Increase in listeriosis — 30 people die

Pretoria – Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is expected to provide an update on the listeriosis outbreak in which at least 36 people have died since the end of last year.

Motsoaledi is expected to shed light on the progress of tracing the source of the outbreak, with more than 500 cases reported already.

In December, Motsoaledi warned people to take the necessary precautions after giving an update on the outbreak. The bacteria is found in soil, water and vegetation.

"If you encounter the symptoms I’ve mentioned please rush to look for medical help, in other words don’t just assume and sit at home especially if you get flu-like symptoms now in summer," he said at the time.

"All the stakeholders are co-operating with the investigation led by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting their homes to sample food where available," he said.

‘Always take precautionary measures’

Listeria typically occurs every year, with between 60-80 cases detected and treated annually, however, in July last year, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg and Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria alerted the NICD to unusually high numbers of babies with listeriosis.

Out of the 557 cases reported, 345 cases were reported in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape which reported 71 cases, and 37 cases were reported in KwaZulu-Natal.

Following that, the City of Johannesburg activated outbreak response teams across the city to "help educate the public" on preventing the spread of listeriosis, a disease that has thus far claimed over 30 lives.

"We have activated our environmental health outbreak units to monitor all our food outlets and also assist in educating communities on what steps to take to remain safe. It is important to tell our people to always take precautionary measures and to avoid certain foods that might cause listeriosis if not prepared accordingly," said Gauteng MMC for Health and Social Development, Dr Mpho Phalatse.


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Water shortages the result of water socialism

Water Socialism Puts South Africa at Existential Risk

The Cape water crisis has been blamed on a freak drought, a lack of adequate municipal planning and resource management, and on Capetonians who “use too much water.”

But these are either proximate or faux causes of the water shortages. The real reason for the water crisis is South Africa’s water socialism which considers water a human right and a resource to be wholly controlled and managed by the state. Under a system of water socialism, we should not be at all surprised that South Africa faces water shortages. Shortages are, after all, one of the defining features of socialism.

The “human right” and “state control” features of South Africa’s water system render water one of the most wasted and mismanaged resources of all. This is particularly unfortunate since water is a critical ‘foundation’ resource in the survival chain and production structure. Even a small child can grasp that without water every system on earth collapses. The adage that some resources are too critical to be left to profit-seeking entrepreneurs has it precisely backwards – instead, some resources are too critical to be left to state bureaucrats.

South Africans have ample examples of this. State-managed education, healthcare and even electricity supply (to name but a few sectors) are marred by declining supply and quality, not to mention escalating costs.

Declaring an economic resource to be a human right is bogus and should not possibly be legally permitted to reside as a clause in the constitution. Stipulating that someone has a right to “sufficient water” implies that everyone has a property right in water resources. But since almost everyone does not, in fact, have their own exclusive access to or control of water, this implies a general claim on unspecified water resources. This cannot be a rational basis for any property rights at all. It is tantamount to no one owning any water resources, except, of course, the state who stipulates itself as the sole rightful custodian of it.

So South Africa has in effect a single owner of water – the state – that is bound constitutionally to act as though everyone owned it. It is a monopoly system in which the monopolist is forced to ensure everyone gets “enough water” whether they can pay for it or not. This system is the worst of all worlds, resulting in three core features that render the system highly prone to potentially ruinous supply shortages.

No market prices: There is no proper functioning water market, and so prices cannot form properly to reflect the real scarcity in the system. Water prices in South Africa are determined politically and bureaucratically with a focus on “cost recovery” rather than on marginal value in a free market which signals relative scarcity. Without prices to indicate real scarcity and make profit and loss calculations, it is impossible to know how to allocate resources to water production appropriately.

