Notes from underground

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Archive for the category “business”

Land expropriation without compensation: who will suffer most

In the lead-up to the 2019 General Election President Cyril Ramaphosa is often shown on TV uttering rather enigmatic sound bites about “land expropriation without compensation”. Occasionally he elaborates on this to say that it will be done in such a way that it will not harm the economy.

There has been debate about this for the last couple of years, with the ANC saying that it intends to alter the clause in the constitution that protects property rights, to enable the confiscation of land without compensation. And so this has become a sound bite. President Cyril Ramaphosa has also been in photo-ops, giving out title deeds to people and telling them that these are important documents, without mentioning that his party is planning change the constitution to enable them to be rendered valueless.

Racist groups like Afriforum fill in the blanks for the President’s enigmatic soundbites, by saying that the government intends to take land from white farmers. President Ramaphosa doesn’t have to say anything like or about that, because Afriforum will say it for him, and thus help to secure votes for the ANC from people who might otherwise vote for the EFF and BLF, who have promised to nationalise all land.

The Afriforum campaign has succeeded in spreading disinformation all over the world. Almost every day on the Question-and-Answer web site Quora I see questions like:

I have never heard President Cyril Ramaphosa mention “white farmers” in talking about land expropriation without compensation. He doesn’t have to. AfriForum has done it for him. And AfriForum and similar groups have managed to create the kind of impression overseas that is shown in the above questions.

But to see the real threat of land expropriation without compensation, one must listen, not to President Cyril Ramaphosa, but to Gwede Mantashe, the Minister of Mineral Resources. He has been pushing for expropriation of land from black farmers, for the purpose of mining. And by using the land for mining, such expropriation, of course, will not “harm the economy”.

The first to suffer, and those likely to suffer the most, will be people like those mentioned in a report by Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthjustice. See here: Mining activists in SA face death threats, intimidation and harassment – report | Saturday Star:

The 74-page report, compiled by Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthjustice, describes a system designed to “deter and penalise” mining opponents.

The authors conducted interviews with more than 100 activists, community leaders, environmental groups, lawyers representing activists, police and municipal officials, describing the targeting of community rights defenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape between 2013 and 2018.

They report intimidation, violence, damage to property, the use of excessive force during peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrest for their activities in highlighting the negative impacts of mining projects on their communities.

“The attacks and harassment have created an atmosphere of fear for community members who mobilise to raise concerns about damage to their livelihoods from the serious environmental and health risks of mining and coal-fired power plants,” write the authors.

“Women often play a leading role in voicing these concerns, making them potential targets for harassment and attacks.”

But municipalities often impose barriers to protest on organisers that have no legal basis while government officials have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse.

These protests have been going on for some time, but I have never seen questions on Quora about them, and racist groups like AfriForum are only concerned about white farmers, not black ones.

In the media “farm murders” refers only to white farmers, mostly killed by armed robbers, not black farmers murdered by people acting on behalf of mining companies, or who think they can make more money themselves if the mining companies take over the land.

Last year we learned how the High Court rules in favour of Xolobeni community in historic mining rights case | News | National | M&G: “The Amadiba Crisis Committee launched a court battle against the department of mineral resources and Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM) over mining rights earlier this year.”

But if the constitution is changed to allow expropriation without compensation, would the High Court have any jurisdiction in such matters? Ramaphosa makes enigmatic pronouncements, AfriForum produces a convenient smakescreen, and in the murk Mantashe and the mining companies are going around dispossessing black farmers. And people on web sites like Quora are asking if “the West” will allow white farmers from South Africa in as refugees, because they assume, and have been led to believe, that white farmers have all already been kicked off the land.

 

 

Vanishing dishwasher tablets

Does anyone know of any supermarket in the Great City of Tshwane that sells these Bingo dishwashing tablets? Preferably one within 8 km of Kilner Park by road.

We used to get them at our local Shoprite/Checkers in Queenswood (it keeps changing the name back and forth), but then it closed for about 18 months while they were renovating the buildings. During that time we still could get them at the East Lynne branch.

Now the renovations are complete, and the Queenswood branch has reopened, but it no longer stocks these. They only have a rival brand that costs twice as much.

We tried shopping at the Silverton branch (where most of the Queenswood staff were transferred during the renovations) — see In a Relationship. But they don’t have them there either.

So if anyone knows of a place within a reasonable range of where we live that stocks these, we’d like to know, and will probably do a lot of our grocery shopping there too.

 

Pre-1994 — or pre-Thatcherist?

In a somewhat disingenuous article, My Broadband accuses Zumas government of returning to a pre-1994 structuring of Posts and Telecommunications:

Zuma going full circle – from apartheid telecoms and back:

Unbeknownst to many people, Zuma returned to the structure used under the apartheid government, which had a Department of Communications and a Department of Post and Telecommunications.

