Free For All

As you can imagine moving countries means having to make a lot of changes to the way you live, mostly they’re small changes things you hardly notice and occasionally you’ll come across something BIG, which reminds you that you are a FOREIGNER!

Public transport, an essential part of getting around London was a very new concept to me when I first arrived in London, I had used busses during my tertiary education in Pretoria and the occasional “gamble your life” mini-taxi… they were much cheaper than the municipal busses, but contrary to popular belief don’t actually stop everywhere and so for me a lot less convenient than the busses. But those experiences had faded behind years of private car ownership, especially in Pretoria’s large deep green suburbs where everything is kilometres away, and even for the walkable things, why would you? Walking doesn’t come with an aircon!

So the new boy in London, got friendly with public transport, at first it was novel and it was pretty cool being in a driverless train on London’s DLR sitting up front where the driver would be, with the raised tracks sometimes making it feel a bit like a roller-coaster… don’t get excited it NEVER goes fast enough to actually be a coaster. Then there’s the famous tube network that crosses the city, which if you travel with Johann goes by in a blur of platform changes so fast and slick that you sometimes feel like you just went through the spin cycle in your washing machine! It is an efficient way of moving around the town.

The concept of public transport grew on me, it is safe to say that I was a fan and I paid little heed to those who tutted at my exuberance, those who wisely pointed out that I had not “Done Rush Hour” yet, besides how bad could it really be? Well not that bad actually, I even managed to maintain my blissful ignorance during my first year of work, by quickly learning what times to travel and with us still living in the Docklands I led a somewhat charmed life by London standards never really having to deal with the heaving masses.

Eventually the call of countryside/suburbia was too strong, well actually Johann changed jobs and we needed to move westward, as it turned out the best compromise for us was to live in a nice town in Surrey called Woking. For me it offered a fast and convenient train service into Waterloo station where I could catch a single tube into Bank station in the heart of The City, all in all it promised to be almost as painless as my previous arrangement.

How wrong I was. The train portion of the journey can be a little crowded, but it is the mind boggling volume of people who move from the trains down to the tubes and on to the Waterloo & City tube line that provided some stark reminders that I’m not of this land. What? Women first! It still grates me every time I “push in” front of a woman, but I’ve learnt that at least during rush hour on the tube chivalry is dead! Not that I think there’s anything more sinister to blame than the sheer volume of people, it would be impractical to always make way for the fairer sex and the ladies have had to learn to give as good as they get if they are to survive, of course where space and time permit I do still stand back, as do most men but that is the exception. Even so, because I’ve never experienced similar situations back in Africa it really made an impact on me.

While it’s true that there are other things that remind me I’m not of this land, the daily “Free for All” on public transport is a constant reminder.

Affirmative Action (AA) and Black Economic Empowerment(BEE)

One of the issues I feel most passionate about in South Africa today are the “remedial” employment and business ownership policies, which at face value claim to be addressing the disproportionate over representation of non-Blacks in the economy as created by apartheid policies, but in truth they are racist and undermine several constitutional rights of all non-Black citizens, and to make matters worse they have not delivered their intended purposes.

 

Past Wrongs
Let us remember at this point, South Africa has emerged from a traumatic past where racist policies were enforced in the most brutal of ways, we can never be allowed to forget that past or the people who gave so much to bring about change. Part of the effect of those policies was to create an economy where most of the non-menial jobs were held by Whites, some Coloureds, some Asians and very few Blacks. Of course this is unacceptable and had to be addressed in some way and, once apartheid had finally been put to pasture in 1994 it was unsurprisingly one of the key points on the agenda of the ANC when they assumed power. First to appear was AA which essentially promoted the idea that your workforce should be representative of the demographics of the country, later BEE was unveiled and this is concerned with the racial-make up of business ownership and essentially requires that a certain amount of the ownership/shares of businesses are in Black hands.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right
It is indisputable that there were economic and financial imbalances that had to be addressed, but as the old saying goes “Two wrongs don’t make a right!”, bear with me while I expand on that point imagine for a moment that you are a parent of two children, they are absolute darlings with the older one 8 and the younger one 6, your spouse for some unknown reason spoils your younger child, despite your best efforts this continues for several years until tragically your spouse dies (hang in there almost at my point), the question is how do you treat the children from this point onwards? The only correct answer is that you will need to treat them the same and shower them with equal amounts of love any other approach will only further complicate the problem. This story may be to simple to accurately portray the complexities of the South African challenge, regardless of that AA and BEE have only served to further complicate matters.