State monopoly inefficiency: Even if prices could be formed and fluctuate in a way that reflects scarcity, a monopolist producing a highly demand-inelastic good (i.e. a good that is such a necessity that its rising price reduces demand for it by a lesser proportion than the price increase) would have little incentive to increase production. Why invest money in raising supply when you can just maintain existing capital to milk higher profits with no competitors allowed to enter the market? Worse, since water management bureaucrats are neither owners themselves nor accountable to shareholders and are merely temporary caretakers while in office, there is practically no incentive even to maintain infrastructure capital. As infrastructure capital deteriorates, so water supply output falls further.

Excessive demand due to under-pricing: Not only is a proper price system impossible under a state monopoly system (point 1), but that pricing mechanism is distorted further by the constitutional ‘water right’ mandate which causes water prices to be set artificially low, and in many cases free. Excessively low prices only worsen shortages since consumers have no economic incentive to conserve water when it’s so cheap.

These three factors are disastrous to the goal of preserving and growing the supply of quality consumable water. In the end, you can only do play-play economics for so long before reality asserts itself. Water socialism might sound good on paper but leads to perilous shortages and costs inevitably rising to reflect this scarcity. In arrogantly distrusting profit-seeking entrepreneurs to deliver a range of different water supply services to various customers, the state is ensuring that, far from supplying water to all, it runs the risk of supplying water to none.

This is the state of affairs in Cape Town where water supplies have run precariously low, forcing the municipality to institute harsh water restrictions. The local government has scrapped the first-five-kilolitres-free policy in all but the least affluent suburbs, but even these new prices amount to a near-free R25 for 5,000 litres.

We know this is a dramatic under-pricing compared to the free market since according to various news reports people are marking up and selling municipal water in secondary black markets and some buyers are willing to pay around R3,000 for 5000 litres of privately delivered water in Cape Town. Water fetching these prices on the free market also makes a mockery of the oft-repeated trope that ocean desalination is “too expensive.” Instead, it is obvious that reticulated municipal water is too cheap.

Moreover, the system of water socialism means that government officials keep trying to bar entrepreneurs from supplying and selling water to buyers in need. The department of water and sanitation says it is illegal to sell water aside from retailed bottled water, and that doing so can lead to a prison sentence of up to 5 years! This threat is utterly ridiculous, yes, but also unbelievably tyrannical. Western Cape farmers tapping groundwater on their properties, trucking it into Cape Town suburbs and selling it to willing buyers is precisely how the free market begins to solve a water shortage crisis.

The same can be said of urban entrepreneurs capturing otherwise lost run-off and selling it. The more private buyers purchase privately produced water, the less pressure on dwindling municipal supplies, and the more market participants create economic value. Since the government also gets to confiscate the proceeds of economic value creation through taxes, one would think to allow such activity would be a no-brainer, but the technocratic socialists in charge are not renowned for economic literacy.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the party that governs Cape Town and the Western Cape is now scrambling to fix the mess it has presided over along with the national government. It is commissioning fast-tracked ocean desalination plants and rigs and aiming to tap some aquifers in and around Cape Town. It is also on a haughty moral crusade to shame people into using less water and fining them for ‘overuse’.

Despite winning the municipal election by a landslide, the DA lacks the political courage to raise prices to those obtainable in the prohibited free market, fearing it will lose votes. It’s amazing how higher prices and adequate supply, not fascist-style rationing, shaming and penalties on your customers, is seen as “politically tricky.” And with price increases, the government can still provide ‘free water’ to impoverished households via the use of basic water vouchers.

And so Cape Town sits with a half-baked solution to its acute water problems. The local government is finally taking steps to invest in new water capacity while cowing consumers into using less water and heavily rationing farm irrigation. As a result, the city will probably just survive long enough without running out of water to make it to the next rainy season in winter 2018. But what of 2019 and beyond?

Will the drought break and lull overconfident bureaucrats into another complacent stupor until the next inevitable crisis? Efforts by state officials to date in no way diminish the urgency with which the city, province and country need to end water socialism by allowing water resources to be owned and sold and proper market competition and prices to form. The state also needs to erase the impossible and dangerous constitutional provisions that scarce resources are “human rights” before even more people are forced to go without.