The cabinet of FW de Klerk, which ran South Africa from 16 August 1989 to 11 May 1994, had Roelf Meyer as minister of communications and Piet Welgemoed as minister of post and telecommunication.

Zuma’s decision to go back to the pre-1994 structure is seen as a mistake by many commentators – and they have a point.

In South Africa, telecommunications services were operated by the South African Post Office until 1991. It therefore made sense to combine telecommunications and postal services into one ministry.

However, Telkom became a public company in 1991, which meant that it started to operate independently from the SA Post Office.

This is rather misleading, and the give-away is there in the text — it was F.W. de Klerk’s National Party government that privatised Telkom back in 1991, and the ANC government inherited that structure in 1994. The previous structure was not a specifically apartheid one, but was found in most Commonwealth countries before the Thatcher-era privatisation mania.

telephone-5579776Back in the 19th century post offices handled the delivery of written communications, whether physically, by means of hard copy, or electrically, by means of telegraphs. These were complementary, and the services were integrated. Later telephones added voice communications to the mix but in many cases the same infrastructure was used.

Was the apartheid between posts and telecommunications brought about by privatisation a good thing? Some, like the people at My Broadband, might argue that it is, but don’t try to muddy the issue by pretending that the integration had anything to do with apartheid in the past.

postboxThere are similar problems when it comes to moving people, rather than moving words and pictures. An integrated bus, train, and mini-bus taxi public transport system would arguably be of greater benefit to the travelling public. But such a thing meets opposition from vested interests in the privatised taxi industry, and those vested interests are sometimes prepared to use hitmen to oppose integration, where as those with vested interests in privatised telecommunications services have not gone as far as that. But in principle the issues are the same.

Economist explains why whites earn more | Fin24

White people earning six times more than blacks, screamed the headlines after the release of the 2011 census.

I do not doubt that whites earn more than blacks – although in a way it is too simplistic to state it as such.

The 2011 census provides several reasons why white households earn six times more than black households.

One can explore the reason in two parts. Firstly on an individual basis where whites earn on average about four times more than their fellow black South Africans. The second part has to do with household dynamics and why it is that White households – again on average – earn six times more as households than black household do.

via Economist explains why whites earn more | Fin24.

There is also more to this than the article allows for.

What would be really interesting would be to compare what and black earnings are at the toip and middle management level.

I know of at least one instance where a white person, who was earning a very good salary, left, and was replaced by a black person, who demanded, and got, a salary a third higher than his white predecessor, simply because he was black, not because he was better qualified.

The difference in pay could have funded three entry-level positions for young people, most, or all of whom would probably have been black.

Now this is just one example, and I’m not sure how widespread this is, but economists somewhere perhaps have figures to show what is actually happening.

But I have a suspicion that because of BEE, there is a greater demand for black people in middle and top management than there is for white people, and by the law of supply and demand that means that black people can command higher salaries at that level for the same job.

And that is why BEE is not Black Economic Empowerment, but Black Elite Enrichment, because if the black guy had been satisfied with the same salary as his white counterpart, three more young people could have been employed.

We don’t need a youth wage subsidy, we need less greed in top management.

The problem is not primarily one of race, although that may play a part. It is primarily one of class.

 

 

How you too can participate in the financial crisis

About 15 (or was it 25?) years ago many building societies conned their members into agreeing to them turning themselves into banks. Was this the law of unintended consequences in action? Oh the joys of capitalism!

Bishop Alan’s Blog: HBOS: Personalised Credit Crunch:

Welcome to the share offer that enables you to have your very own credit crunch at home this Christmas. As a student I earned some holiday money and put it in the building society. Then the building society became a bank and my shares were converted into, er, more shares… Imagine my joy, then to be sent an “important document” this morning that “required my immediate attention.” It’s my opportunity to bail the bank out by taking them up on a very special offer — They are willing to flog me 261 shares, as a special favour, at only 113.6 pence a share. Here comes fate, tapping me on the shoulder, offering me a career as a major capitalist, and all for only £296-49! Deep Joy!

Brooklyn Mall — where shopping is a virtue

My wife spotted this advertisement for Brooklyn Mall in the local newspaper today, and we pondered on the slogan. Does it mean anything? Can it mean anything?

The only thing it conveys to me is that whoever wrote that slogan has a very twisted set of values.

I usually shop at Brooklyn Mall, which is 8km from where I live.

The reason I shop there is not that shopping is a virtue, but that it has most of the shops I am interested in, and it also has 2 hours free parking. Free parking is a virtue. Shopping is (sometimes) a necessity. One doesn’t make a virtue of necessity. The Brooklyn Mall web site, unlike their newspaper ads, at least displays their chief virtue.