Practical Implications
The first practical hurdle to the implementation of AA was that there simply were not enough skilled employees of the correct skin-colour or gender to meet the demands, then there was the resistance from employers who for several reasons; including not being able to source acceptable candidates, refusing to discriminate on race (had we not just defeated apartheid?) chose to ignore it, very few employers were constructive about the challenge and for all the blame that I’ll lay at the feet of the ANC, these employers should accept blame for not being pro-active and building the right candidates, through training and development programmes. Instead in the late 90′s the ANC government had to face the reality that AA had experienced very little success, until that point adherence had been on a self-regulatory basis – AA become compulsory and regulated, with a fines system introduced, a number of companies were fined substantial amounts for not meeting AA requirements, of course this money should be used constructively in training Black people, but the effect this had on the companies at the time was that if they could not find suitably skilled non-White candidates they simply did not hire, how many projects and how much potential growth was lost due to this unintended effect of AA?

Simply… Racist.
The effects of BEE have been far more serious, in principal the policy is even more insidious than AA, it does not attempt to introduce a balance in the economy it very simply attempts to give a share of the economy to Black South Africans, now as I discussed under AA there is a distinct shortage of skilled Black South Africans and this is true at every level of business including business leadership, with the effect that when non-Black owned and run companies started looking for Black partners the cupboard was largely bare and some very enterprising and astute Black business leaders realised they were in very short supply, so they formed companies and trusts who became specialists at being BEE partners, with the net result that much of the economy’s BEE representation is in a handful of BEE specialist companies, with the effect that the benefits of BEE are being passed on to a very small proportion of the Black community through an artificial and unsustainable mechanism.

Inequality in a post-Apartheid World
Both AA and BEE are wholly inappropriate for a post-Apartheid South Africa because they discriminate on race, not only does that fly in the face of the values and spirit of the constitution but it creates discord, with the result that as long as you are Black and legally in South Africa you have more rights and opportunities than non-Blacks, a Black British immigrant will have more rights than a 10th generation White South African, there is no justification for a system which promotes that level of inequality.

Hindsight brings 20/20 Vision
The true benefit and cost of these “remedial” programs will never be known, it is undoubted that they have achieved some of what they were intended for; more Black people have non-menial jobs and for many companies to remain in business they have to be largely in Black hands, of course the costs have been high too and it is undoubted that there has been a skills and brain drain which has been largely induced by these programs, this has been a large factor in restricting economic activity. I won’t be more critical than that because hindsight does give us 20/20 vision, all South Africans knew that things had to change in 1994 and, AA although not ideal seemed reasonable, but BEE has always appeared to be an ill conceived mechanism.

Give Me Solutions Not Problems
AA and BEE were ultimately intended to spread economic power and wealth to non-White people and in the case of BEE specifically Black people and, on this front these programs have failed, the latest studies show that the wealth disparity between the races has not changed significantly since 1994. The focus now must be economic growth driven by production, once there is a shortage of workers; economic forces will result in more jobs that will be filled by workers of all races.

Lessons From the Past
Indeed we hardly have to look back more than 30 years to see that one of the most effective mechanisms of the anti-apartheid struggle; the trade-unions were empowered because a booming economy drove employers to seek more Black skilled workers as the White skills base simply could not supply the amount of workers required.

So let’s learn the lessons from our past, divisive policies have not yet proved to meet their intended goals and are more likely to further complicate matters, policies that promote economic growth will naturally result in an increase of wealth that will ultimately be spread throughout the population.

Phew, what a post! If you’ve made it this far you’re obviously just as passionate about South Africa as I am and I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do comment.

Cheers, Ockert.

Omo Box

Finally I've set-up my blog, posted the reference e-mails and now I get to stand on my Soap Box and lecture the... well the world, or at least those of you reading this.

Moving House - Each of the e-mails previously posted in one way or another “talk up” South Africa and it's current situation, written by people living in South Africa, there's nothing like moving to a new home to put your old one into perspective, you're quickly able to realise what the good things were 'cause you miss them and all the things you didn't like about your old home while you lived there can seem a little silly or perhaps justified, you may even discover some things that you never knew you disliked! It is this the perspective of someone that's moved which I'll bring to this subject.

