important that labour relations in SA improve, settlements are reached early and protracted strikes are avoided. In addition, unions should come to the party to create a more conducive environment for employment to grow by demanding less stringent employment conditions and protection. Unions should support youth subsidies, internships, vocational training, special labour dispensations in selected industries/regions, etc. In the long-run unions can only benefit from increased employment levels in SA, even if it means having to compromise on workers’ rights in the short-term.

The current approach is not working and has not worked over the past 20 years. Unemployment in SA has become a national crisis and cannot be dealt with in the usual way. In a previous blog, I recommended the appointment of a Minister of Employment who will have ultimate responsibility for employment levels, will co-ordinate across different government departments, unions, private sector and NGOs and will have the power and tools to drive the process. As part of this, we need unions to stop simply protecting their own turf, but to think more broadly about what will ultimately be best for our country, including for their members.

 

What do you think of the new pension tax laws? Do you think we can implement it considering our low employment levels? Do you think unions are worried about their industrial action bargaining power? Do you think unions can do more to promote employment in SA? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#Preservation #Pension #Unions

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 2

We need a Minister of Employment

Unemployment is the most important issue facing SA at the moment. If we do not grow employment numbers aggressively and quickly, we face an increase in poverty and inequality that could result in a populist uprising. Past attempts at dealing with this issue have failed and we now need a new approach. We need a Minister of Employment who will stand or fall based on employment levels. This needs to be a very senior appointment, which has the mandate and power to co-ordinate efforts across all ministerial portfolios, unions, NGOs and the private sector.

For much of the past 15 years, more than one third of South Africans have been unemployed (using the expanded definition). The most recent expanded unemployment rate (October 2015) was 34.4% (whilst on the narrow definition, the rate was 25.5%). For the youth, the situation is much worse with almost half of people between 15 and 34 being unemployed on the expanded definition (and more than 60% of those between 15 and 24). We are sitting on an unemployment powder keg in SA.

Whilst numerous reasons can be put forward for our low employment numbers in SA, including low cash deployment and increasing automation by the private sector, inflexibility of labour, low economic growth and weak commodity prices, the main responsibility should lie with our government. Globally, governments stand or fall based on their ability to reduce unemployment levels. SA should be no different.

It is time that our Government identifies unemployment as the top priority for our country and throws all that it can at dealing with the problem. Despite having a large cabinet with 35 ministers, there is not one department (or minister) that has as its primary responsibility the increase of employment in SA. The Department of Labour comes the closest, but in its stated vision, “employment creation” is only mentioned after “investment” and “economic growth” as priorities. The Department of Labour and the Minister of Labour also do not appear to rank amongst the most senior portfolios and ministers in cabinet, with the departments such as Treasury, Basic Education, Health, International Relations, etc., attracting much more attention. It is difficult to see Minister Mildred Oliphant dictating to Minister Pravin Gordhan on appropriate tax rates for promoting job creation; demanding from Minister Malusi Gigaba that visa regulations need to be relaxed to boost tourism; or setting targets for Minister Angie Motshekga and Minister Blade Nzimande on the number of science and engineering graduates required to boost the SA economy.

What we need in this country is a new Ministry that has as its sole responsibility the creation of employment. We need a Minister of Employment. This needs to be a very senior appointment in the league of a Nhlanhla Nene or a Trevor Manuel. The Minister of Employment should be empowered to co-ordinate all the resources within the cabinet to address the issue of unemployment. As such, this minister should be the chair of an inter-ministerial committee, including Treasury, Labour, Education, Public Enterprises, Tourism, Trade and Industry and other relevant portfolios. This minister should report directly to the president and provide at least quarterly feedback to Parliament. This minister should stand or fall by trends in employment numbers.

The Minister of Employment should be involved at a high level with all areas in SA that are needed to promote employment growth. As the ultimate champion of employment, this minister must ensure that all areas are working in concert, that duplication is avoided and that all the required energy is focused on the problem of unemployment.

The Minister should have insight and influence over all legislation and regulations in SA to ensure that they are aligned (or at least not contrary) to increasing employment. With such a minister in place, we would not have experienced the own goal of stringent visa regulations impacting tourist numbers and hence tourism employment growth.

