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Letters Newspapers   2014

WHY PUBLIC LIFE IN SA IS ROTTEN posted 22 December 2014 

The saga surrounding the recent elevation to and subsequent withdrawal of Ellen Zandile Tshabalala from the post of chairperson of the SABC board encapsulates what is rotten about public life in South Africa.  

The Tshabalala case exemplifies in every respect the absence of a sense of conscience, integrity and humility that appears rife among so many holders of public office. First of all, she masqueraded as a graduate of the University of South Africa whilst, in addition, claiming to have post-graduate diploma. When that was shown to be false, she had the gall to assert that the university’s records were faulty. 

Then after her attempts at denial and stonewalling failed to find traction, the reasons she gave for her resignationas SABC chairperson in no way reflected a sense of conscience, integrity and humility. Instead she blamed the ‘negative publicity’ her case had generated as having taken a toll on her family.  Compounding her stunning lack of shame was her claim that she had never been cautioned by anyone senior member of the ANC that she ‘was going astray,’(Mercury, December 18).   

The Tshabalala case, like those that proliferate the ranks of the public service, shows clearly what is coming home to roost after twenty years  ANC cadre-deployment. Prioritising adherence to party ideology and loyalty has been at the expense of competence, eligibility and integrity. The shambles that prevails in every state department today is entirely the product ofdecision-making since 1994.


DBN-PMB TRAVEL HAS A HISTORY OF FRUSTRATION            posted 18 December 2014

Travel times between Durban and Pietermaritzburg have a long history of controversy and frustration. So the news that the test run of the Durban to Pietermaritzburg Business Express train took a disappointing three hours is not without precedent (Daily News, December 16).  

Before Durban and Pietermaritzburg were linked  by rail in 1880, the only means of conveyance was by horse-drawn coach or cart or by ox-wagon. The quickest of those was the post cart service which commenced in the mid-1860s. Using teams of four horses with relays every ten miles, the journey took five hours. 

Coaches or omnibuses as they were called could carry up to ten passengers each paying a fare of thirty shillings. The trip took twelve hours with stops at Pinetown, Botha’s Hill and Uys Doorns which was eight miles from Pietermaritzburg.

Ox-wagon transport was the slowest. When Bishop Colenso travelled  by ox-wagon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in May 1862, the journey took three days. An editorial comment in the Natal Mercury on 7 June 1873 described ox-wagon transport as the ‘very worst known to any civilised country’ because of its slowness and inconvenience.  

The condition of the roads was the greatest impediment to travel. In most cases they were mere tracks which in wet weather became furrows into which wagon wheels sank causing axles to break. Otherwise they were described as ‘rough, stony and heart-breaking.’ The only decent bit of road between  Durban and Pietermaritzburg was the macadamised stretch from the Durban’s centre to the Berea foothills which was completed in 1867 at a cost of £35,000.  The first toll gate in Natal was erected there to recoup the road’s cost.  

Decades of public agitation for a rail link between the port and the capital ended on 1 December 1880 when the first train from Durban steamed into Pietermaritzburg.  Its journey took almost six hours and included stops at Botha’s Hill and Camperdown. The rugged topography of the region posed severe challenges to the railway engineers which resulted in the railway being fifteen miles longer than the road route. Those same topographical factors are still a challenge to  Durban – Pietermaritzburg rail travel, as Passenger Rail Agency manager Eddie Chinnappen notes.


ANC CONDUCT HASTENING SA’S DEMISE                    posted 14 December 2014

The ongoing violence and internal wrangling within the ANC ahead of a regional elective conference to determine which of the contenders will head up  the eThekwini region serves to illustrate why it is that levels of governance under the ANC are in decline.

This unseemly scramble for position and power and its corollary, access to financial influence, makes a mockery of ANC claims concerning discipline, ‘selfless sacrifice’ and what Mandela stood for. With daily reports of corruption, looting, embezzlement and nepotism from all levels of government,it is clear who is serving who in South Africa.

As occurred under Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the ANC has long since obliterated the distinction between the interests of state and those of the ruling party. The zanufication of South Africa is already at an advanced stage. But with their heads so deeply ensconsed in the troughs of taxpayers’ money, the so-called liberators of South Africa, intoxicated by the trappings of power, have become impervious to the fact that their conduct is hastening our demise.


QUESTIONING MANDELA’S LEGACY                    posted 13 December 2014

Acres of print paper have recently been devoted to acclaiming ‘The legacy of Madiba.’Whilst his statesmanship and role in forging the South Africa that emerged in 1994 is rightly applauded, that is only part of his legacy.  What about his silence after his presidency ended in 1999?