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Liars, damned liars and committed journalists – OPINION

Liars, damned liars and committed journalists

Trevor Grundy |
18 October 2017
Trevor Grundy on the role played by John Reed and Walter Duranty during and after the 1917 Russian Revolution

BETWEEN NOW and the end of November, there will have been so many such programmes on BBC radio and television about the Russian Revolution, that I’m starting to believe that it’s still going on and that Lenin will pop up somewhere in North London, wave in the tanks and take-over the Labour Party from Jeremy Corbyn.

Mass executions to follow.

So far, I’ve watched an hour-long (BBC Two) one-off special called Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution. Respected writers about Russia and Communism crossed ideological swords about not the one – but the two – revolutions that took place in 1917.The first was in February, without a significant Bolshevik leader in sight. Lenin was in Zurich, doubting meaningful change would come in his life-time. Trotsky was in New York. Stalin was the only one on home turf but unable to participate because he was doing time in one of the Tsar’s guest-houses in Siberia.

The second revolt – the October Revolution – is the one that has so warmed the cockles of the collective liberal heart. “Ah, if only it had been Trotsky instead of Stalin.” How many times have you heard that at supper tables where you live?

In the BBC drama-doc actors played the parts of the trio that changed the world. Some had cockney voices, others were Geordies from Northumberland. All the reactionaries had posh voices; all the revolutionaries seemed to be from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Action shots and stirring music and songs were provided by courtesy of Sergei Eistenstein, lifted from his 1927 propaganda masterpiece, October 1917.

Those taking part in discussion about 1917 included a cross section of Britain’s ruling intellectual class: Simon Sebag Montifiore, Helen Rappaport, Orlando Figes, Bridget Kendall, China Mieville, Victor Sebestyen, Martin Amin and Tariq Ali.

How long this lot would have lasted under Stalin is debatable.

For those driving to work or just waking up there was an early morning ten-part adaptation of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World on BBC’s Radio Four. Those of my generation will remember the 1981 film Reds starring Warren Beatty as the American author/journalist and Diana Keaton as his wife, Louise Bryant.

And in the afternoon, in case Russian Revolution withdrawal symptoms have set in – a series by the Russian-speaking journalist and author, Vanora Bennett called Babushka Dolls about high-achieving Russian women.

One of them was the German princess who became known as Catherine the Great. Between 1762/63 she settled thousands of her country men and women in different parts of Russia in order improve Russian agriculture. They were the ancestors of the men and women who became Russo-Germans who maintained links with the Motherland. In the 1930s they knew what was going on in the Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union even if the rest of the world didn’t. They reported back to friends and relatives in Germany and helped fuel middle class Germany’s terror of Communism. Hitler took advantage of that fear.

John Reed is the sort of person who pops up regularly when revolutions break out.

There were quite a few of them around when the first waves of Uhuru crashed on the beaches of the Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1957. In South Africa between 1990 and 1994 you couldn’t move far without meeting a John Reed think-alike, some well-educated “committed” Brit or Americans longing to be liked or loved by men who squeezed triggers and blew up people and who might one day hug them and call them “Comrade.”Jo


John Reed was born in Portland, Oregon on October 22, 1887. He died in Russia in 1922, the year that saw the Victory of Fascism in Italy. He came from a well-off, middle class family, was privately educated. At Harvard University his contemporaries labelled him a poet-playboy. In 1915 he met his future wife, Louise Bryant, a loud and lovely member of one of the more radical group of socialists in Greenwich Village. After their marriage, they received financial backing from rich Americans eager to find out what was going on in Russia. American Jews were particularly interested because of their loathing of tsarism which had launched so many pogroms and scattered so many of them around the world, the majority ending up in USA. The couple left America and went to St Petersburg. Their timing couldn’t have been better.

Reed might have been a man of heady optimism about Socialism/Communism giving birth to a brave new world; but he was also a man of physical courage and moral daring.