BrooklynMall

There are other shopping centres that are about the same distance from us as Brooklyn Mall. I used to go to one of them regularly, but then they revamped their parking and started to charge for it, so you had to pay even if you visited one shop and found they didn’t have what you wanted. So I stopped going there, and began to go to Brooklyn Mall instead. And even when the original shopping centre reverted to free parking (perhaps others thought as I did, and they noticed the fall-off in custom), I kept going to Brooklyn Mall out of habit.

But that stupid slogan might make me change my habits.

 

Youth Wage Subsidy

There has been a proposal for a youth wage subsidy in  some quarters. Those who are touting this idea say that it will help to solve the problem of youth unemployment.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) opposes the idea, and has set out its reasons in a paper, which I think all who are interested in the topic should read.

I think that this kind of proposal needs to be considered very carefully. History can teach us something here. If the Speenhamland System had a better record, I might say that a youth wage subsidy was worth considering,  but it didn’t. Actually, if one applied the Speenhamland System in South Africa, it would be more akin to a farm labour subsidy. If the striking farm workers at De Doorns, and others in a similar position, were to have their wages subsidised, it would be a closer parallel, and some of the same constraints apply: if the wages of farm labourers are increased, the money must come from somewhere, and the most obvious place for it to come from is an increase in the price of agricultural produce, which would hit the unemployed poor hardest.

The question of a youth wage subsidy is slightly different, especiqally in urban areas.

One of the things that prevents young people being employed in entry positions in many firms and organisaqtions is that the salary bill is heavily weighted towards top management. In other words, if the bosses weren’t overpaid, there would be more money to employ young people at entry-level positions. So what is presented as a proposal for a “youth wage subsidy” could just as easily be seen as a “fat cat management income subsidy”. Mrs Buthelezi at Nkwalini would be  paying 15c in the Rand on her groceries  in part to subidise the six and seven figure salaries of top management in Gauteng.

This is exacerbated by the so-called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy. Among other things, this requires firms to have a certain proportion of black people at top management level. This means that black managers can command (and get) higher remuneration than their white counterparts. So a black person who replaces a white person at top management will be paid more — a lot more — than their predecessor. And that money could have been used to employ several young people at entry level. So BEE could more accurately be termed Black Elite Enrichment.

That does not mean that the white management people were or are underpaid. Far from it. The income disparity between rich and poor in South Africa is one of the biggest in the world, and is still growing, regardless of race. And a youth wage subsidy would simply exacerbate that.

I’m no professional economist, so the views I have expressed are those of an ordinary citizen. Well, a deacon is also supposed to be an “economist” of sorts, and the first deacons practised ekonomia. So I have a proposal.

I would like to see a gathering of Christian economists and Christian theologians getting together to discuss this and other related problems, to try to formulate a possible Christian response. Two that I know personally, who are concered about these things, are Dr Azar Jammine and Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, and I am sure that there are several others. Is there anyone else who thinks such a meeting might be useful?

 

The Bishop and the chocolate factory

One instance where this guy’s opinion is spot on

A Church of England bishop challenges Cadburys UK over its self-proclaimed rights to the colour purple.

Bishop’s challenge to Cadbury over the colour purple – Telegraph:

A leading bishop has issued a warning to the US-owned confectionery giant after a small Christian fair trade producer was forced to redesign its products because Cadbury had successfully trademarked the colour for the sale of chocolate.

In a landmark High Court victory last week Cadbury, now owned by the US conglomerate Kraft, saw off a challenge from its rival Nestle over the exclusive rights to use the distinctive shade of purple used on its Dairy Milk wrappers.

The ruling was the culmination of a long-running legal battle between the two of the world’s biggest confectionery companies but it has also forced a rethink by one of the smallest.

The Meaningful Chocolate Company, based in Manchester, produces a special range of fair trade chocolates for Christmas and Easter with a Christian message.

Last Christmas it sold a range of chocolate Christmas tree decorations with nativity scenes, displayed in a purple packaging – the colour long recognised by the Church as symbolising advent.

But the company has been forced to switch to scarlet wrappers this Christmas after being advised by intellectual property lawyers that it could be infringing Cadbury’s rights.

This seems to be the same kind of bullying that was seen a few years ago when an American firm took over the SPCK Bookshops in the UK, and systematically destroyed them. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this comes with a hat-tip to the very same Phil Groom who was one of the whistle-blowers on that.

As someone has suggested, perhaps we should extend the Advent Fast to cover Cadbury’s chocolate. We have sometimes eaten their Bournville dark chocolate during the fast, because it is non-dairy, so maybe we’ll drop that now too. I wonder if  Cadburys in South Africa is also owned by Kraft?

Orthodox Christians don’t really do purple for Advent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sympathise with those who do when they are bullied for it.

 

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