The money eaters

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nm getting even

THE fellow who does my garden uses a wonderfully expressive Zulu word to describe the government: Badlimali – “they eat the money”. He is echoed by investment analyst James Greener.

To quote from his latest grumpy newsletter (Greener’s that is, not the gardener’s): “Things are getting pretty tetchy at the door of the National Treasury coop as more and more chickens are struggling to get home to roost. This week it was revealed that in calendar 2012, our politicians and bureaucrats managed to spend a record-setting amount of R184 billion more than even their sleek computerised revenue collection services had extracted in taxes.

“This 12-month deficit is almost 25 percent larger than was reported a mere six months ago. The tax eaters are pulling on their spending boots now that their role model and figurehead has been confirmed in the top job for the next half-dozen years.

“However, bond yields actually declined a bit showing that no one has any worries that people will be hesitant about lending money to Zuma and his merry bandits in order to cover this shortfall. Curious.”

Munch, munch! Makes ya think!

Serious socialists

THE French city of Dijon has sold off thousands of bottles of wine from its cellars to help pay for local social services.

The sale of 3 500 bottles of Burgundy raised €151 620 (R1.8 million). A single bottle of 1999 Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer fetched €4 800.

The sale was authorised by the socialist mayor, Francois Rebsamen.

They’re tough, these French socialists. Fortunately our socialists are of the champagne variety, who would never dream of pillaging the wine cellars for something like social services.

Louis Luyt

THE passing of Louis Luyt ends an era of flamboyant individualism and almost constant controversy. Whether involved in business (fertiliser, brewing), politics (illicitly fronting for the Nats, launching the Democratic Party) or rugby (Transvaal, the Springboks) the combative and colourful Luyt loomed large in all kinds of ways.

When a group of senior financial journalists hived off from the Financial Mail to start the rival magazine, Finance Week, Luyt was among a group of Joburg financiers who each took a parcel of shares to help fund the project. The understanding was that once Finance Week was on its feet, it would buy back these shares.

Finance Week did splendidly. It started buying back the shares. But at this stage Louis Luyt said he liked his Finance Week shares (which were peanuts in his business empire) and would rather hold on to them. A senior executive of Finance Week was detailed to tidy this up. But Luyt led him a merry dance. Eventually Luyt agreed to meet him for lunch to discuss it. But lunch would be at Luyt’s home in Ballito, on the North Coast.

The Finance Week man flew down from Joburg, hired a car and drove to Luyt’s mansion at Ballito. There the most sumptuous lunch had been laid on for just the two of them, the finest wines flowing. Luyt insisted they leave discussion of the shares until after lunch. Meanwhile they made their way through several courses and a bottle or three and spoke about rugby, politics, anything but the shares.

After dessert, Luyt made his proposition. He would arm-wrestle the Finance Week man for the parcel of shares. If he won, he held on to them. If he lost, he would give them back to Finance Week for nothing.

Now the Finance Week man was a wee Scotsman. Luyt was a huge hulk of a man who had played lock for Free State and come close to being selected for the Boks. The Finance Week man had no hope of beating him at arm-wrestling. Not fair, he said.

Okay, Luyt said, then they could play matches – best out of three. Which is what they did. Luyt lost and the shares went back to Finance Week for no payment. A playful fellow was Luyt and he’d had a lot of fun out of it.

Yes, Luyt loomed large on our landscape, not entirely pretty but imposing – a bit like a baobab tree. Controversial certainly, but we have lost a character.

Tailpiece

“I GOT her a set of diamond earrings for her birthday. She hasn’t spoken to me since.”

“Why not?”

“That was part of the deal.”

Last word

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. – F Scott Fitzgerald


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