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Treasure Islands

14 January 2014, 07:42

South Africa’s Treasure Islands.

Yes folks, islands not island. Almost everybody who can read and write has rubbed shoulders with Robert Louis Stevenson’s  “Treasure Island”, in some shape or form, either in the classic form, or in comic variant of Walt Disney.

Mostly when the name “Treasure Island” comes up, we automatically think of huge hidden     treasures, which are sought after by the most rapacious and unscrupulous of men, with  inclinations to piracy.

The ENCA debate as regards the cost of cell phoning in SA, (plus minus 10 days ago) brought home to me once again, what an accumulation of “Treasure Islands” South Africa has become. According to the ENCA  program, Vodephone and MTN make 3000% profit on  their deals, which they then use to flea hop to the next African country  for the next start up. (I have to presume that ENCA did researched their theme before going on air) 

The CEO of MTN, a very suave gentleman, who was taking part in the discussion, when asked whether this 3000% profit was true or not, gave a convoluted untransparent answer, which is of course, what they all do when faced with uncomfortable truths. A direct answer of yes or no, never crossed his lips. At the end of the day, one was left asking oneself, what did he actually say, which is exactly what he wanted, confusion, fog and obfuscations.

These kinds of deals are only possible with governmental consent, because government too creams off.  So I have to deduce that one greasy paw, greases a whole lot of ANC greasy paws.

Just how much these decisions made “at the top” play out at the lowest echelons of the food chain, was made clear by an activist from Grahamstown. She told of poor people going without food, so as to buy airtime, just in case they should receive a call telling them of a job possibility!

A while back, SA banks, because of their extraordinary high charges, were known in financial parlance, as “Treasure Islands.” Although over the years, much of the clamour has died down, I took a dip into Internet to make a quick comparison of the 4 big SA banks. To be honest, (I do not come from the financial sector) what I saw there was mainly a cut and paste job. What they cut off at one corner was pasted on the other side. There was no real meaningful competition what so ever between theses 4 banks.

A gardener/janitor friend of mine, asked me to walk beside him as he bought a modest, v. modest house, which I agreed to do. As we trawled through Internet, looking for a fitting object, I could not help noticing that a R240 000 house, (mostly not larger then 60 square metres) paid off over 20 years at 8 ½ %, came to nearly R1 000 000 at the end of twenty years!  To put it even more clearly, the owner will have paid for nearly 4 X the original asking price! These kinds of interest rates are not “poor-friendly” and can only exist with ANC consent.  One can almost speak of legalized thievery.

For a stable and peaceful SA, we should be making it easier for those with thin wallets to own property. For these folks to bring up 240,000 cash on a gardener, janitor salary is almost impossible.

Treasure Island takes all shapes and forms. With a slightly trained eye you can pick them up quickly. To be a Treasure Islander you have to have a good nose for where there are billions to be made, quickly without getting one’s hands overly dirty. Treasure Islanders   tolerate only a few market players who meet regularly enough  (behind closed doors of course) to divvy up the market between them. Remember too many cooks spoil the broth!

 (More players and stiffer competition dilute the market, which is poison to a Treasure Islander).

  Another golden thumb rule is that   you do not want those folks out there to understand that they are being diddled left right and centred so a refined gentleman like appearance is called for.  Cordial hypocrisy is the tone to be employed, as the Treasure Islander tries to make the questioner feel out of place, for daring to have asked an outright question. How can somebody not understand that Treasure Islanders are just upstanding and honest people who are only there to serve the people!

E-tolling already has all the stuff you need for a Treasure Island.

My last Treasure Island is of course Jacob Zuma and his 36 ministers and 32 deputy ministers.  I base this paragraph on Leopold Scholtz’s excellent article “Can Gordhan Cope?” (You can probably still find it in Internet).

Scholtz points out, that the Netherlands has 13 ministers and 7 deputies. Germany has 16 ministers and 36 deputies whilst Britian has 32 ministers and other junior positions.

Sholtz’s point is, that no country has more ministers than SA and, as Zuma’s star sinks even more and the booes get even louder, Zuma’s survival will depend on even more patronage, just to stay in the saddle.   Treasure Islands do indeed take on all sorts of shapes and forms. 

God bless Africa

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