Surely his failure to condemn the mismanagement and bungling which has characterised and continues to characterise the ANC’s government of this country since 1999 is part of Mandela’s legacy?

Thus, acclaiming Mandela’s legacy without taking into account his silence on the rot which has enveloped the ANC since his stewardship is historically disingenuous.

ABUSE AND MISUSE OF RATEPAYERS’ MONEY            posted 22 November 2014

It is the duty of opposition councillors to oppose and to expose the waste and misuse of ratepayers’ money. Three recent examples of this merit communication.

At the Council meeting held on October 30, R95,800 was voted in favour of providing a funeral and memorial service for former councillor. There can be no question that that decision was premised on ideological and political considerations and not on the interests of the average ratepayer. It also sets a precedent about which one can only speculate how muchwould be spent on the funeral of one of the current luminaries should such an occasion arise.

Then R310,000 was voted to hire 20 buses to assist members of  a Traditional Council to attend a meeting in northern KZN. The purpose of the meeting was sectionaland cultural. It has nothing to do with the ratepayers of Durban. Again, a precedentwas set: certain cultural interests may enjoy municipal funding. 

The third example involves a unit called Safer Cities. On December 4, officials from that unit want to hire a 23 seater bus, load it with fellow officials and police to tour the Bluff and establish where the crime spots are. When challenged as to the naivety of such an outing and the fact that all that information is well-catalogued by the local CPF and SAP station, the promoters of the idea were unfazed. It is another tick-box exercise and will go ahead. The ratepayer will pay and lunch will follow.  

For how much longer can the city coffers afford to fund such abuse and misuse?

FLAWS IN VILAKAZI’S  HISTORICAL NOTIONS                        posted November 22, 2014

Whilst the existence of nodes of commonality in terms of language and culture among the different indigenous peoples of southern Africa is not disputed, Herbert Vilakazi’s assertion that in pre-colonial times they constituted ‘one historical family’ (Business Report, 21 November) is not supported by the facts.  

Just as many European communities were insulated and isolated from each other during medieval times, African communities existed as separate, independent chieftaincies. Although Vilakazi refers to the ‘constant movement of people from one area to another,’ he is silent about the depredations Arab and African-led slave raiding and trading which caused a steady southward migration of Africans and also of the role of Shaka. The hegemony of Shaka after 1818,caused massive upheaval amongst indigenous communities resulting in subjugation, dispersal and  relocation.

Whole areas of what came to be known as the Transvaal, were found by the Trekboers to be devoid of human settlement. The Basuto evolved from the refugees who holed up in the fastnesses of the Drakensberg to escape Shaka’s raids.  The Ndebele under Mzilikazi of the Khumalo clan of the Zulu fled westwards from Shaka’s despotism settling eventually north of the Limpopo. There, in turn,  they  indulged in constant subjugation of the Shona people of north eastern Zimbabwe. As recently as the early 1980s, Robert Mugabe attempted to turn the tables on the Ndebele through a series of ethnic cleansing purges. Those factors along with the  black-on-black violence in KZN in the 1980s,  which cost some 14,000 lives, scarcely conjures up the notion of ‘one historical family’ as Vilakazi asserts.  

The spaces that separated African communities from each other before the colonial intrusion were, therefore, the result of internecine conflict. In Natal, for example, Shepstone’s location system was an attempt to identify and to provide scattered refugee remnants with territory within which they could rehabilitate themselves.  

One critical and much overlooked factor is that the black and white presence in southern Africa was established through the same means – invasion and conquest.

CLLR LOGIE NAIDOO’S DOUBLE STANDARDS                 posted 13 September 2014

Ethekwini Speaker Cllr Logie Naidoo’s exhortation to councillors to put aside their differences and to become ‘people orientated’ in the interests of municipal efficacy (Daily News, September 5) is the rhetoric of double-standards.  

For while he attempts to preach to the councillors of the Mooi Mpofana municipality on the merits of Batho Pele and mutual interest, it is not what he and his comrades practice in the Ethekwini Council.  

This was clearly illustrated at the July 31 meeting of the Council when, without a single member speaking or offering any reason in objection, the ANC rejected a motion I proposed on derelict buildings.  

At a time when derelict and abandoned properties are undermining the Metro’s rates base  because their presence diminishes the market value of surrounding properties, it is clearly not in the Metro’s economic interests to allow such properties to languish or to proliferate.  

