Recession, you ruthless mobster

2009-12-19 14:04

AFTER almost two years of nagging, the economic grim reaper, Mr Recession, ­finally accepted the invitation from bankers, or rather banksters, to return.

Banksters, who sold cheap credit to people who could barely afford it and then ­offloaded their loan books to other investors, are largely responsible for igniting the financial crisis that triggered this ­recession.

Maybe the banksters invited Mr R just to show the world how superior they are to the rest of us. Some of the financial institutions that have had to be bailed out in the US are now planning to pay the banksters bonuses. How arrogant!

As for Mr R, he has lost little of the ruthlessness that he displayed on his last extended visit, way back in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Millions were put out of work and thousands of firms closed.

In fact this year’s recession achieved what socialists failed to do in many a decade – nationalise assets.

As the year ends, governments of the world have emerged as significant shareholders in financial services and auto manufacturing after ­trillions of dollars in taxpayers’ money was spent on bailouts.

Mr R’s most vicious attack was reserved for the poor and the economically weak.

Jobs and consumer spending

His ravages this year have left Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi pessimistic about a significant improvement in job prospects next year.

He says the projected improvement and economic growth will not be enough to create or sustain jobs.

This year Cosatu forecasts that 1.2 million people will have lost their jobs.

This means that fewer families will be able to afford Christmas trees and lunches this week.

This possibility has been acknowledged by retailers who, unlike in recent years, are not expecting bumper festive sales. Most of the year has been tough on retailers who have had to offer discounts to get people to buy.

Even restaurants saw fewer celebrations this year as more people opted for home-based entertainment.

Biggest deal – well, almost

But companies also made big news this year. Telecommunications giant MTN came close to tying its operations up with India’s Bharti Airtel in a R182-billion transaction.

Legislative requirements and political considerations disconnected that ambitious call. And MTN has since announced plans to retrench about 400 of its 4 700 local employees.

Financial services

The financial management of the country also saw some significant changes.

Former Absa Bank chairperson Gill Marcus moved to the SA Reserve Bank. Her appointment made her the first female to lead the institution in its almost nine- decade history.

Of the four large commercial banks, only Standard Bank did not have significant changes at the top.

Absa welcomed Maria Ramos as its chief executive, Sizwe Nxasana was announced as the FirstRand Group’s chief executive, as was Mike Brown at Nedbank. FirstRand owns First National Bank.

There were changes at the top among insurers. Kuseni Dlamini moved from mining house Anglo American to head the emerging markets business of Old Mutual.

Thabo Dloti, one of the people who were seen as potential leaders of Old Mutual SA, is leaving the company to head up Stanlib Asset Management, the wealth management business of Liberty and Standard Bank.


Executives at parastatals have had a much tougher year. The lights went out for ­Eskom boss Jacob Maroga. That darkness ­also claimed the scalp of its former board chairperson, Bobby Godsell.

Eskom will remain in the news for years to come because it is applying for above­inflation tariff increases for at least the next three years. It is also in the middle of a large ­expansion plan.

Transnet can’t seem to transport a new chief executive to its Johannesburg head office. The transport parastatal is involved in a legal battle with Siyabonga Gama, who heads one of its divisions and is someone who believes he should inherit the top ­position.

And while transmitting news to millions of South Africans, the SABC made headlines itself this year.

The drama included neglecting to pay companies that produced content for it, ­allegations of financial mismanagement and settling a legal battle with its former boss Dali Mpofu.

But the story behind the SABC story was at board level. The corporation has an ­interim board, but at least it now has a chief executive in Solly Mokoetle, who returns to the broadcaster after a short stint at ­Super 5 Media, formerly knowm as ­Telkom Media.

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