In 1915 her toured and wrote about some of the battlefields of the Western Front. He soon reached a conclusion that the only people who liked and benefitted from war are arms manufacturers/ dealers and the politicians who live inside their pockets. He wrote: “I could fill page after page of horrors that civilized Europe has inflicted upon itself. I could describe to you the quiet, dark, saddened streets of Paris, where every ten feet you are confronted with some miserable wreck of a human being or a madman who had lost is reason in the trenches being led around by his wife.”

His eye-witness accounts were second to none in terms of eye-catching phrases designed to attract Americans who knew little about the outside world. The American (Marxist) historian Theodore Draper said: ”He (Reed) went to Russia purely as a journalist but he was not a pure journalist. He could not resist identifying himself with underdogs, especially if they followed strong, ruthless leaders.”

For the almost unknown Bolsheviks (inside and outside of Russia) Reed and Bryant were useful oddities and they were treated as such by Marxism’s Holy Trinity.

Reed spent the day with Lenin. He described the Communist leader as a strange man – colourless, humourless, and uncompromising and detached without picturesque idiosyncrasies but with the power of explaining profound ideas in simple terms, of analyzing a concrete situation. And combined with shrewdness, the greatest intellectual audacity.” He interviewed Trotsky who he said was Lenin’s intellectual equal and who the long-term planner and schemer, Stalin, despised. The names of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin became household names in America thanks to John Reed.

But when he returned to New York City on April 28, 1918 he was in for a shock. He was immediately arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act by publishing anti-war articles and cartoons in The Masses which was banned and for a while replaced by Max Eastman’s magazine The Liberator which continued to publish Reed’s writings.

Reed wrote his famous book in a frenzy of activity. It took him exactly ten days to do the job. Eastman saw him at work –“unshaven, greasy-skinned, a stark sleepless half- crazy look on his slightly potato-like face.”

When the book came out in 1919, some of his critics, including the write Upton Sinclair (The Jungle, 1906) attacked Reed as a Bolshevik propagandist because of his refusal to write about the growing number of Bolshevik acts of terrorism. Sinclair also described Reed as “the playboy of the social revolution.” But Reed never pretended to be a neutral. In the book’s preface he said that in the struggle “my sympathies were not neutral. The American diplomat George F. Krennan was no friend of Bolshevism; but he praised Reed’s book for its “literary power, its penetration, its command of detail.” He said that it would be remembered when all the others are forgotten and that it was a reflection of the writer’s “flowing honesty” that injected in it “a purity of idealism that did unintended credit to the American society that produced him (Reed), the merits of which he himself understood so poorly.”

Reviews were mixed but not in Bolshevik circles. Lenin said “unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world.” A more balanced view came from Walter Lippman, one of the most influential American journalists of the last century, who commented:”Reed was a great talent, the great descriptive journalist of our era but as a descriptive, romantic writer, not a political thinker.”

Reed did not stay long in America and returned to Russia where he was sick and troubled about his past beliefs.

Louis Bryant went to see him in September 1920 and wrote that she found him “older and sadder and grown strangely gentle and ascetic.” She said: “He was terribly afraid of having made a serious mistake in his interpretation of an historical event which he would be held accountable before the judgment of history.”

Reed died on October 19, 1920 and was given a state funeral and buried in the Kremlin Wall, a place normally reserved for communism’s big wigs.

The year after Reed’s death, Russia’s new rulers opened its doors (just a bit) and allowed in a collection of men and women who might be likened to virgins in a brothel whose job was to tell the world about the wonders of this brave new world.

Enter George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and the two founders of the Fabian Movement, Beatrice and Sidney Webb. Tourists of the Revolution turned up in Moscow and were given the full treatment by Stalin who they saw as some sort of secular saint and an inspiration to socialists everywhere in the world.

Enter, too, a devil – an Englishman called Walter Duranty.


