It was like a reality television show with the lead contestant determined that he was not going to be voted off. For the best part of a week, Bob Diamond was determined to hang on.
Currying favour with the audience, the Barclays chief executive presented himself as the best man to take the company forward and implement the necessary changes to its culture.
But the increasingly restless audience was having none of it; they wanted somebody voted off. And it seemed they were not satisfied with the UK prime minister’s decision to appoint a Treasury committee to investigate the whole scandal around the fixing of Libor, rates calculated for different lending periods.
So on Monday chairman Marcus Agius was booted off.
For a while, Bob’s job seemed secure. Few people reckoned that a major bank could afford to have the top two positions vacant. But Bob hadn’t realised just how fed-up the British public was with its bankers, so fed up that yesterday, in the face of ever-increasing indignation, he was voted off the grim Barclays’ reality show.
And where does this leave Absa? Bob was a keen supporter of Barclays’ Africa adventure and under him Absa chief executive Maria Ramos was appointed to the Barclays executive committee.
But sadly for Absa, Bob’s departure coincides with an announcement that Absa expects earnings to slump this year because of a need to shore up its provisions for doubtful mortgage repayments.
The underprovisioning in past years has heightened suspicions that Absa’s dividend policy has been determined not by Absa’s needs but by those of its parent.
This, of course, would not be the first time that a South African business has been harvested for the benefit of foreign shareholders. Which is precisely why Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is right that we need to look more carefully at the assumed benefits of each foreign investment.
About 98 percent of South Africa’s international trade is carried by sea through its eight commercial ports at Saldanha Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Ngqura, Durban and Richards Bay.
Unfortunately, none of the ships calling at these ports is registered in South Africa because it does not make commercial sense for those owned by local companies or those with strong local interests to be on the country’s shipping register. Instead, they are registered abroad.
According to the SA Maritime Safety Association (Samsa), they are operated mainly by foreign crews, with South Africans making up less than 1 percent of the 240 000 people employed on these vessels. This means they create wealth for the jurisdictions where the ships are registered and manned. According to Samsa, the opportunity cost for South Africa is “astronomical”. The R36 billion paid annually for shipping services “accrues only to foreign owners and operators”.
The government and Samsa hope to change this, and a conference starting today at the Cape Town International Convention Centre will discuss ways to do this. In addition to plans to make registering ships in this country more attractive, delegates will discuss port operations, fishing and aquaculture, oil and gas, ship building and repairing industries, and marine tourism and leisure activities.
Tsietsi Mokhale, the chief executive of Samsa, said the conference would be the first opportunity to discuss prioritising the maritime industryy and aligning its activities with the key tenets of the government’s economic development plan as articulated in the New Growth Path.
In addition to the ships and their crews, the commercial ports provide employment to 15 000 people and the fishing industry employs about 30 000, feeding an estimated 3.6 million people and generating R4.1bn in revenue each year.
According to Samsa, any future expansion depends on policy intervention and relevant support from the government.
After complaints from a former Alexkor employee, the state-owned Northern Cape diamond mine was inspected on June 6.
According to Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, in a reply yesterday to DA MP Jac Bekker, the complaint concerned the lack of availability of a doctor to deal with emergencies. The doctor appointed, in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, lived in Springbok, 240km away from the mine’s Alexander Bay home.
On conducting the inspection at the harbour, where alluvial diamond mining takes place, it was observed that the mine had poor emergency preparedness and response equipment. It had first aid kits containing expired products, no proof of emergency drills conducted, no life jackets for divers and no safety checklists on emergency vehicles used at the mine.
The mine had drawn up an emergency preparedness and response procedure that would be used in the interim, signed by the relevant parties at the mine. The mandatory code of practice on emergencies was “in draft” form and was scheduled to be completed by June 30.
The minister pledged that “as a lasting solution”, the mine management had committed itself to conduct continuous monitoring and recording of emergency preparedness issues at the mine by developing systems to check and review the effectiveness of implemented measures.
The department would also conduct “continuous audits, inspections and investigations to monitor compliance by the mine”. In addition, the mine had appointed an occupational medical practitioner, an extra medical practitioner and an occupational health nurse.
It goes to show what a former employee can achieve with just one complaint.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ann Crotty, Audrey D’Angelo and Donwald Pressly.