Head Up, Chest Out... Damn right! I am proud to be South African and here I could list the reasons and bore you with usual sunny skies and braai vleis, but it's mostly the people. Yes there a fair amount of asses and dweebs, tweedle-dumbs and tweedle-dees (delete as appropriate), but most of the people of all races who you meet are genuinely warm and friendly, and that is something to be really proud of! So why did I leave South Africa?

In A Perfect World – I'd still have left South Africa, my perfect life would involve spending a decade living and working on each continent, there is so much to see and the world is such an exciting place to explore and then you still have to make time to go back to the nicer places a few more times. I'm definitely a traveller but not the ruck-sack do it on a shoe-string kind of traveller more a “trekker” really pack-up everything and go!

Get Real - But I'm romanticising now, the motivation for moving to the United Kingdom was three-fold, firstly there was the small matter of my partner whom I had met in South Africa and who'd moved to the UK we were not together at that point but very very interested in each other ;-) also I needed to get out of South Africa for several reasons including my well being and career, thirdly my wanderlust: it was an opportunity to live and work in another country.

So here we are; you know that I'm a proudly South African and living abroad, with something to say about my “Old Home”... See you with my next post where I'll be getting down and dirty in that Can O' Worms!

P.S. Omo is a South African brand of Washing Powder, Omo Box = Soap Box. “braai vleis” is almost like barbeque except better and although “trekker” in English and Afrikaans are synonymous, it is also Afrikaans slang for “tosser”... don't go there!

Third E-Mail: 13 Feb 2008

This is the 3rd e-mail that I've received on the state of South Africa, as with the other e-mails I've reproduced this as it was received, unfortunately this one needed some “saving” from the formatting monster so there was a lot of copy-and-paste, reader beware! It was apparently authored by a Mr Greg Castle, unfortunately there was no address history in the mail which could be used to confirm this but we'll assume that there is indeed a Mr Greg Castle somewhere in South Africa.

If you do go on to read this please remember Greg is being motivational and very passionate. I can only guess he was a little emotional at times. He can also be offensive, again you've been warned.

Thank you for your effort Mr Castle.

...

Here's something to give some context. Of course, all those incompetents should still be fired!!!!!!!!!!

This is a response to an article I received recently, promoting doom and gloom in SA. This amongst the enormous amount of negativity that
abounds due to concerns surrounding Jacob Zuma's support, the electricity crisis, the Jackie Selebi affair and the ongoing crime statistics in the country.

I can't remember how many conversations I've had of late with folk again talking of emigrating or stocking up on bully-beef for the dark years that lie ahead. Brings back some memories pre-1994. Therefore I felt the need to put a few thoughts down in order to help others perhaps see a little flicker of light amongst the gloom..

Varying Shades of Green

A little food for thought perhaps from one married to an Aussie, living in South Africa. As much as I love Australia, and Australian's, perhaps a little perspective could help some folk see that it's not that the grass is greener, just a different shade on the other side. I don't consider myself an ostrich with my head in the sand of patriotism; rather a reasonably well travelled individual who accepts that there's a lot to be rectified in South Africa, but a hell of a lot more that's bloody damn good too.

Many folk, who believe that the grass is greener on the other side,
either haven't spent much time on the other side, or have possibly been there on holiday during idyllic circumstances. As much as there are clearly problems in South Africa, these are largely centred around education and employment, both clearly legacies of Apartheid, as much as we may not like to admit it. 13 years of democracy is not nearly enough time to eradicate the negative impact that these two areas were subjected to for decades (some would argue centuries). Nevertheless, I am not one to accept excuses easily either, and there is some truth in the fact that Apartheid and the race card is used too quickly at times to cover up lack of progress on the part of some government officials and others with their backs against the wall. Now consider these:

  • Unlike the Apartheid years, our transparent government and constitution has allowed for corruption within top business and the highest government ranks to be identified and prosecuted. I understand from my learned advocate friends that there's a lot more to come. This is fairly unique even in the so called Western World. (Take George W Bush's 'incentive' to take out oil producing competitors in the Middle East). No-one has been fired since it was discovered that CIA evidence supporting the war against Iraq was found to be bogus). What has happened to those large arms organisations linked to bribery in Germany and France? Corruption is always a two way street. Interesting to note that many of those embroiled in corrupt activities in our own country just so happen to be white South African business people, yet people like to harp on about black politicians.

