William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Dotty Davies gets ready to close up shop

Politicians and officialdom are not known for their grasp of nuance. This makes for inadvertently amusing acronyms to give us the occasional giggle.

We have had such gems as Boss, the apartheid era’s Bureau of State Security, Saps, the hapless police force that shot dead 34 at Marikana, and Wasps, the Worker and Socialist Party, would-be revolutionaries clearly unaware of the insidious nature of God-fearing white Anglophone capital. There is also a dotty cabinet minister, whose law making makes one wonder whether he has lost his marbles.

Department of Trade and Industry (Doti) Minister Rob Davies has drafted a Licensing of Business Bill. Contrary to the stated intention of “building a simple and enabling framework” for small business, this Bill is going to give entrepreneurs, SMMEs, and those who are precariously economically active a hefty kick in the scrotum. Since the government’s National Development Plan relies on these very groups for economic growth and employment, dotty indeed.

Davis has cannily released the draft Bill in the middle of the Easter season, with its plethora of consecutive long weekends, and none of the opposition parties appears to have even noticed it. The closing date for public comment on the proposed legislation is April 18.

But as businessman Rob Wooding puts it: “The Bill is poorly conceived, vague, draconian, impractical and fails at a fundamental level to meet the motivations listed for it. By adversely impacting on entrepreneurial activity it will work directly against the creation of new businesses and jobs and will inevitably result in widespread corruption. The draft itself is riddled with contradictions, grammatical errors and missing words.”

Firstly, the Bill will mean that every conceivable activity, from selling smileys at the side of the road to koeksusters at the back door, will require a licence from the local municipality. So, too, will anyone working from home, be it doctor, architect or farmer.

The previous Act narrowly confined licensing to the sale of perishable foodstuffs, health facilities and public entertainment. “A valid case can be made for these and similar industries as being in the interests of the public,” comments Wooding. “But by placing the conduct of every form of business essentially at the whim of a local municipality, the right to freedom of trade, occupation and profession is substantially curtailed.”

Secondly, although the municipality will be obligated to rule on a licence within 30 days, it is left to the local authority to decide the criteria for issue and how any appeal process will be constituted. Essentially, the rule maker will also be the arbitrator of any dispute, which is patently unfair.

Given that the penalty for being unlicensed is an unspecified fine and administrative penalties, as well as up to 10 years imprisonment, as Wooding notes, “it is entirely conceivable that local personal interests will, as they do at present, have a bearing on the issuing of licences, while party political support and black economic empowerment will become overt or covert [factors in] the granting of a licence”.

Thirdly, under the previous Act, a licensing inspector’s powers were limited to issuing a compliance order. In terms of the Bill, an inspector — any municipal employee, customs and excise official, or law officer — can demand entry to anywhere business is suspected of occurring. He or she can impound without warrant any goods (for which the inspector might or might not choose to give you a receipt), can issue spot fines and can arbitrarily close your business with immediate effect.

This is outrageous, unworkable and probably unconstitutional. In other words, par for the course. After all, not only has much of the post-1994 legislation created perverse incentives that neutralise the social engineering goals that the ANC seeks to achieve, but laws are so poorly drafted that when challenged in the higher courts virtually every one has been shown to be flawed in concept and execution.

The guttural leitmotif of the National Party era, “but havya gotta a licence, meneer?” is back in play, courtesy of Dotty Davies.

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  • Limping from policy disaster to policy disaster
    • Amandla

      Not surprising. The whole ethos of this government is about power and control, and putting the state above the people. It is a government of extraction, extortion and rent seeking. As it creates nothing, it needs to find new ways of extracting money from those who do. It spells economic and social disaster for SA. It is the antithesis of freedom.

    • Dave Horrors

      How typical of our white Western neoloiberal media to portray our glorious socialist peoples’ republic in such a negative light! This is tribal DA thinking, to actually want people to be able to do business freely. What we really need is much more legislation, anti-minority propaganda and media censorship so that our glorious leaders and infallible politicians who deserve hero worship can ride roughshod over the masses. Now let’s talk about more important topics, like LAND REFORM….and solidarity with the wonderful peoples republic of North Korea.