Walter Duranty was the flamboyant, controversial newsman from England who became head of The New York Times’s Moscow bureau from 1922 to 1936. He soon found out which side his caviar was on and played a curious game of privately seeing through the Bolsheviks while ignoring the horrendous world they had created which was all around him – well, almost all around him. At a time when millions were starving, the four room Moscow flat of the ebullient bon vivant Duranty was ever stocked with rare vintage liquors, caviar, exotic shellfish and the opium to which he was intermittently addicted.

He was hailed as a “comrade” by well-heeled Soviets in the supposedly egalitarian Bolshevik state. He dismissed most of his media colleagues as bungling useful idiots of Western press barons while he covered up by ignoring up one of the great man-made disasters of modern history – Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture and his extermination of the kulak class through wholescale slaughter and state-imposed starvation.

Duranty dismissed first hand reports by the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones who, in 1930, had been a foreign affairs adviser to the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.

In 1933 Jones – a fluent Russian speaker – toured various parts of Ukraine where he kept diaries of the man-made starvation throughout large parts of Russia.

On his return to Berlin in March 1933 he published an article in the Manchester Guardian and The New York Evening Post which revealed the scale of horror he’d witnessed.

“I walked along through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, ‘There is no bread. We are dying.’ The cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus and Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves what is happening.”

At this time, Malcolm Muggeridge (originally a left-wing journalist but later a forceful anti-Communist) wrote in The Fortnight Review (May 1, 1933) under the headline War on the Peasants that on one side of the Russian coin there were “millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the CPU (secret police) carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a storm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.”

On March 31 Walter Duranty wrote an article in The New York Times defending his new masters in the Kremlin. Under a headline that read Russians Hungry but Not Starving he lashed out at Gareth Jones who, he asserted, knew next to nothing about Russia and had undertaken only a forty miles work through the one famine- hit neighbourhood and found the conditions there “sad.”

Duranty wrote: “To put it bluntly, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and the Bolshevik leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive towards socialisation as any general during the World War who ordered a costly attack in order to allow his superiors that he and his division possessed the proper soldierly spirit. In fact, the Bolsheviks are more indifferent because they are animated by fanatical conviction. The Soviet Union is too big to permit a hasty study and it is the foreign correspondent’s job to present a whole picture, not part of it.”

He reeled out “the facts” which told Americans readers that Yes there were sometime shortages but not a famine. “The big cities,” he reassured his readers, “and the army are adequately supplied with food. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

The lies were well rewarded.

After an exclusive interview with Stalin – one that softened Washington’s hard line against the Bolsheviks – Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for the thirteen articles he wrote for The New York Times which analysed the Soviet Union under Stalin. “They were,” said the Pulitzer Board “marked by scholarship, profundity, impartiality, sound judgment and exceptional clarity.”

Duranty’s Pulitzer is seen as an insult to millions of Ukrainians who have launched a series of initiatives to persuade the Pulitzer Board to revoke the award to Duranty.

Muggeridge went on to describe Duranty as “the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in half a century of journalism.”

In his great and courageous book Assignment in Utopia (George Murray &Co 1938) Eugene Lyons said that what Duranty wrote for The New York Times became “the classic example of journalistic understatement. It characterizes the whole shabby episode of our failure to report honestly the gruesome Russian famine of 1932/33.” He wrote: “The circumstances that the government barred us from the afflicted regions may serve as our formal excuse. But a deaf-and-dumb reporter hermetically sealed in a hotel room could not have escaped knowledge of the essential facts.”

In her book “Stalin’s Apologist” (Oxford University Press, 1990) S.J. Taylor described Duranty as a man “untainted by so much as the specter of a belief in any political or humanistic ideal, solely motivated by the goal of his own celebrity.” She nailed his deception by revealing a meeting Duranty had with an official from the British Embassy in Moscow in the autumn of 1933 after he had made a short tour of some of Russia’s starving areas.

He told the British that “the Ukraine had been bled white” and estimated the number of deaths at ten million.


