The relentless logic of resource-fuelled racism makes predictable your headline – “Black activists call for Indian BEE exclusion” (Business Report January 15). This same logic guarantees the return of tribalism that so disturbed former president Thabo Mbeki, as he made plain in his public speech a few days ago.
Colour-coding preferential protection or access to capital and business opportunities in the winner-takes-all world of capitalism has an inexorable logic: it guarantees the perpetuation of so-called “race” in our apartheid-bequeathed racially obsessed country.
The business advantage that goes with “racial” privileging is so powerful it positively invites further “racial” fragmentation, which includes the invention of different colours and cultures with their own particular claims to the honey pot. This is the international experience of colour-based economic affirmation actions.
We’ve made South Africa fertile ground for this. The legislative basis for affirmation action in South Africa is the Employment Equity Act. I happened to have been a parliamentary researcher during the passage of this act through Parliament. Thus I know of the heavy pressure for (affirmative acting) equity to be based on the apartheid-invented “races” – African, coloured and Indian. Different languages, as a euphemism for tribe, were also heavily lobbied.
In the event, Parliament was clear in its rejection of these special interest pleadings. The Employment Equity Act, accordingly, recognises only “black”, a single category that gets reproduced in BEE: BLACK economic empowerment.
The law, however, has been ignored, when not blatantly flouted, with Parliament itself being foremost among the organisations that contravene its own legislation. The very “races” Parliament rejected nonetheless appear in all our official statistics. One can’t even go to a police station to report a stolen rubbish bin without being forced to choose a “race” from among the apartheid absurdities.
Without wanting to be a party pooper at our celebrations of the 20th anniversary of our “non-racial” country, we must not be surprised that (some) African business people (who, somehow and at some non-specific time, appropriated exclusively for themselves the legally recognised term, “black”) want to expel “Indians” from the economic privileges being “black” gives in the cut-throat world of an unfeeling market.
Making Africans the only legitimate “blacks” is thus entirely normal. Indeed, its normality compounds its repulsiveness.
Tell us your electricity breakthrough, Taylor
You report (“Earthlife pans ANC’s nuclear manifesto”, Business Report, January 15) that Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa “argued that Eskom’s coal-fired power stations were a legacy of the apartheid era”. Really? So how is it that just about every country on earth has coal-fired power stations?
Taylor adds that “cleaner and cheaper alternatives, such as wind, already exist”. Electricity is required on a 24x365 basis. The wind blows only intermittently (though residents of Muizenberg may dispute this).
That implies that if we are to depend on wind we need to generate surplus electricity when the wind is blowing, and store it, to maintain the service when we are becalmed. The storage system should:
n be affordable;
n not require any toxic chemicals;
n be able to retrieve most (“all” is a pipe-dream) of the electricity put into it.
The world’s top scientific and engineering brains have wrestled with this problem for decades, without result. Clearly, Tristen Taylor has made a breakthrough. He should tell us what it is.
Congratulations, ANC, on nuclear manifesto
I refer to Donwald Pressly’s article, “Earthlife pans ANC’s nuclear manifesto”, on January 15. The manifesto expressly includes nuclear generation in the future energy mix. Earthlife Africa believes on principle that renewable sources can do it all.
The case for nuclear is easily expressed. We’re talking principally about base-load energy, reliable power stations working near full capacity day and night. It is idle to suggest that sporadic, unreliable wind energy can meet the requirement. Fossil-fired, nuclear, or in countries lucky enough to have it, hydroelectric power must be used. South Africa has little hydropower or, it appears, pumped storage potential. Coal-fired stations are a global and especially a local environmental disaster. Look at Witbank, Bethal and Ogies. Fracking is a possibility but, at present, only a possibility. Concentrated solar power (CSP) with molten salt storage may also help – but at considerable cost. In today’s world, nuclear remains the only environmentally acceptable solution for base-load energy.