A task team should be formed with industry, Treasury, the DTI and other parties to identify specific job-creating industries to promote through regulations, tax incentives and protection, if needed. Similarly, a task team should be established with organised labour and the private sector, possibly using the Nedlac infrastructure, but chaired and driven by the Minister of Employment. This task team must ensure that the labour environment becomes more flexible (even if only in selected job-creating industries) to boost employment growth.

The Minister of Employment should involve organisations such as Brand SA, Proudly SA, SA Tourism, Homecoming Revolution and others in a co-ordinated campaign to promote SA as an investment destination and the consumption of SA-produced products over imported ones.

On the skills front, the Minister should co-ordinate a strategy to ensure that the country produces the right graduates, provides the right vocational training and imports the right skills to support the industries identified to be major job creators. To achieve this, the Departments of Basic and Higher Education need to be involved as well as the Department of Home Affairs and the private sector.

There are numerous other areas where the Minister of Employment could become involved, including trade deals with other countries, infrastructure development, agriculture, science and technology, public enterprises, etc.

The role of Minister of Employment will be very challenging and will require hard work and commitment. However, we need large plans to address large problems. This role will need support from a wide range of role players, regardless of political affiliation. There should be large-scale buy-in from all South Africans. It is difficult to see how the vast majority of South Africans would not benefit from growing employment. Solving this problem will go a long way to addressing other problems facing SA. I therefore call upon the ANC, opposition parties, the Government, private sector, NGOs and ordinary citizens to speak out and demand action on unemployment. I call for your support in appointing a Minister of Employment (together with the power and support that such a role requires) immediately. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

 

Do you agree that unemployment is the most serious challenge facing SA? Do you think more can be done with centralised planning and coordination? Would you support the appointment of a Minister of Employment? What suggestions do you have to improve my description of this new role? I would love to hear your feedback.

 

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#MinisterOfEmployment #Unemployment

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 3

Fighting terror from within

The attacks in Paris last Friday are the latest in a spate affecting many parts of the world. How we respond will determine whether this threat continues to grow, how the lives of innocents are impacted and what world we will live in going forward. There may be a temptation to lash out at Muslims, escalate the situation in Syria and Iraq and remove civil liberties in exchange for safety, but this may be a mistake. Instead, we should empower Muslims the world over to defeat the threat of Islamic fundamentalism from within.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism can be traced back as a response to Western and Soviet actions since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. It started with the arbitrary carving up of the Empire into countries with diverse ethnic and political groupings. The formation of Israel provided a rallying point for diverse Islamic groups and remained their key focus until the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR and the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s. In the mean time strong men were supported by the West and the USSR in countries from Egypt to Iraq who violently suppressed dissent within their ranks.

The formation of Al Qaeda can be traced back to the American support of the Mujahedeen resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein was emboldened with the help of US support in the Iran Iraq war. This support arguably led to his miscalculation to invade Kuwait in 1990. The US response to the invasion (Iraq War I) provided a new rallying point for Islamic fundamentalism, namely to rid the Middle East of what they saw as the unlawful occupation by Western forces (largely the US).

Over the next decade, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism started rearing its head in places such as the US (the World Trade Center bombing in 1993), US embassy bombings in 1998 and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. In the mean time, ordinary Iraqis suffered hardships due to sanctions and resentment was building.

The attacks on 9/11 ushered in a new phase of terrorism, with the US being hit on home soil. Views in the US were temporarily united and the reaction was fierce. Instead of a concerted police action against the perpetrators of the attacks (al Qaeda), the US declared War on Terror and Afghanistan was invaded, leading to a quagmire that lasts until today.

The most serious miscalculation by the US in 2003 was to invade Iraq (Iraq War II), despite it having no involvement in the 9/11 attacks and possessing no weapons of mass destruction. The destabilisation of the country led to sectarian violence between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds and provided a fertile environment for the emergence of ISIS a decade later.

The Arab Spring of 2010 was driven by unhappiness with dictatorial rule and human rights violations in countries from Tunisia to Syria that had been building for years. However, increasing food prices, the rise of social media and the destabilisation of the region over the preceding decade helped to create a perfect storm. Youth within Arab countries saw strong men fall, starting with President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, which started an avalanche that spread throughout the region.