While the British public is being treated kindly by so many confusing interpretations of the ten days that shook the world in irony – even laughter – isn’t far away.

Putin’s Russia faces problems. The judo-addicted Russian leader is reluctant to repeat romantic myths about revolution and the glory one hundred years ago attached to overthrowing tyrants who have corrupt, national resources grabbing, friends in high places.

And the colourfully–clad Russian Orthodox priests and monks he hugs so tight to his publicly displayed manly chest have their doubts about praising Lenin who authorized the murder of Nicholas II and his family. The late tsar has been declared a saint by the national church.

Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin. Not as seen by liberals in West London but by the great great grandchildren of the men this trio dominated and slaughtered all those years ago.

As Oscar Wilde said: A halo doesn’t have to fall far to become a noose.

Hopefully all of this will interest those in South Africa anxious to rid themselves of people once with halos round their heads but now with nooses around their necks.

While the so-called “Fallists” hope to see the removal of all statues and pictures celebrating the lives of colonialism’s “ baddies” the Russian Government has approved the erection in Kirow, five hundred miles east of Moscow, a giant statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Polish-Lithuanian aristocrat founder (on Lenin’s orders) of the brutal post-revolution secret police.

He was Stalin’s willing executioner who oversaw the “Red Terror” in which secret policemen and state-paid torturers carried out the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of Bolshevism.

No doubt the students, lecturers and others in South Africa who want to see the removal of any trace of Cecil Rhodes, his imperialistic predecessors and successors and all other imperialist baddies from public space and viewing will have a thing or two to say about that.

Trevor Grundy is a British journalist who lived and worked in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa from 1966-1996. He lives in Kent England where he works as a writer, broadcaster and researcher


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Only 43% in SA employed

Cape Town – Only 43.3% of South Africans of working age are employed, says Gabriela Mackay, employment analyst at the Institute for Race Relations (IRR).

“This figure is lowest for black South Africans with only a 40.4% absorption rate in the labour market. These figures are low, especially when compared with similar economies,” according to Mackay.

The labour market absorption rate measures the proportion of people of working age who are employed and is a gauge to measure the health of labour markets in various economies.

Mackay says South Africa’s labour market absorption rate depends largely on a person’s level of education. “For example, the absorption rate for people with a tertiary education is 75.6%, while it is 50.3% for those with matric as their highest level of education."

According to the latest quarterly labour force statistics released by Statistics South Africa on August 8, unemployment is 27.7% for the second quarter in a row – the highest level since the data series started in 2008.

Fin24 earlier reported that the expanded definition of unemployment was recorded at 36.6%, up from 36.4% in the first quarter of 2017.

The unemployment rate for the youth younger than 25, using the expanded definition currently stands at 67.4%.

Using Statistics South Africa data the IRR found that:

– The number of unemployed people (according to the expanded definition, which includes discouraged work seekers) has increased from 3.7 million in 1994 to 9.3 million in 2017.

– Of the 9.3 million unemployed people, 6 million are under the age of 35 and young people show far higher rates of unemployment than older people.

– Of the 9.3 million unemployed people, 8.3 million are black and the unemployment rate for black people is between 4 to 5 times higher than that of white people.

“We estimate that reducing South Africa’s unemployment to international norms will require doubling the number of people with a job over the next decade,” Mackay says, “which will require sustainable growth rates in excess of 6% of GDP.”

She points out, like South African Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago earlier, that there will be limited job creation at the current rate of economic growth.

At a parliamentary briefing in August, Kganyago said although it is possible to have jobless growth, it is not possible to create employment in a contracting economy.


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Demise of mining in SA

CAPE TOWN – As South Africa commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Marikana shooting, Lonmin – which saw police gun down 34 mineworkers at a koppie outside the platinum producer’s Marikana Mine – today is a shadow of its former self and the platinum sector decimated.

Around 80% of platinum mines in South Africa are under water and earnings negative at current spot prices.