Yet in calling for the adoption of measures to encourage responsible property ownership and to deter owners from allowing their properties to lapse into decay, Cllr Logie Naidoo and the ANC failed to see any mutual interest in the proposal and instead prioritised their inherent ideological differences with the DA ahead of what is good for Durban.



It is a reality that one cannot compel social equality into existence through legislation. Proponents of affirmative action like Rich Mkhondo (Business Report, September 10), nonetheless, persist in ignoring that reality.

Just as nature knows no equality, so inequality and diversity are human realities. In 1997 Thomas Espenshade of Princeton University analysed SAT scores produced by prospective college students – a widely used set of tests for tertiary admissions in the US. He found that out of 1,600 points, the scores of Asian Americans were the highest, exceeding those of whites by 140 points, Hispanics by 270 and African Americans by 450 points.

Mkhondo blames what he calls inferior schooling for the lack of progress in black advancement. But that is hardly the fault of the past. None other than Mamphela Ramphele is on record as stating that the old Bantu education system was better than the present schooling administered by the ANC.

Mkhondo’s lament that blacks are the victims of 300 years of ‘planned illiteracy’ is also tedious nonsense. The first tertiary institution  in Southern Africa, Victoria College, opened only in 1874; Natal University College in 1910. Until well into the 19th century, whatever education whites received was from missionaries, governesses or from their own parents. If Mkhondo’s thesis has any credibility he should explain why when the first whites arrived in Natal in 1824, they did not find any evidence of writing, paper, records, or even a wheel amongst the indigenous population. 

Thomas Sowell, an African American, of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University has consistently challenged the proponents of affirmative action. In his 2004 book titled Affirmative Action around the world: an empirical study,  he  found that race preference programmes have not met expectations and have often produced the opposite of what was originally intended. 

In 2007, US Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: ‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ (The Economist, 27 April 2013). Quite so. Affirmative action is merely job reservation by another name.




It is both sad and shocking that Pallo Jordan has  concededthat he has no claim to the doctorate degree with which he has been associated for decades. 

Equally disturbing and damning, however, is the silence of the tertiary institutions with which Mr Jordan was associated. Why did they not come forward long ago and dispute his academic claim? In an age when stringent measures are applied in the exercise of intellectual property rights, the silence of those institutions smacks of political toadyism.



The most basic law of banking is to ensure that loans are backed by collateral.

By attempting to defy that reality and pursuing a business model premised on

unsecured loans, the meltdown of African Bank is not surprising.


Apartheid had nothing to do with the fact that other banks “ignored” low income

borrowers, as Business Report (8 August) claims. What other banks did was to

adhere to the fundamentals of banking which is why they have survived and

why their clients, unlike those of African Bank, are grateful.


By exploiting low income borrowers with expensive credit, which is avarice of the

worst kind, African Bank has reaped what it has sown. Good riddance!




DARK ISSUES IN AUDIT REPORT             posted 31 January 2014


Although Ethekwini Municipality has once again been given an unqualified audit report by the Auditor-General,

the report cites several issues that  cast dark shadows on the state of the  Municipality’s governance and the

material losses it is incurring.


First on the list is what the A-G terms ‘significant uncertainties’ referring to objections lodged  in terms of

the Municipal Property Rates Act amounting to R217 million. As regards material losses, the report notes that

losses relating to water cost the Municipality R513 million and R386 million on electricity.


The biggest fiscal drag is R1,98 billion owed in debts to the Municipality. These are consumer debtors whose

recoverability is doubtful.


As regards governance the Auditor-General singled out irregular expenditure amounting to R325,5 million as a

result of contracts awarded to suppliers which were in contravention of the supply chain regulations. It was also

noted that family members had been awarded contracts by persons in the service of the Municipality and that

disclosure of those interests had not been made.


In terms of the ideal of providing a better life for all, the Municipality was found to have underspent on its

capital budget by R792 million. This is deplorable state of affairs as it means that projects that were in budget

did not happen. In effect it means that the money was lost because it cannot be rolled over into the new financial year.

The A-G calculated that 32% of planned targets were not achieved.


Overall, whilst the fundamentals of the Municipality are sound, what is of real concern is the ability of ratepayers

to continue footing the bill for debts and material losses  which never diminish and currently amount to over R3 billion.

If even half that debt was pruned or recovered, it would allow for a rates reduction and bring relief to ratepayers

whilst simultaneously serving to incentivise  investment in Ethekwini.