The West became involved in the Libyan civil war and contributed to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, but this resulted in huge destabilisation of the country, which is seen by many as a failed state currently. The West also provided tacit support for the opposition in the Syrian civil war and instead of attempting to broker a peace deal early on in the conflict (and force concessions from Bashar al-Assad) the conflict was allowed to escalate. Kofi Annan’s 2012 UN peace plan failed largely because of a lack of co-operation between the West and Arab states on the one side and Russia, China and Iran on the other side. The conflict became increasingly militarised, leading to chemical weapon attacks in 2013, the formation of ISIS and millions of refugees.

ISIS became the new rallying point for Islamic fundamentalism, attracting thousands of fighters from across the world, including the West. They found a fertile recruitment ground amongst Muslim youth in many Western cities who suffered disproportionately from unemployment and often saw themselves as outsiders in the countries of their birth. ISIS offered them a purpose, a brotherhood (akin to youth joining gangs), a way to fight against their “enemies” (as they often see natives of their own Western countries), an adventure. In Syria and Iraq they became more radicalised, received training and gained experience. It is these fighters that are now exporting terror from Iraq and Syria to the rest of the world.

ISIS may prove very difficult to defeat using conventional military means. It mainly operates in two destabilised countries, Iraq and Syria. Aerial bombardment has proven to be ineffective to date. There is little appetite from either the West or Russia to commit ground troops and as history has shown us, this rarely works in any case. What is needed, but may also be difficult to achieve is for Iraq and Syria to be stabilised. This would require a peace to be brokered in Syria, supported by the West, Arab Countries and Russia. It would also require co-operation between the West and Iran in Iraq. Once stability is achieved, ISIS can be isolated by government forces from two sides.

However, this is likely to be a tall ask and in the mean time, we must prepare ourselves for more refugees and more terrorists returning home. How should we prepare ourselves and how should we respond to terror attacks. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that terrorism is committed by fringe groups and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are shocked and outraged by these attacks (ISIS is to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity). In addition, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are fearful of the risk that ISIS poses to their youth. They want to avoid their sons becoming radicalised, being drawn to the conflict in Iraq and Syria and perpetrating violence back home. It is therefore vital that the overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims are given the tools to fight radicalism from within. Lashing out against Muslims following terror attacks, perpetrating acts of retribution, discriminating against them (closing mosques, banning the hijab, etc.), even closing borders and denying refugees, makes it more difficult for moderate Muslims to speak out. Our best defence against the radicalisation of Muslim youth is their friends, family and elders speaking out.

Secondly, it is vital that we use police action to find the perpetrators of attacks and to prevent further attacks. Terrorists are criminals and they should be treated as such. Wars on criminal activity rarely succeed, whether it is the War on Drugs or the War on Terror. A vital link in successfully investigating and preventing terror attacks is to have strong support from within affected communities. The first line of defence is moderate Muslims. It is important that Muslims are made to feel a part of the countries that they live in, that there is a concerted effort made to deal with unemployment and poverty within these communities, that these communities are actively encouraged to embrace the national identity.

Thirdly, we must guard against over-reaction. In the wake of terror attacks, there is the temptation to give up our civil liberties in exchange for feeling safer. We saw this with the Patriot Act in the US, increased airline security and now with the risk to free travel in Europe. France and Paris in particular was arguably the birthplace of the freedoms we have become used to in the Western world. The French Revolution and the principles of “liberte”, “egalite” and “fraternite” started a landslide movement that enveloped Europe, America and increasingly the rest of the world in democracy, freedom, secularism and civil liberties. We must fight to maintain our freedoms and failing to do so would play in the hands of terrorists.

What we must avoid at all costs is to cultivate hate and allow Islamic fundamentalism to flourish through our actions. The War on Terror has proven to be a failure and must be abandoned, indiscriminate blame must be discouraged, good people must be encouraged to speak out and retribution must be avoided. Instead of spending huge amounts of money on war and increased security (the US has already spent $1.6trn on the War on Terror, $500m for every American that has perished in a terror attack since 9/11), we should be spending money to improve the lives of Muslim communities in the West, to bring peace to Syria and Iraq and to stabilise other Middle Eastern countries.

