Posted inBusiness

Walmart, Massmart, nationalisation and MTN

Pick ‘n Pay recently rolled out its Smart Shopper card, one of those loyalty cards that allows you to amass redeemable points. Do I smell the influence of the recent move of US retailer Walmart into South Africa, via Massmart? It’s a possible small example of the benefits of competition or the threat of competition. […]

Posted inBusinessNews/Politics

Why a free news media is essential to economic prosperity

Musician Frank Zappa famously remarked that communism collapsed because people want stuff. That is an oversimplification, clearly, because a closer look at the history of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe shows that each country was different. Moreover, the desire for democracy rather than simply material well-being should also be considered. Yet there is […]

Posted inNews/Politics

Open letter to Jeremy Cronin

Dear Jeremy, I am deeply disappointed in the South African Communist Party and in you personally for supporting censorship in the form of a media tribunal. You have lost my respect as an intellectual and as a democrat. The occasion for my letter is your article in Umsebenzi Online. I would respond directly online, but […]

Posted inNews/Politics

The press must be free, not dom

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has appealed for calm when discussing the ANC’s proposed media tribunal and not go on the offensive. On the contrary we all should, whether we are in and of the news media or not, forcefully resist this attempt to curtail freedom of speech. Let’s be blunt. Whether it comes in the […]

Posted inBusiness

South Africa and inequality

For the sake of all that’s sensible, can we stop reporting that South Africa has the greatest level of inequality in the world? It has become South Africa’s biggest cliché, and it crops up in many stories written about the country, even one as balanced as the New York Times take on the Soccer World […]

Posted inTech

Five things I hate about email

Sitting down every morning to face an email inbox that never empties has prompted me to make this list. Dealing with email is Sisyphean in nature. Sisyphus was the guy whose punishment was to roll a rock up a hill only to have it roll down again, eternally. Email: * Makes it too easy to […]

Posted inBusiness

Some real pointers for Pravin

As a performance, Pravin Gordhan’s maiden Budget speech deserved as much applause as he got for the content. Perhaps he deserved more spontaneous applause than his jokes achieved — he had to chide the MPs. And yet if the comments of intelligent and educated young people are anything to go by, I have some real […]

Posted inGeneral


Now that the idea of nationalisation has risen from the dead like a movie monster, we need to talk about its meaning. Nationalisation is when the State takes ownership of assets from the private sector. Nationalisation is not State ownership, or part State ownership, or joint ventures. Joint ventures by the State and the private […]

Posted inMedia

Sex, lies and advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad by Reckitt Benckiser SA promoting Bosch dishwashers by claiming that dishwashers use less water than hand washing. Why is the ASA singling out Bosch? Advertising on TV is full of wild, inaccurate or deliberately misleading claims. Take the ad for Three Ships. The ad would have us […]

Posted inNews/Politics

Hogan can argue privatisation is policy

Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan recently suggested underperforming parastatals might be sold off. The reaction was shock and dismay from the ANC and alliance partners. But the option of divestiture, the correct technical term, has long been part of ANC government policy. This policy is contained in the policy framework document, “An Accelerated Agenda towards […]