  • From 2006 to this day, Australia's two major states, Queensland and New South Wales, have been limited to radical water restrictions due to insufficient forward planning on the part of their government. The restrictions have been placed at 140litres/person/day, and half an hour of garden watering/week. Restrictions are likely to only be lifted in 2012. (see HYPERLINK "http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/restrictions-off-in-five-years-says-usage-report/2007/05/27/1180205077457.html"http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/restrictions-off-in-five-years-says-usage-report/2007/05/27/1180205077457.html for more info). Personally, I'd rather have to light a candle at the dinner table, than have to have dinner with half a dozen of my closest smelly water conserving friends.

  • People living in those states have now been forced to install large external water tanks in order to collect the water from their gutters for domestic purposes.

  • The price of electricity and water in Aus is considerably more expensive than in South Africa, in fact ours is still amongst the cheapest in the world (hence the reason why so many foreign countries want to place their electricity sapping smelters in SA. If South African's were prepared to pay 3 * 5 times more for these services, imagine how much electricity Eskom could generate? Imagine the moans and groans then!

  • Interesting to note how the doomsayers of Koeberg have all gone quiet now, despite rallying up against capacity expansion plans there some years ago. Perhaps they're not quiet, just moaning about something else now.

  • Our fuel is still amongst the cheapest in the Western World at R7.50/l. Now over *1 in UK (R15.14/l), Italy (where I've just been, €1.59/litre (R17.96/litre), Australia at A$1.49/l (R10.36/l) to mention a few.

  • Though an issue in SA too, the drug problem in Australia appears to be far more significant, particularly in Sydney. I personally found a used syringe with needle attached on Bondi Beach one evening. One just has to walk down some of the suburbs within Sydney to see well dressed individuals lying in doorways and on the street with evidence of drug abuse around them. I've known two separate Australian families who have said that they'd prefer their teenagers to be in South Africa during this phase of their lives due to this problem.

  • Australia has a declining population. And like many European countries, it is beginning to place major strain on the economy from a health and welfare point of view, not to mention reduced taxes for maintenance and development. In the next decade, the aging baby boomers will diminish, taking with them a large portion of the Australian tax base. Parts of Europe are in an advanced state of decay as a result of this problem. I have recently personally experienced this.

  • There is reported widespread abuse amongst many young folk incentivised in Australia to have more children due to the declining population, preferring to use their A$5000/child to purchase drugs instead.

  • The so called highways between Australia's largest of cities, are nothing more than single laned, strewn with potholes. A trip between the economic hub of Sydney and the capital city Canberra is a good example. Even Germany's autobahn, once rated amongst the finest in the world, are aging badly and speed restrictions have been imposed along many legs due to congestion and road maintenance issues.

  • Most white Australian's have neither met nor understand the historic plight of the aboriginals in their own country, preferring instead to focus on hard working expats from Asia and the Middle East, who are taking jobs away from them in large numbers. The racist hysteria and simmering resentment eventually manifested itself in Pauline Hanson (with a fairly sizable and growing following in Australia). This is just the beginning I suspect.

  • Recent race riots in Sydney indicate quite clearly that all is not well in ol' Aus when it comes to racism and bigotry, up until now it's just been below the radar screen.  We on the other hand have had to face our demons for some time now, and have come an incredibly long way in the process.

  • Australia's major tourist areas

  • The Gold Coast, and Barrier Reef, are primarily owned by the Japanese causing much resentment amongst the locals. Most of the golf courses in Queensland too are owned by Japanese, making it prohibitively expensive to play as an Australian.

  • Similarly to the Selebi issue, Knighted Sir Terry Lewis(Police Commissioner of Queensland from 1978 * 1987, was sentenced to 14 years for corruption. He had accepted HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bribe"bribes totaling $700,000 to protect HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brothel"brothels, HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bookmaker"bookmakers, illegal HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casino"casinos, forging the signature of the state premier, amongst other activities). He was also a close associate and bagman to the corrupt former Australian Police Commissioner, HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bischof"Francis Bischof.

  • Assistant Commissioner HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Graeme_Parker&action=edit" Graeme Parker too confessed to corruption and implicated Lewis in HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987" 1987.

  • The White Australia Policy served until only the mid 1975, and ensured that all 'half-cast' (coloured) kids were confiscated from their parents and sent to orphanages and foster homes for 'their own wellbeing'. All this whilst imposing sanctions against South Africa.