In the past five years 70000 jobs have been lost in the industry as companies grappled to stay afloat, and another 20000 mine workers face the prospects of losing their jobs as AngloGold Ashanti, Bokoni Platinum Mine and Sibanye Gold flagged that they would mothball shafts.

Since 2012 Lonmin once valued in billions, has lost most of its market capitalisation and is now South Africa’s worst performing platinum stock on the JSE. On August 14, 2012, its market cap was £18.32bn (R317.38bn) and yesterday it was only at £307.85 million.

Lonmin’s share price has plummeted 98% mainly as result of a R5.7bn discounted rights issue to keep afloat in 2015 after being battered by protracted wage strikes, rising input costs, a weak platinum price and slowing demand for the metal in tandem with its peers.

Rene Hochreiter, a mining at Noah Capital Markets said yesterday that the platinum price had plummeted from around $1300 an ounce in August 2012 to the current $980 an ounce level.

“In that time, the best performing share has been Northam Platinum with a 33% rise in its share price, and the worst performer has been Lonmin with a 98% drop in its share price. Anglo American Platinum, Royal Bafokeng Platinum and Impala Platinum are down between 45% and 68% in that time,” he said.

Hochreiter also said that capital market financing for South African platinum mines had dried up. “Banks realise they are not going to get it back,” he said, adding that there was not much that mines could do about the state of affairs.

“They (mines) are struggling to keep costs at zero. The only thing that can help them is for the government to drop taxes, and royalties, and maybe give a tax break for new investments, and maybe drop the empowerment requirement,” he said.

“With the latest mining charter proposing to add 1% on revenue as a cost is a killer,” he added.

The charter, which was gazetted in June, requires that mining companies pay 1% of their annual turnover towards the Mining Transformation and Development Agency which is yet to be established.

The Chamber of Mines, which represents 90% of mining, approached the court to have Mining Charter III reviewed and set aside.

It blamed Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, for not consulting the chamber and that the targets contained in the charter threatened the viability of the industry.

There have been several calls by organised labour for Zwane to step down, following the gazetting of the charter.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said last week that Zwane had not given much direction since he was appointed.

Amcu’s archival, the National Union of Mineworkers president Piet Matosa said last month that the union was planning talks with President Jacob Zuma about the removal of Zwane as the minister.

Lonmin’s share price yesterday slid 6.23% to close at R13.55 on the JSE.



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Government will turn Vodacom and MTN into the next SAA or Eskom

Following the announcement that government would officially begin regulating a plan around “data must fall” in South Africa, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) has warned that it will likely have the opposite effect.

According to the FMF this is because government does not have a clear understanding of what drives the data market in South Africa.

“There is indeed scope to reduce data prices – if government relaxes regulation, allows free competition and releases more spectrum,” it said.

“Price control is not the answer, nor is the proposed Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN).”

The FMF highlighted that while it supported the idea of “data must fall”, it was unfair to make comparisons between South Africa’s data prices and those of other countries.

“Prices vary from zero to hundreds of rands, from regional or national providers, from once-off packages to contracts, from in to out of bundles, from voice to text, and so on,” it said.

Other factors affecting data prices include country size, population density, coverage, geography, regulations, subsidies, licensing fees, spectrum availability, quality and level of development.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch, so costs associated with ‘free’ data must be passed on to consumers,” it said.

“Data is not a public good or a human right. Vodacom and MTN between them have spent around R20 billion over the last year or two on new infrastructure.”

“That money comes from profits. No profit, no infrastructure. Data traffic and innovation continue to explode, demanding continued and significant capital investment.”


According to the FMF there was no concrete evidence of anti-consumer collusion in the communications market and the biggest issue in the sector continued to be government regulation and the Wireless Open-Access Network (WOAN) proposed by the ICT Policy White Paper.

The WOAN is an effective nationalisation of the telecommunications infrastructure, it said.

“A WOAN might create the illusion of lowering data prices in the short-term, as government might artificially force the price down through price control,” it said.