 

My deepest condolences to all victims of terror the world over. Do you believe that it is appropriate to blame Muslims for terrorist attacks? Do you believe that ISIS can be defeated by military action? Are you willing to give up your civil liberties to feel safer? Do you agree that Islamic fundamentalism can only be defeated from within? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#ParisAttacks #ModerateMuslims

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 5

Low standards must fall

The past days saw a formidable exercise in democracy and social action in SA with the success of the #FeesMustFall campaign. From a group of Wits students protesting against fee hikes, ordinary students of all backgrounds united in a grassroots movement that led to the closure of campuses, huge marches in numerous cities and ultimately a commitment from government to halt hikes for 2016. Now is the time for these successes to encourage even bigger action to address the low standards and weak education outcomes that affect the poorest and most disenfranchised in SA and not just the elite. Now is the time for a better education for all. Now is the time that low standards must fall.

The #FeesMustFall campaign is the most successful social-media driven mass action campaign that SA has ever seen and is comparable to the mass action campaigns we saw in the 1980s and 1990s in the days before cell phones. It caught most people by surprise, not least political movements and government. It did not appear to be orchestrated, but seemed to grow from the frustration of students and resonated country-wide. It united students of all backgrounds, with even those that can afford fee increases, marching in solidarity with those that cannot. As with all mass action campaigns, there were disruptive elements and there was police over-reaction. However, in general our students need to be commended for a largely peaceful exercise, driven by real concerns and resulting in constructive action. Well done.

It is now time to take the momentum created by the #FeesMustFall campaign and direct it to wider causes, including low education standards and weak outcomes. You, the tertiary students of SA are fortunate. You have made it through the SA basic education system. Despite the meaningful challenges you faced with poor facilities, teacher absenteeism, shortages in learning materials and low standards, you made it into higher learning facilities. You are survivors, you are winners. But you are also in the minority.

If you passed matric last year and are currently enrolled in a university you are one of only 12% of your 2003 grade 1 class that made it. Another 20% of your 2003 grade 1 class managed to pass matric last year, but the rest (68%), never made it that far. Even more shocking, if you managed to get more than 40% for maths in your matric exam last year, you are one of only 6.5%. The rest of your 2003 grade 1 class either got less than 40% (4.4% of them) or did not take maths in matric (89%). If you are one of these people, well done! You are one of the advantaged, but what about the masses of disadvantaged people out there?

There are many reasons why you had to face huge challenges during your school years and why the majority of South African pupils face huge challenges and will not make it to the finishing line. Money does not appear to be the main driver. In our current budget, more than R200bn has been set aside for education, which makes this the highest single expenditure item. The 5% of gross domestic product (GDP, a measure of economic activity) that we spend on education is in line with what the USA, the UK and other developed countries spend and ahead of what most developing countries spend.

So what are the main drivers? The low standards that we set for ourselves are likely the main reason for our underperformance. How can we excel as a country if we are told that all we need to aim for is 30% and 40%? How would you respond if your cell phone network only worked 30% to 40% of the time? What if buses, trains and taxis only ran on time 30% to 40% of the time? You may have struggled to co-ordinate the #FeesMustFall marches if that was the case. We must aim higher if we want to achieve success. You did just that when you marched last week, you aimed higher and you succeeded!

Another main driver for our poor performance is dysfunctional schools. Many of you would have seen this first hand. Schools that start late and end early, teachers that are absent, pupils that skip classes, the lack of proper teaching materials (books, etc.), poor facilities, teachers that do not cover the course work properly and teachers that aim to get you to 30% or 40% instead of getting you as close as possible to 100%.

Most of these dysfunctional schools are in the poorest areas of SA, where students most need the opportunity to improve their situation. However, not all schools in these poor areas suffer the same fate. Many schools, facing the same financial constraints are able to excel and produce excellent results. Often the difference comes in the form of an excellent principal who makes sure that school starts on time, that teachers are motivated to teach effectively and encourage their students to perform above minimum requirements, that facilities are acceptable (even if the school is short of money, there are ways to involve the community to improve facilities), that students are respectful and do not disrupt classes, etc.

There are shining examples in SA of how principals can make a difference such as the Matthew Goniwe Memorial High School and Masiyele Secondary School in the Western Cape, Bhukulani Secondary School in Gauteng, Thengwe and Mbilwi Secondary Schools in Limpopo, Menzi and Velabahleke High in KZN and many others!

You can also make a difference. You have proven it this last week. You took an issue that is close to your heart, you organised, you united, you rose up, you marched, you made your voices heard and you got results. You made a difference. Please, can you now take this energy and help this country to make a difference to our basic education system. Make a difference for your little brothers and sisters who are still coming through a dysfunctional system, make a difference for the kids in your neighbourhood, make a difference for your children one day. Make a difference to this country that we love.