And it’s here for ever. The technology is evolving. Future generations of nuclear power stations will make far more effective and safer use of existing uranium and thorium resources. There is enough for 1 000 years or more.
Extra energy must be generated during daylight hours. Nuclear power stations can be modified to load-follow, as in France, but a better bet may be solar energy. Considerable areas will have to be covered with photovoltaic panels, but in the sun-drenched Northern Cape, in particular, there is infinite space.
With currently proven technology, the vision to work towards should, therefore, be based on nuclear 24/7 supported by imported hydro and topped up during the day by solar power. Oil and gas, or CSP with energy storage, will have to cover short-term fluctuations in daily demand.
The ANC is to be congratulated for keeping its collective feet on the ground.
When it comes to taxation, less is more
The millstone that is killing productivity and enterprise is excessive taxation and over-regulation, not only in South Africa but particularly in the developed world.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent decision to scrap 8 000 redundant federal regulations and save $1 billion (R10.9bn) as a result shows the way forward in incentivising productivity.
As president of the US, Ronald Reagan demonstrated that by reducing the top tax from 70 percent to 28 percent and by reforming the tax system from 14 to three brackets, America’s gross national profit increased by 27 percent. Workers became more productive and made their employers more competitive in world markets.
As governor of California, on four occasions when the state’s budget realised a surplus, Reagan returned that money to taxpayers by way of reducing their tax obligations. He incentivised productivity by getting the government off the backs of workers and out of their pockets and helped California become the seventh largest economy in the world.
The only way to generate real growth in our economy is to reduce taxes and to prune the size of government. The bloated cabinet would be the place to start. Tony Blair governed Britain with 18 ministers. Why do we have 64 (including deputies)?
Less taxation and regulation, as Reagan proved, increases productivity which, in turn, increases revenue collection. We need to embrace the philosophy that less is more.
Duncan Du Bois
Consumer body cops out with referrals
The establishment of the National Consumer Council (NCC) and its tribunal parent tasked them to enforce the provisions of the admirable Consumer Protection Act of 2011, and was widely welcomed by consumer organisations and the general public as an invaluable protector of long-suffering South African consumers.
Unfortunately, the initial commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi seemed to be more adept at media manipulation, spinning elaborate excuses for the ineptitude and lack of service emanating from her organisation. When the Department of Trade and Industry thankfully replaced her with acting commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed, there were high hopes that at last the NCC would fulfil its consumer protection mandate. Hopefully, the new commissioner would only accept the job after insisting the government provide adequate financial and logistical support.
Listening to Mohamed recently being interviewed on a local radio talk show, I was disappointed to hear that the system has deteriorated. Instead of the new commissioner upgrading the ethic and capability of the dysfunctional NCC, it has transpired that the functionality has been downgraded.
No longer will NCC compliance notices be served on recalcitrant suppliers of inferior services and goods. Instead, complainants will be referred to the various industry ombud offices. One wonders why it is thus even necessary to outlay a sizable budget on running the NCC, merely for it to pass the buck onto a plethora of ombuds, some capable, many deficient?
Many of the ombuds are disappointing paper tigers who seem often to take the side of the industry they represent. I think of the banking ombudsman who has spectacularly failed to protect clients against the scourge of stop order exploitation and fraud. The long-awaited disciplining of arrogant serial offending entities like the airlines and cellular service providers will evaporate like a puddle in the Karoo. Many of the ombuds have limited powers and, for instance, some only make determinations on faulty goods but exclude service-related issues, and vice versa.
In the act, the NCC was given compliance authority over all large metro councils which is another group of serial offenders. Who will the NCC refer the tens of thousands of aggrieved ratepayers to ?
The NCC was formed with much government fanfare, and launched after lengthy delays, to enforce the Consumer Protection Act. Mohamed’s new referral policy is a sly and wimpish cop-out.
Hopefully, some feisty South African consumer journos will take up the cudgels and expose this disappointing farce.