  • It has been argued that sanctions were only imposed by those countries that competed head on with South Africa on the minerals and agricultural front (Australia and Canada being top of those yet both
    with horrendous racial histories of their own).

  • Queensland's premier Bjelke-Peterson (1968 * 1987) resided over a government that has since been revealed to be institutionally corrupt.

  • It has been reported that more black aboriginals died in detention in 1984 in Australian jails compared to black South African's killed by apartheid during the same year, (at the peak of apartheid!). There were only 170 000 aboriginals compared to 25 million black South African's at the time. You do the maths.

  • The most negative South African's I have come across have been expat South African's living in Australia (most having left in the 1970's and 1980's). Many clearly out of touch, and only clinging to negative sentiment in order to help justify their decision to emigrate. Many use BEE as the excuse. Interesting how many of these folk have been prepared to lower their living expectations in Australia, yet were not prepared to do so in SA.

  • The competition for jobs in Australia is extremely high, with limited entrepreneurial opportunities in comparison to SA. Many people don't realise what sacrifices one would need to make in order to maintain the same standard of living in e.g. Sydney.

  • Ex South African's head up the highest proportion of
    Australian corporates compared any other group of foreign nationals.

  • Unlike the US, European and Australian mortgage bond crisis', it was not allowed to get out control in SA thanks to wise folk at the Reserve Bank and our retail banks decisive decision making.

  • Gold and platinum are at an all time high, thanks in part to the electricity crisis.

  • The US reliance on oil to feed their power systems throughout the country will shortly become unstuck as this non renewable resource comes to an end. Imagine that electricity crisis!

  • John Howard, often referred to as George W Bush's bag carrier, fully supported the ridiculous war in Iraq at face value, whilst SA politicians were prepared to see the other side to the story and make a stand, whilst the US was threatening "you're with or against us".

  • South African politicians (and ex-politicians) have been called in to mediate in numerous international disputes, some having lasted for decades, due to our reputation for understanding both sides of the story before coming to conclusions, e.g. Ireland, Iraq, Iran, Israel, US-Cuba, Ivory Coast, and many other African countries. Must say something about our reputation for level headedness and professionalism, despite the soothsayers.

  • Last weekend it was 35ºC in Cape Town, and -35ºC in Toronto. Which would you prefer?

  • The other day we drove around the magnificent Cape Peninsula
    for lunch and spotted 4 whales lurching in the waves.

  • Our wine in SA is incredibly cheap compared to equivalent quality wines of France, Australia, America, Italy, even Chile. That alone in my view is a damn good reason to live in SA and not to moan too loudly!

  • A fine dinner out with my wife at a good restaurant in Sydney set me back R1450 (with one starter, two mains and one desert, a bottle of wine and two coffees between us). The same quality here would cost us no more than R450.

  • My two young sons have the opportunity to grow up in an incredibly interesting, challenging and amazingly culturally diverse society. They have an opportunity to interact with fascinating differences each day of their lives, and to grow up to become extremely well rounded, understanding, culturally and religiously accepting individuals, that can only add enormous value to our complicated, bigoted world. I think that they will be well placed to help bring societies and people of different positions together, through there own experiences.

  • We have the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful parts of the world, untouched by human destruction and so called 'progress' due to excellent environmental management, within and just beyond our borders. Something that we shouldn't take for granted.

  • And I could go on

I don't think that things are perfect by any means, nor are they going to be that easy for some time in SA, but that goes for the rest of the world as well. Nevertheless it doesn't help to harp on only the negativities instead of making things work. The situation we find ourselves in has a lot to
do with each of us, rather than just the Government. Although they must be clearly held accountable, we all need to do our part and find solutions rather than simply criticise. I am often embarrassed and shocked when some of the self righteous criticism comes from my own friends and associates.


Perhaps we all need a gentle reminder about the varying shades of green grass from time to time. And as for my friends, I quite like the fact that we agree to disagree from time to time. Makes dinner party conversations somewhat animated and far more interesting than I've experienced abroad.