Demand higher education standards from government. Demand that #LowStandardsMustFall. Get involved in schools in your communities. Go and speak to pupils and educators and let your example be a shining light. Become a maths tutor, become a soccer coach. Put pressure on underperforming schools. Do not let teachers get away with absenteeism and poor teaching methods. Help us to stop the cycle of mediocrity today. You have shown that you are not mediocre, you have shown us the power of the youth, you have shown us that activism is not just a part of our past, but a way to ensure a brighter future.

I am proud SA and I am hopeful. The energy of our youth is an inspiration.

 

Are you inspired by the #FeesMustFall campaign? What do you think the next step should be? Would you like to see the focus shift to better education for all? Do you think #LowStandardsMustFall? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

#FeesMustFall #LowStandardsMustFall #SpeakingOutSA

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


  • 2

ANC NGC – the good, the bad and the ugly

The ANC National General Council (NGC) of the past weekend offered a mixed bag to South Africans looking for an improved outlook for the country. There was the good, including correctly identifying problems and taking steps to correct them. There was the bad, a lack of taking responsibility for failures and taking steps that may deflect. And there was the ugly, refusing to address serious concerns surrounding visa regulations and proposing a withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). On balance, the good prevailed though, in my opinion.

The Good

The ANC deserves credit for doing much needed soul-searching at the NGC and identifying many of the problems it and the country faces. The sharp decline in ANC membership and the electoral gains by the DA and the EFF were key discussion points at the NGC. It is clear that the ANC realises that it needs to take concrete steps to address this trend. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I believe that political competition is needed to galvanise the ruling party to perform better. It appears as if the increased pressure is starting to shift thinking within the ANC, but delivery will be key.

President Zuma hopefully put an end to uncertainty about whether he will step down in 2019 by stating that he will “never ever” stand for a third term as ANC leader. Unfortunately, much uncertainty remains on succession with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa remaining frontrunners and other players not ruled out. To ensure stability and continuity, I really hope that we have a much more ordered transition of leadership than in 2009 and that the successful candidate garners wide support.

Cadre deployment and the negative impact this had on delivery was addressed. Although it is unlikely that the strategy of deploying cadres will change anytime soon, there is a recognition that the party must make sure that cadres put in government positions are qualified. I see this as a step in the right direction, but still believe that to fully address delivery issues in our country, the government must look wider than cadres. There are many skilled individuals outside the tripartite alliance that could make a big difference and they are being discounted for positions at our peril.

Another positive development is the decision to allow the ANC integrity committee to deal with members who bring the party into disrepute by making binding recommendations about actions against them. The committee is made up of a group of struggle veterans with strong credentials. As mentioned in a previous blog, one of the drivers of corruption (in general) is a lack of accountability. I hope that the additional weight thrown behind the integrity committee will help to increase accountability within the ruling party.

The way that the police deals conflict and protest was a topic of conversation and a decision was made to train the police in crowd control. This is a positive, in my opinion, especially in the light of a likely increase in protests in the run-up to the municipal elections of next year. It is important that people are given the opportunity to raise their concerns peacefully without being harassed by the police.

On the education front, there was discussion about poor maths and science marks, underperforming teachers and the weakness of rural schools. There was also agreement that the Annual National Assessments (ANA) should not be scrapped. However, what I missed was discussions surrounding raising standards, doing more to empower principals and specifics on how to effectively deal with underperforming teachers. This really needs to be a national priority.

Power generation was mentioned at the NGC, with the focus on increasing generation capacity and maintenance. This is good news in the sense that the ANC has reiterated its concerns with regards to our power generation concerns. However, as stated in an earlier blog, I believe that more aggressive solutions are needed to deal with our power needs long-term, with increased private sector participation and deregulation with regards to the selling of generated electricity needed. These issues were not sufficiently addressed, in my opinion.

What was positive though is the call for the national budget to focus more on investment and less on consumption. To deliver this outcome, the government will have to fast track the implementation of the National Development Plan, whilst at the same time exhibiting better fiscal discipline.

The ANC has decided that e-tolls must be implemented, but at the agreed lower rate. This could fit into the bad category, but in my opinion, considering the meaningful outgo to set up the system and the need to maintain Gauteng roads, there is very little option but to proceed. I hope though that the controversy surrounding this process will lead to valuable lessons learnt when it comes to future toll roads in SA.