“Prices will, however, drastically rise, as the government infrastructure monopoly is unable to expand quickly enough to meet market demand, or adopt latest technology in the fastest developing area. It will fail along the lines of Eskom’s inability to expand, leading to declining supply, and SAA’s inability to correct management chaos.”

“Such failings are virtually unheard of in the private sector, where the market demands efficiency.”

The FMF praised the current communications industry, highlighting that over 95% of the population enjoy network coverage – ahead of some of the world’s most advanced countries.

In addition, South Africa currently boasts more active cell phones than citizens.

“It isn’t broken. Don’t fix it,” it said.


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Vice Pres supports National Democratic Revolution

South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, hit most of the right political buttons when he addressed the 14th national congress of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in Boksburg last week. And he was rewarded with headlines such as "Ramaphosa on the warpath" against looting, state capture, and corruption.

According to some news reports Mr Ramaphosa "left no doubt" that those involved in state capture, including President Jacob Zuma, would be prosecuted – not "if " he became president, but "once" he got the top job.

In addition to denouncing the Zuma regime, Mr Ramaphosa said that "we cannot advance transformation to any meaningful extent unless we create employment on a massive scale, particularly for the youth". To achieve growth, "far higher levels of fixed investment" were necessary.

This was a speech aimed at mobilising political support, so Mr Ramaphosa could hardly been expected to enter into the political minefield of explaining in any detail what should be done to encourage more investment. Instead, he urged the SACP congress to "provide crisp, clear direction, on the urgent measures we need to take to reignite growth and create jobs". The SACP will be happy to oblige – although Mr Ramaphosa helpfully reminded them that economic "wealth, power, and control" was concentrated in mainly white hands.

Given his audience, it was natural that Mr Ramaphosa should also have reminded them that both the SACP and the African National Congress (ANC) were "inextricably bound to the success of the National Democratic Revolution" (NDR). This is the blueprint for socialism and black nationalism adopted when both parties were still in exile, and which forms the leitmotif of policy and legislation since they came to power in 1994. Among its key components are radical redistribution of income and assets, racial preferencing, and cadre deployment to capture all centres of power.

A bow by Mr Ramaphosa in the direction of revolutionary policy was de rigueur for the SACP congress. Given the pressures (not yet triumphant, as it turned out) within the SACP to enter the lists against the ANC in the 2019 election, this was not the occasion to mention the ANC’s National Development Plan, which is hated on the Left. But Mr Ramaphosa endorsed the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) no fewer than four times. Was his purpose to warn the SACP that any repudiation of its alliance with the ANC would undermine the NDR? Was he mainly concerned to burnish his revolutionary credentials? Or does he personally remain as strongly committed to the NDR as ever?

Although Mr Ramaphosa is sometimes seen as a great reformer, he has seldom said anything that suggests that he is not a true believer in the NDR. So it is odd that virtually none of the enthusiastic press reports about his speech to the SACP congress made any mention of his repeated references to the NDR. Headlines such as "Ramaphosa warns SACP not to jeopardise NDR" or "Cyril declares allegiance to NDR" would have been justified by the content of his speech.

By now, most political commentators and other journalists see Mr Ramaphosa as the great hope to displace the Zuma regime. Fortunately, the Internet makes the full text of politician’s speeches easily available so that the power of journalistic gatekeepers and aspirant kingmakers to shape public opinion by selective reporting is limited in ways that did not apply in the past.

This column has previously pointed out that the mainstream media and most on-line commentators have long ignored the NDR. Yet without the NDR policy of using cadre deployment to capture all centres of power, "state capture" is unlikely to have happened. If Mr Ramaphosa is able to oust Mr Zuma, he will do the country a great service. But his renewed endorsement of the NDR at the recent SACP congress suggests that he may be much less of a reformer than many people would like to think.

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. His memoirs, Between Two Fires – Holding the Liberal Centre in South African Politics, were recently published by Jonathan Ball.


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