So, those are a few reasons, why I don't think that this is such a bad place. Imagine when (not if!) we get the crime story sorted out! I don't think there'd be a place in the world as brilliant as this.
Greg Castle

Second E-Mail: 14 Feb 2008

This is the 2nd e-mail that I've received on the state of South Africa, as with the other e-mails I've reproduced this is as it was received, apparently authored by the CEO of Dimension Data (http://www.dimensiondata.com/za) from here on in referred to as Mr CEO, the copy of the mail I received had no address history to provide confirmation of the fact that is was sent from Dimension Data or any clues to the name of the author – the current CEO of Dimension Data is Brett William Dawson, but without more proof that this was actually written by him we'll call the author Mr CEO.

Clearly Mr CEO is being motivational, he somewhat successfully dovetails his piece with that of Mr Alan Knot-Craig, now if this was indeed written by a corporate leader, I feel justified in criticising the piece as naïve and many of the arguments will not stand up to being scrutinised. The mantra of “Head up, chest out, walk with a spring in your step and be Proudly South African.” is a positive one, but Mr CEO the next time one of your projects runs over time and over budget remember... “Head up, chest out, walk with a spring in your step and be Proudly South African.”

Nevertheless thank you for taking the time to compile such a good hearted motivational message and I'm sure that is the spirit that most South Africans will have read it in.

Thank you for your effort Mr CEO.

DIMENSION DATA CEO MESSAGE

This past weekend I have had the opportunity to think a bit about the country in which we live. My thinking was prompted not only by the State of the Nation Address delivered on Friday by President Thabo Mbeki, but also by the media discussions on the 'state of the country' and the numerous comments I have heard in passing.

Much of the recent kitchen and corridor talk that I hear, and I will admit have been part of, has been focused on the country and its ailments. Who would have thought so many hours of conversation could be dedicated to the new phenomenon that is affectionately known as load shedding. We all need to stop for a minute and take stock as we are talking ourselves into, to quote Shakespeare, "a winter of discontent" for no logical or rational reason.

Putting aside my bias due to the fact that I was born in South Africa and I live here, I honestly believe that South Africa is easily the greatest country in the world. And, I would very happily bet that there are 48 million other South Africans, and many millions of non-South Africans, who heartily agree with me. We all know the obvious things that make this country great, and perhaps we take them for granted and should appreciate them more: great weather, beautiful countryside, interesting mix of cultures, world's most progressive Constitution, best wine in the world (every year SA wins international awards), biltong, nik naks, rainbow people, Kruger Park, Nelson Mandela, South African flag, Mrs Balls Chutney and the greatest number of public holidays.

Not much to moan about on that list. However, I think that if each of us is honest with ourselves we perhaps have been moaning a bit lately. And as much as I can list all the fantastic things about this fantastic country I know I will always hear a "but what about...?"

So, I am going to tackle the most common "but what about...?", from a logical, rational and emotional perspective. Alan Knott-Craig (iburst CEO not Vodacom CEO) recently sent an email to his team with the sentiment that no where in the world beats South Africa and whatever hardships, irritations and inconveniences that are thrown at South Africans they are ready for them and emerge stronger and better. This is very true. But, as in every thriving democracy there will be a "but what about." Here goes.

But what about..the political situation? When people say "but what about the political situation", we all know that what people are really saying is "what about Zuma being elected as ANC President and Mbeki being the President of the country and what about all the alleged charges against Zuma"? This what I say about it.

The ANC election held in Polokwane in December 2007 is evidence that democracy is alive and well. Zuma was voted by a majority to be the leader of the party. This process of voting for leaders of political parties happens the world over - and the person who gets the majority of votes becomes the leader. This should be celebrated - this is a foundation of democracy.

The ANC is the ruling party and have a huge majority - this can not be disputed. There is consensus that the ANC will continue to govern the country for the foreseeable future given the percentage of votes received at the last election.

The principles of the ANC have not changed, and their conference theme "Building a caring society: Advance in unity towards 2012" is one that all South Africans can unite behind and I am in agreement with.

And the alleged charges against Zuma? This is why we have a justice system. Accusations and allegations against political figures are not new, and they are not unique to South Africa. They have happened before and will happen again. They happen in America, in The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia - just about everywhere. Democracies have justice systems that provide a forum to determine a person's guilt or innocence in relation to allegations.

The South African constitution decrees justice for all as a basic right, and the adherence to the principles of our constitution will ensure that anyone accused of wrong doing has a platform to defend themselves. This is how it is. Whether the allegations are true or false justice will prevail. This is the basis of our constitution.