The Bad

There were a number of resolutions taken at the NGC that fall in the bad category, in my opinion. As mentioned before, some may feel that e-tolls should fit in here as well. The decision to investigate the feasibility of a media appeals tribunal by Parliament is negative in my opinion. We have a vibrant and independent media in SA and I am not supportive of steps to censor. Instead, in my view, the ANC and government should improve is public relations programme to build and foster a more constructive relationship with the media.

The ANC has launched a study into the feasibility of a wealth tax for rich South Africans. Although the majority of South Africans, many of whom are living in poverty and are unemployed, would file this under the good, I consider this as part of the bad. I am not saying that steps are not needed to address the huge inequality in SA and improve the lives of the poor. I am saying that discussions around a wealth tax are premature, considering the current inefficiencies with government spending and the lack of job-creation within the country. I would like government to get more bang for its current tax revenue buck before looking for further sources of revenue.

I am somewhat cynical when reading about the possible reduction in the number of municipalities in SA as well as a presidential commission to assess a possible reduction in the number of provinces. This may create an opportunity for gerrymandering (a world-wide practice of manipulating electoral borders to favour a particular political party). I hence classify this under the bad until proven otherwise.

Finally, considering the admission at the NGC of the various areas where things have gone wrong, including the reduction in membership, electoral losses, corruption and other, it was unfortunate that no-one was explicitly held responsible. It is good and well to come up with new plans and committees, but in most mature democracies, if political leadership fails to deliver, heads tend to roll. In my opinion, the decision not to even question the current management structure of the ANC has to fall in the bad category.

The Ugly

For me, there were two resolutions from the NGC that were ugly and are likely to be negative for our country. The first is the decision to stick with the new onerous visa regulations, especially for minors. There is little disagreement that these regulations are having a very detrimental impact on our tourism industry, exactly at a time when the weak rand should be supporting it. At the same time, there is wide disagreement on the extent of the child trafficking problem within SA and whether the new regulations will have the desired effect. We can only hope that the inter-ministerial committee on migration, chaired by Deputy President Ramaphosa, will come up with proposals to mitigate the negative impact of these regulations.

The second is the decision by the NGC for SA to exit the ICC. Although it is correct that there are many respected countries in the world that are not signatories to the Rome Statute (including three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council), I consider the withdrawal as a setback for global human rights and SA’s standing in the world. With this move, our country has chosen self interest and pragmatism over the idealism of the post-Apartheid period.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the good outweighed the bad and the ugly from the ANC NGC. A number of key decisions have been made that, if implemented correctly, could improve the outlook for our country and for the ANC at the polls. However, implementation is key and sustained pressure on the ruling party is needed. Next year’s municipal elections will be important and as I have stated in a previous blog, it is likely to usher in a period of coalition politics in SA. Hopefully this will help to sustain pressure and improve outcomes.

 

Did you follow the NGC over the weekend? Do you agree with me that there were a large number of positive developments? Or do you think that the bad and the ugly outweighed the positive? Do you think the ANC is feeling the political pressure and that this will improve delivery? Will we see coalition politics as an important feature from next year onwards? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

#ANCNGC #2015MunicipalElections

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man

 

Main Sources: Mail and Guardian; Daily Maverick; SABC


  • 2

Don’t miss another opportunity Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch University missed an opportunity in the 1990s to transform aggressively and become the Afrikaans university for people of all cultures in SA. It now finds itself in a situation where the predominance of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction is being directly linked to racist behaviour inside and outside of class (by groupings such as Open Stellenbosch). For Stellenbosch to maintain its Afrikaans identity, it needs to adopt a zero tolerance attitude to racism and aggressively promote itself to non-white Afrikaans speakers. Hopefully the University will not miss this opportunity.

I arrived at Stellenbosch University in 1990, ready to face a brave new world. Despite being fully bilingual, I chose Stellenbosch because I would be instructed in my first language and I would have the opportunity to immerse myself fully in student life (if I went to UCT, I would have likely studied out of my parents’ home).

By the time I arrived, I was ready for change in SA, having spent my high school years becoming increasingly aware of and disgusted by the oppression in our country. I was not disappointed as on 21 February 1990, while I was in the midst of being initiated at my residence, FW de Klerk made that historic speech. I naively thought that most others would share my view and that there would be a clamour to embrace the future of a free SA. I was very wrong.

