Chris Moerdyk

The sick rand deserves no sympathy

2013-06-17 08:00

Chris Moerdyk

When the poor old beleaguered, bent and buggered South African Rand started going pear-shaped recently, there were some people who tried to look on the bright side by saying that South Africa's exporters would benefit.

I notice now, a few months later, that those same people are keeping very quiet. Probably because they realise that while a few South Africans might benefit from a weak Rand the vast majority would suffer enormously.

Anyone who has had any experience in the world of global trade will know that when the Rand weakens, big buyers overseas don't just leave our exporters laughing all the way to the bank.

In most cases they also watch the exchange rates and when they see the Rand weaken they tend to out pressure on our exporters with glee, asking them to cut their prices and give better deals. Whether or not exporters have bought forward or not is pretty much irrelevant.  Buyers of South African goods use the weak Rand as just another leverage tool.

It has now become common knowledge that the reason why the Rand has sunk to such a low is because foreign investors and shareholders don't like the look of all the illegal strikes we are having nor do they like the fact that so many of them are accompanied by violence.

The temptation of course is to blame the strikers.

But that would be wrong.

The culprit I believe is not one single entity but three. Government, the unions and big business.

Frankly, all of them have let the situation get out of hand. They're all guilty.

It's no good listening to the Thatcherites among us calling for trades union to be marginalised. All that will do is replace trade unionism with anarchy. A lot more anarchy than we are seeing now.

It really doesn't help when big business is being seen to be rewarding violence and anarchy.

Tribe unionism is important to South Africa in the sense that bargaining is a lot better than wholesale war.

From what I have been reading and listening to those who have experience in this field, the only way to solve the present impasse is for government, labour and big business to sit down and work out a compromise.

During apartheid the power was all with big business and government. Today that power pendulum has swung way to the left and is fast falling entirely into the hands of labour.

And it is no good trying to persuade trades union and their members that the more they strike in the way in which they are going about it now, the more the Rand will weaken and the more the Rand weakens the more their cost of living will go up to the point where any extra wages they might get will long have been chewed up by the consequences of the weak Rand.

Government needs to get off its cosy high horse and start realising that they can't just keep hammering us with e-tolls and heaven knows how many other taxes while they sit safe and secure with fat salaries, bodyguards and free cars. And so too does business need to realise it can't just keep jacking up prices and laying off worker’s while they sit safe and secure on fat salaries and what also amongst to free eke airs.

Frankly, I have had it with politicians "warning" about things and calling for issued to be "addressed".

They need to start working at this problem with the unions and big business.

Because there is no more dangerous a tiger than one that is hungry.

And if you ask any striker why he is so violent he will tell you it is because his cost of living has gone up so much that he and his family is hungry to the point of starvation.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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