Life continues, wheels keep on turning, government will continue to make decisions, the country will continue to progress, media will continue to report on facts, hearsay and rumour, and Trevor Manuel will present the budget speech.
Head up, chest out, walk with a spring in your step and be Proudly South African -democracy is alive and well in our country.

But what about..load shedding? Load shedding. This is a relatively new word to my lexicon and I am sure many other people's. When I did a google search for load shedding, the first three pages (30 items) were all about South Africa and Eskom. I don't suppose you are surprised about this. We have all been inconvenienced by load shedding, and the fact of the matter is that we will all continue to be inconvenienced by load shedding. However, I know that in true South Africa spirit we will adapt and adjust our lives accordingly because that is our nature.

In the State of the Nation address, Mbeki said "Among other things, we must use the current adversity to ensure that our homes and economy become more energy efficient. There are concrete actions each individual, household and
business can take."

If we are honest with ourselves, we can all reduce the amount of electricity we use - by doing just little things. Electricity in South Africa is the cheapest in the world, and perhaps we have become a bit too flamboyant with using it. Yes, electricity prices have gone up, but it is still the cheapest.

Electricity usage and telecommunications are often used as indicators of economic prosperity and growth. Usage of both these 'utilities' is growing significantly in South Africa. In fact, in the past 10 years, more than 70% of the population who previously had no access to electricity now has access. This is clearly a sign that the country is in good shape economically.

I am pleased that Dimension Data is doing their bit to reduce the pressure on the power grid. The light sensors that have been installed at The Campus are making massive power savings in fact we are saving 85% on our electrical consumption for lighting each month (614 MWh). This saving has knock on benefits which means 780,000 litres of water is saved per month, 300 tons of coal is not used and 550 tons of CO2 is not emitted.

Light saving is just one area where we can each do our bit. When at home let's turn off the lights we don't use. This small action, multiplied by 3000 (Dimension Data employees in South Africa) equates to huge savings. Government is committed to "ensure efficient lighting, solar water heating and geyser load management in households, including housing standards in all new houses and developments." Government is also urging "households that can afford to act immediately to consider implementing these energy saving
measures."

Head up, chest out, walk with a spring in your step and be Proudly South African - we can all contribute with a little effort and have a great
impact.

But what about...crime? Crime is an issue, and there can be no denying that. It is highly probable that we know someone, or know someone who knows someone who has been a victim of crime. I believe that it is universally agreed, although the universal agreement may have been a long time in coming, that the crime issue in South Africa needs to be actively and aggressively addressed.

We are often caught up in the dramatic and horrific stories of crime that travel the corridors as they affect us personally. We are stunned by the stories and feel anger, fear and frustration. And rightly so.

Government is instigating a set of changes that will establish "a new, modernized, efficient and transformed criminal justice system. Among other things, this will entail setting up a new co-ordinating and management structure for a system at every level, from national to local, bringing together the judiciary and magistracy, the policy, prosecutors, correctional services and the Legal Aid Board, as well as other interventions, including the empowerment of the Community Police Forums."

By actively participating in community initiatives and local policing forums we can all do our bit. Dimension Data has joined the Bryanston community forum and is working with local policing forums, together with other businesses based in the area, to actively provide input and suggestions for a safety in the community.

Government has stated their "absolute commitment to fight organised crime and improve the management, efficiency and co-ordination of our law-enforcement agencies."

"Of great importance, our success in the fight against crime depends on co-operation among all of us as law-abiding citizens, inspired by the principles of rule of law, respect for our judiciary and pursuit of equal human rights, which our Constitution enjoins us to observe in our daily lives and pronouncements."

Head up, chest out, walk with a spring in your step and be Proudly South African - we can all make a difference.

But what about.. What is your but what about...? What is the topic that perhaps your perspective is skewed. Let me know, and I will give you an alternative perspective. You know my email - just press reply.

South Africa is great. I am proudly South African. My corridor, kitchen and dinner table talk is now focused on what is great. I am not going to ignore or pretend that there are no problems. But I am a South African, there are 48 million more of me, and I know that we will face every challenge, every hill and every mountain that is placed before us with a smile and come up with a solution.

Mbeki closed the State of the Nation Address with the following words: "I am certain that South Africans are capable and geared to meet the challenge of history - to strain every sinew of our being - to respond to the national challenges of the day, including those relating to our economy, the political and economic situation in Africa and elsewhere in the world, and seize the opportunities that our country's progress over the last fourteen years has provided."