During my stay at Stellenbosch, I saw many instances of racism and a general environment that did not make non-white students feel welcome. There was in fact a backlash from white Afrikaners who disagreed with the changes in SA and saw Stellenbosch University as a bastion for Afrikanerdom. There is no doubt in my mind that these forces influenced the pace of transformation within the University.

In the early 1990s, non-white students at Stellenbosch were few and far between. Most residences were white-only and effectively remained so well into the 1990s. In fact, as late as in 2013, there were still ongoing discussions about admission policies to university residences. This was certainly not a conducive environment for attracting non-white students and making them feel a part of the University.

Although numbers of non-white students slowly ticked up over the 1990s, it took the University of Stellenbosch 12 years after the abolishment of Apartheid laws to actively start addressing diversity. The 2002 Annual Report of the University was the first one to mention diversity in any meaningful way and it was only in 2003 that a Diversity Plan was adopted. By this stage, the number of non-white students at the university was just under 30% (with on-campus non-white students being under 25%). Only modest progress has been made in the subsequent 12 years with 38% of students in 2015 being non-white.

On the flipside, as the proportion of non-white students increased, the proportion of students with Afrikaans as home language declined. In 2003, 63% of students had Afrikaans as home language and by 2014, this had declined to 45%. The irony is that this decline is much more pronounced than the decline in the proportion of white students, which implies 1) that an increasing proportion of white students at Stellenbosch are not Afrikaans home language speakers and 2) only a small proportion of non-white students are Afrikaans home language speakers.

This demographic trend presents a problem for Stellenbosch if it wants to maintain its Afrikaans characteristics and this is where an opportunity was missed in my opinion. It was during especially the 1990s that Stellenbosch University should have actively recruited and accommodated non-white Afrikaans speakers. They should have made these students feel welcome at the University and made transformation and non-racialism a priority. They should have thrown their support behind disadvantaged Afrikaans schools to promote a healthy pipeline of strong students from disadvantaged backgrounds. If this were done, the proportion of non-white students at Stellenbosch would have been much higher today, whilst the proportion of Afrikaans speakers would not have declined by as much. Such a strategy may also have helped to counter the trend for previously disadvantaged Afrikaans speakers to educate their children in English.

The irony of the slow nature of transformation (at least initially) at Stellenbosch University is that it may have jeopardised one of the key characteristics that the University wanted to protect, namely safeguarding and developing Afrikaans as an academic language. A lesson should be learnt by companies and institutions that have been slow to adapt to the changes in our country. The longer you wait to transform, the less control you may have over the process.

Transformation has become a much more important part of Stellenbosch University over recent years, but more needs to be done in my opinion. First and foremost, there has to be a zero tolerance attitude towards racism. This attitude must start at the top and must filter down to classes, residences and the community within the town. Appropriate punishment should be meted out to students and faculty that are guilty of behaviour contrary to this policy.

More should be done to integrate residences and to make students from all backgrounds feel welcome in their temporary new homes. This process must again be led from the top, but residences themselves should embrace this to ensure long-term sustainability. Certain initiation practices, especially those that are open to abuse should be discouraged.

A longer-term goal should be to aggressively develop a pipeline of Afrikaans students, especially from disadvantaged communities. The University should actively support disadvantaged Afrikaans schools and communities and become the University of Choice for students from those communities. Such a strategy could also play its small part in improving school education in SA, the quality of which is a concern.

I personally would like to see Afrikaans continue as an academic language and Stellenbosch University as its guardian. In addition, I would like more to be done on the advancement of isiXhosa as an academic language (a process that has started at Stellenbosch University). I believe that in a diverse country such as SA, there is room for a predominantly Afrikaans university amongst a multitude of English universities. However, I cannot agree with an environment where Afrikaans prevails, but at the expense of diversity and non-racialism. I truly believe that these two goals do not have to be mutually exclusive. I would love for Stellenbosch University to prove me right.

 

Do you feel there is room for predominantly Afrikaans universities in SA? Do you think such universities can be truly diverse and non-racial? Do you think that Stellenbosch has done enough and those that disagree are over-reacting? What more do you think Stellenbosch should be doing? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

#IamStellenbosch #IamnotStellenbosch #OpenStellenbosch

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


Search