RandGold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow is nursing sore ribs as a small price to pay for the 26-day motorcycle ride across the continent which raised $1.6 million (R17m) for abused women and children in the most poverty-stricken parts of Africa.

This was Bristow’s fourth trans-continental ride in which 200 individuals and companies contributed to the kitty. He rode 10 000km through the continent which is an amazing experience – enough to make anyone envious.

Bristow said he was accompanied by a team of two South African businessmen and his son, whom he said was a privileged compared to most kids. In Nigeria and Angola, Bristow’s team was escorted by police.

“Most South Africans think they are Africans until they come with me,” Bristow joked with journalists at an annual media lunch held in Johannesburg yesterday.

He is adventurous at heart, and it is laudable that he has gone out of his way to help people in mining jurisdictions where Randgold operates. While it is only a privileged few who are able to turn adventures into opportunities to help others, at the same time there are also those who feel entitled to hand-outs.

Bristow’s bike ride should be a challenge to other chief executives who are in a position to make a difference to follow in his wheel tracks. Imagine if all the chief executives in South African mining companies could roll up their sleeves and be seen to make a practical difference in the lives of their employees. The $1.6m is a drop in the ocean when compared to the money needed for social development.

Hand-outs are not a solution to solving socio-economic challenges. The government, communities in mining towns and mineworkers have also got to come on board and take responsibility.


Consumer confidence

If big and historical events like the general elections can light up consumer confidence, surely President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address could have had the same effect.

But that is a story for another day. Positive economic data came streaming in yesterday from FNB and Bureau of Economic Research that consumer confidence rebounded from minus 6 to 4 index points.

This reading was the highest since the third quarter of 2011, meaning South Africans have been for the past three years waking up to the sad news of low consumer confidence and how consumers were not spending their money.

The index hit a decade low of minus 8 index points in the third quarter of last year. This figure was followed by a minus 7 in the fourth quarter.

But what does such good news mean for the economy?

Well, the chief economist at Investec, Annabel Bishop, maintains: “The return to positive territory in the sentiment reading does not indicate a likely substantial future strengthening in consumer spending or economic activity, but rather that conditions are not expected to get any worse.”

FNB’s chief economist Sizwe Nxedlana said that among other factors such as a 37c decline in the petrol price between April and last month and the fact that interest rates remained unchanged following the 50 basis point hike by the Reserve Bank in January, some consumers may also have been heartened by the successful conclusion, and final results of the general election in May.

He said the same sentiments were shared during the 2010 World Cup. However, this sentiment does not mean that consumers have the money to spend.

Nxedlana explains that for consumer spending to improve, disposable income and access to credit will also have to improve. He added that things such as high fuel prices, higher interest rates and unemployment will prevent the growth in real consumer spending from improving.


Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Dineo Faku and Nompumelelo Magwaza.