Head up, chest out, walk with a spring in your step and be Proudly South African.

First E-mail: 7 Feb 2008

This is the 1st of the e-mails I will be reproducing as reference material for some blog entries on South Africa. This e-mail seems to have done the rounds in South Africa with me having received it from several sources and some with rather illustrious address histories but none of those address histories could actually confirm this as having come from Mr Alan Knot-Craig CEO of Vodacom or iBurst perhaps both, so although I will attribute it to Mr Alan Knot-Craig I have no hard evidence and please keep that in mind!

This message is light hearted and motivational, it is also addresses one of life’s truths there will be good times and bad.
Thank you Mr Knot-Craig I hope you make good memories this year.

Hi guys,

2008 has certainly started with a bang! The future was rosy on 31 December 2007, but suddenly everyone is buying candles and researching property in Perth!

A combination of recession in the USA, global equity market negativity,

high interest rates, the National Credit Act and power outages have combined to create the perfect storm.

But don’t panic!

This is not the first time there’s been doom and gloom. Every few years the same thing happens. We experience massive economic growth, everyone is optimistic and buying Nescafe Gold, and holiday homes, and Merc’s. The positivity gets ahead of itself and the economy overheats, and then panic sets in because the economy seems to be collapsing when in actual fact it’s simply making an adjustment back to a reasonable level.

It happened in 1989, when SA defaulted on its international loans and the stock market and Rand crashed, it happened in 1994 when the ANC took power and everyone thought war would break out, it happened in 1998 when interest rates hit 25% and you couldn’t give away your house, and it happened in 2001 when a fairly unstable guy by the name of Osama arranged for 2 Boeings to fly into the tallest buildings in New York!

On each of those occasions everyone thought it was the end of the world and that there was no light in sight. And on each occasion, believe it or not, the world did not actually end, it recovered and in fact things continued to get better.

I think 2008 will be a tough year, but I also see it as a great opportunity to seize the day whilst everyone else is whinging and get a front-seat on the inevitable boom that we’ll experience in 2009, 2010 and beyond.

Make sure you make a mental note of everything that is happening now, because it will happen again and again, and if you don’t recognize the symptoms you’ll be suckered into the same negativity, and forget to look for the opportunities.

It’s easy to be negative. Subconsciously, you WANT to be negative! Whenever you open the papers they tell you about the goriest hi-jacking and the most corrupt politicians. Why don’t they dedicate more pages to the fact that Joburg is the world’s biggest man-made forest, or to the corruption-free achievements of the vast majority of public officials? Because bad news sells. Good news is boring.

SA still has the best weather in world! We’re lucky enough to possess a huge chunk of the world’s resources, i.e.: gold, platinum, coal, iron. The growth in India and China will continue to accelerate (India and China sign 10mil new mobile customers every month), and so will their demand for our resources. The government has already embarked on massive infrastructure projects (some of them a tad late, i.e.: electricity), and this will pump money into the economy.

We are all lucky enough to be a part of the birth of a massive and all-encompassing industry. The Internet has and will continue to change the world. The enormity of its impact is up there with the wheel, electricity, TV, telephones, and possibly man’s greatest ever invention, coffee. Not only does it open up an entirely untapped world of commerce, but it is also the ultimate disseminator of information and news. Apartheid would not have lasted 40 years if the Internet had existed! And you’re part of it!

I’m looking forward to another year of ASA complaints, IR issues, Plug & Wireless parties, BTS roll-outs, billing runs, irate customers, happy customers, orange bubbles, faulty elevators, etc, etc. The nice stuff makes me feel good, and the challenges remind me why we can beat the competition.

Most importantly I’m looking forward to having fun and making memories.

So ignore the doomsayers, install a timer on your geyser, and buy Ricoffee for a couple of months.

Cheers,

Alan

Can O’ Worms

Anybody with South African connections will have had a lot to talk about lately, most of it hasn’t been very positive, and it is on this “The State of The Nation” that I’ll begin my blogging.

My inspiration for starting on this rather broad and often controversial subject are some e-mails I recently received, where the authors with varying degrees of success provide some motivating thoughts for the challenges being faced in South Africa.

My reason for wanting to discuss this at all, is that I have many thoughts regarding the challenges often these thoughts will bounce around in my head and keep on returning, so in a sense this an exorcism… oooh spooky!

Following this I’ll be posting the e-mails… let the games begin!



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