    • Bert

      @ Dave Horrors. Precisely, Comrade Dave. Away with the DA, I say. You are right to mention our commitment to the Dear Cherished Leader, who will shortly show the capitalist running dogs a trick (or two). Comrade Davies has given a lot of thought to this bill, which is VERY progressive. After all, we can’t have businesses that are not registered, can we. In addition, this will create even more employment opportunities for those who have suffered for so long at the hands of the apartheid colonialists. Those who want to do business in the glorious new SA must simply get used to standing in long queues and paying lots of money to get the certificate of registration. Aluta etc….

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      That’s why they need BRICS – they have classified them all as top AA/BEE status, above White or Brown South Africans, so they can bring in their own foreign labour for “Infrastructure Development”.

      BRICS won’t invest if they have to keep to the Cosatu or BEE rules the ANC/SACP insist the “White West” must do.

    • bernpm

      Have you informed the opposition parties of this “danger” for society? Well don’t!

      Anyway, a government that cannot control the police, finances in its own ranks, traffic in general…how can they control the many little entrepreneurs working in all corners without tax certificate, a VAT certificate or any other certificate.

      This will just become another one of those paper tigers with no teeth.

    • Neuren Pietersen

      Just think of all those inspector positions that will become available. Maybe JZ will get his half million jobs afterall. Pity for all the private sector jobs that will be shed though.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Nice try “Dave Horrors” and Bert, but you guys need to up your game from high school antics hey!

      William Saunderson-Meyer still struggles to understand basic democracy where laws are required to create transparency in both the public and private sector. Or maybe he deliberately peddles the double standards these beneficiaries of apartheid are so used to – transparency in the public sector but secrecy in private business.

      This law is needed to expose the illegal activities e.g. organized crime, drug trade, counterfeit goods etc. the very criminal activities that William seems sanction with his brand of crony capitalism that he seems to be so familiar with. This bill will make it EASIER for LEGITIMATE entrepreneurs to start up and conduct businesses with greater ease instead of competing with illegal operations. This bill will make a huge dent in crime that’s fueled by illicit activities!!!

    • Alastair Grant

      No no no – you’re all missing the point. The government is saving our money by publishing rough drafts of future legislation to get our feedback (on both the substance and the grammar) before passing it into law. I doubt the minister has even read it. So much more efficient to let the public tell him what’s wrong, and how to fix it. And we’ll do it by 18 April (this year) – for free!

    • http://http//paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com Paul Whelan

      Over regulation in a none-too-efficient party-state that, before proving to be unworkable, as bermpm probably rightly suggests, will inevitably lead to delays, backlogs, snooping and officious meddling, backhanders and other petty injustices for people struggling to make a buck.

    • Frans Verloop

      Bureaucrats and politicians are always looking at more things they can regulate, after all, if they didn’t, everything would be one chaotic mess, wouldn’t it? Never mind that some of the least regulated countries, like Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand and others, are perfectly peaceful and orderly. And wealthy with low levels of poverty to boot.
      As it is, startinbg a business in SA doesn’t score high on the list of countries where it is easy to do so, and this bill will add some more hassles and costs, both legal and palmgreasing.
      One of the earlier commenters naïvely believes this will fight driminal activities, but I thought that was the job of the police.
      Bureaucrats never look at the cost of what they want to impose, only at the expansion of their empires.

    • Craig Millar

      Still trolling the boards with your ANC apologist nonsense I see Dave Harris. It’s clearly an attempt to extract more money out of the populace. The illegal operators to whom you refer will just not register and pay their bribe money to the cadres who are really behind service delivery failure.

    • bernpm

      @Dave Harris: William Saunderson-Meyer still struggles to understand ….”basic democracy where laws are required to create transparency in both the public and private sector. ”

      Dave has just redefined “corruption and incompetence” as “democracy” or was it “transparency”????.

    • http://Www.sagoodnews.co.za SteuartPennington

      Baffling really, if it were not April 1 to-morrow I’d think the obvious. No wonder the W.E.F marks us down with monotonous regularity on ‘State capacity’, inexperience and incompetence are disastrous bedfellows.

