Well done, Ann Crotty (“MPs’ fancy dress sends the wrong messages”, Business Report, February 19).

Alone among your colleagues you have reminded those who care about the emperor’s new clothes. That the opening of Parliament should be an important and dignified occasion, there is no question, but why on earth the streets must be festooned with banners, traffic gridlock endured and endless coverage of the utter inappropriateness and silliness of “fashion” at the event, is beyond me. It is also way beyond fiddling while Rome burns.

What kind of person (never mind expert, responsible, or well-paid elected public representative) confuses the prime annual rite of democracy with the J&B Met or the Oscars? How daft is it for a minister of state to arrive in drag as an airline pilot? Do millions of South Africans even connect the dots between their circumstances and kilometres of expensive fabric upholstering mounds of flesh on gravity-defying heels ?

It doesn’t have to be an Amish service but there would be more confidence in our MPs if they wore smart, affordable attire that broadcast “I’m modest, serious and business-like”. Celebrate by all means in the glorious varieties and hues of the national costume that underscore our nationhood.

Oh, and spare a thought for those who go to bed hungry (again) as you tuck into yet another plate of food with the compliments (if not the agreement) of the taxpayer.

Alderman Owen Kinahan


Laager mentality is likely to destroy SA

Quo vadis, South Africa.

Here we go again, preparing for another election that everyone already knows what the outcome is going to be, no different from elections over the past 65 years. The diatribe remains pretty much the same, before it was Rooi Gevaar and Swart Gevaar and now it’s about corruption and greed and poor poo disposal.

The deep thinkers have little hope of getting any message across, and their defeat is not because of their apathy but rather because South Africa, along with all the other politically “young” nations of the world who do not know what democracy is all about, believe that the word spells out newfound wealth for those who have been denied so much over the years.

Shout out the word “democracy”, wave a magic wand, and all the peoples will magically receive a newfound path to wealth and happiness.

Not just South Africa but all so-called emerging nations have got a future ahead of them of learning how to walk the walk in the new world, where following the principles of global economics has become the only way ahead.

No government in today’s world can borrow money to create a happy welfare state that will flourish with half of its peoples sitting under a tree doing nothing.

Back in the bad old times, South Africa borrowed money hand over fist to build up the infrastructure, some of which is still not used today. And as if fate has dealt us a bad hand, we repeat the selfsame mistake. We invest borrowed money in new white elephant schemes and, furthermore, as if by some fluke of fate the rand starts to devalue again – well, it is no fluke. If you borrow too much and do not invest the money in projects that provide a return, then you step onto the slippery slope of bad governance.

The difference today is that the large private sector companies have sadly lost, or are losing, their appetite for being loyal to South Africa. The fact is, they cannot afford to sacrifice their companies, and they will not be around this time to pay the taxes to the government and help them with their bail-out.

Last time around we broke away from the Commonwealth and needed to build up our local industries. This time our home industries are battling to keep going against the flood of imports, our balance of payments is heading south and our bonds have every chance of reaching “junk” status.

This is not “doom and gloom” talk. This is about asking our economists to wake up from their sleepy defensive stands, some of whom said six months ago that the rand would steady itself around R9 to the dollar when, in the same newspaper, I said the rand would be R11 to the dollar before the end of the year. I appeal to them to stop their childish games on television every day of what share to invest in when it’s far too late to consider South Africa at this point in time as a safe haven. Every thinking person has already diversified offshore.

Now is the time to make every effort to steer South Africa’s future into global trading. The quickest road to disaster and bankruptcy is for South Africa to carry on with its drive to get its hands on all the assets in the land.

Our laager mentality will destroy us. And the more we turn our backs on the world, as was the case with Adcock recently, and the more we behave like school kids who do not want to play with other children, the quicker will be our demise.

The City of London is a great example to quote, for only 20 years ago there was a strong move by certain people in England to quantify the number of properties in Greater London that had been bought by foreigners. The laager mentality had raised its head, but today there is no question of London belonging to the Londoners alone. Visits to London over the past few years – they were years of recession by the way – have evidenced more and more tower cranes in the city, and more and more foreign capital flowing into the country – not loan capital but investment capital.

We need a groundswell of South African clever thinkers (some of whom have sadly already left and made their millions overseas) who do not sit around telling everyone (who is not listening anyway) that the rand is down today because the dollar is stronger, but who work their butts off on creating joint ventures with offshore giants to get the show on the road.

With the groundswell in global development beckoning us to get involved, we either jump aboard, or we live with the status quo and slowly sink into obscurity, or maybe mayhem.

David Milne