The ANC will be holding a kiss-and-make-up session with FNB after the bank placed “deeply offensive” advertising material – saying nasty things about the ruling party – in the public domain.

Although FNB hastily withdrew the offensive material, for which it was accused by some in the ruling alliance of duplicity, the ANC still spent a considerable amount of time castigating the bank.

Today at Luthuli House the ANC will hold a meeting with the bank “in response to the online adverts of FNB that have led to the ANC raising its objection to the content of the adverts”, said principal spokesman Jackson Mthembu.

In a statement from the ANC’s communications office yesterday, the ANC said that its delegation would be led by the secretary general, “comrade” Gwede Mantashe. The FNB delegation would be led by Sizwe Nxasana, the chief executive of First Rand, its holding company. Significantly, he was not referred to as “comrade”, even though he used to be chief executive of the state-controlled Telkom.

 The advertising campaign featured school children discussing their hopes and concerns about the country. One youngster from KwaZulu-Natal, the president’s home province, said: “The country is being overrun by poverty… while President Jacob Zuma is renovating his home.”

Another from KwaZulu-Natal read: “Politicians tend to be the most destructive and eruptive (sic) aspect of our country… we need motives and a clear vision… we must not depend on our leaders. Each person must become their own hero.”

One assumes that Mantashe will read the riot act to Nxasana before forcing him to bend the knee to the party. The ANC said in a statement that the FNB campaign was an “undisguised political statement that makes random and untested accusations against our government”.

It looks like another kick in the teeth for free speech, from the same party that urged business to speak out pre-1994.

 

Rand

South Africa is winning the currency war, according to Azar Jammine, the chief economist at Econometrix. While central banks in many countries were battling to moderate currency strength, SA Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus has no such problem: the rand is weakening.

The term “currency war” reflects the ongoing battle among countries to weaken their currencies to make their exports cheaper and more competitive on global markets. The US and China were once the main antagonists, but battles spread around the world.

Massive liquidity stimulus – printing money – particularly in the US and Japan is currently devaluing the currencies of those economies. As money flees to emerging and commodity markets, seeking worthwhile returns, the currencies of their economies are gaining ground. A strong currency means exporters lose their competitive edge. And worldwide they demand action to counter the rising trend.

Expectations that this can be achieved are unrealistic, except for major economic powers such as the US, China and Japan.

South Africa was not immune. Jammine noted that Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel’s New Growth Path, launched in 2010, called for a weaker rand to support exporters. But attempts to moderate its strength at that point proved futile, as money flowed into emerging markets. Now, thanks to Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, the rand has weakened sharply to more than R9 to the dollar, despite the popularity of emerging markets among global investors. Apart from a brief intra-day dip in November, it was last at more than R9 in April 2009.

When Anglo American Platinum announced it would close shafts and cut 14 000 jobs, Shabangu threatened to review the company’s mining licences.

Coupled with continued industrial unrest, including on farms in the Western Cape, the comments rattled rand investors. Shabangu deserves a bouquet from Patel.

 

Newspapers

If anyone knows how seriously to take the competition authorities, it is surely Caxton, which is a regular visitor to the Pretoria offices of the Competition Tribunal – usually on matters relating to Naspers.

So when Caxton’s non-executive chairman, Paul Jenkins, decides, according to Moneyweb, that now is not the time to make presentations about industry concentration to the print and digital media transformation task team, he probably should be taken seriously.

The Competition Commission has been looking closely at the print media industry for some time and recently announced that it had launched two inquiries into the sector. One relates to a suspected division of the market between the four major players – Naspers’ Media24, Independent News & Media South Africa (INM SA), Caxton and Times Media Group (formerly Avusa). The second complaint relates to information sharing between the major players over paid-for newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Jenkins argues that it is not possible to make a meaningful contribution to the task team on matters relating to industry concentration while the competition authorities are investigating the industry. Some might say it would put Caxton and its industry colleagues in the running for the corporate equivalent of the Darwin Awards. Although there are others who might think Caxton is just being difficult.

Of course, the competition enquiries will not help poor old INM SA in its bid to secure freedom from its Irish parent INM. The prospect, however remote, of being slapped with a fine from the competition authorities is not the sort of thing that will encourage bidders for the local business. Ahead of the confirmation of the two enquiries there were reports that INM was struggling to get bidders to lift their bids above R1.6 billion. The weakness in the rand is also not helping as INM desperately needs as many euros as possible to placate its increasingly impatient bankers.

 

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly, Ethel Hazelhurst and Ann Crotty.