    • John Pretorius

      Dave Harris – sadder even than these mindless laws is that people like you can justify them with your upside down Orwellian logic

    • Philip

      All on this day April 01

    • possum

      Does this mean I have to get a license for my Etsy business? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Who knew there was a huge and dangerous black market in stuffed dollies and teddies?

    • Juju Esq.

      What can I say? South Africa is festering like a boil ready to burst.

      I hope it bursts harmlessly and lets all the yucky stuff out so that we the people can start to lead normal lives, under the auspices of a sane, organized, honest, motivated, democratic and transparent government.

    • Juju Esq.


      The only reason South Africa is on BRICS is it is seen as the gateway to Africa for the economic expansion of fellow BRICS members.

      “The Russian-South African talks on the sidelines of the BRICS summit produced a wide range of agreements, including a joint declaration on strategic partnership, cooperation in communications and joint construction of nuclear power plants.”

      Besides the nuclear sphere, Putin and his counterpart Jacob Zuma also agreed on cooperation in the field of communication. In particular, South Africa will help Russia maintain the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).”

      **BRICS nations see South Africa as easy pickings for their economic expansion.

    • Toni Benoni

      I love conrad Davies – he of the “Chinese are not dumping” fame. Having killed our manufacturing sector, he is now on the road to ensure Municipalities can tax via licenses even more. But hey, he and his cronies studied Marx and understand that the way to create jobs is to halt labour. Idiots.

    • Juju Esq.

      @Toni Benoni

      “But hey, he and his cronies studied Marx and understand that the way to create jobs is to halt labour. Idiots.”

      You clearly have no idea what Marx wrote. It would be good to do a little research and enlighten yourself before making such a silly comment. The ANC will have Karl Marx turning in his grave.

    • Just a Thought

      @Dave harris, I wouldnt object to additional rules and regulations but would local, provincial and national government apply this registration to the informal trade sector? The monetary value of this sector is currently unknown (being estimated at 28% of our GDP), but this would get absolutely everybody on the SARS radar and would be objected to or ignored by the informal traders. Can you imagine a sangoma or even a chap selling fruit on the side of the road licensing a business. So once again, it would most likely be non compliance by a large portion of society and another burden and cost factor placed on the shoulders of the formaised working class. There is probably a lot of merit to the proposal but it needs to be debated or piloted before mass roll out.

    • Juju Esq.

      @J A Thought.

      Good point. Government are not even capable of monitoring and implementing existing laws, now why make more that won’t be regulated. It just makes people dismiss the law.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @Frans Verloop
      “some of the least regulated countries,…, are perfectly peaceful and orderly”
      Well if you regard Switzerland – the most corrupt and secretive banking system on the planet that serves as a tax haven for international criminals including the Nazis, mafia, druglords etc., and the genesis of corruption in developing countries, peaceful and orderly – maybe you have a point hey?! LOL

      You place the burden of crime prevention solely on the police – now this is bizarre thinking, since the police are there only to ENFORCE the laws to prevent crime not MAKE the laws to prevent crime!

      @Just a Thought
      Its obvious that the little guys are of no concern and just like in other countries, the police turn a blind eye to informal traders unless they become a public nuisance. Even in the US, children with lemonade stands are breaking the law http://www.huffingtonpost.com/women-co/lemonade-stand_b_1753057.html because its basically an unenforceable law!

      I do agree that the law might raise the possibility of corruption at the local level, but this is a small price to pay to reduce the growing illicit businesses that feed much of the crime in our communities.

    • ConCision

      Willing buyer –
      Unwilling seller
      Open for business
      But shutting up shop
      Can’t afford the bribes
      Here comes another cop

    • ConCision

      Second Scenario
      I’m not telling
      What I’m selling. Kapish?

    • Frans Verloop

      @Dave Harris. Since when is a country a banking system? And you forgot to mention amongst your list of its account holders the hundreds, if not thousands, of African rulers, including probably a few of our won.