Edition: Sep - Nov 2014


Were you to have read the latest African Bank integrated annual report when it was published in 2013, you’d have been mightily impressed by the disclosure levels that show the bank as pristine. Reading it today, the report’s comforting assurances on sustainability are inadequate to the point of misleading.

Okay, so hindsight is a perfect science. But annual reports are also supposed to provide foresight, here to explain how profits will continue to be made by extending loans to people who can’t repay them.

Annual reports should be a primary trigger for investor action. In Abil’s case, the 332-page annual report unfortunately was; just as the credit ratings were too.

Paul Erdman, renowned author of bestsellers on the theme of financial intrigue (The Silver Bears, The Panic of ’89 etc), turned his hand to writing novels during a prison stint for fraud at the Swiss bank he’d run.

He professed that the adjustment from banker to novelist was easy because of the experience he’d gained in writing fiction for bank annual reports.

When it comes to fiction, CVs are much in the news following the hullabaloo over the ANC’s Pallo Jordan and the SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeng. But I have a nasty suspicion that they might not be alone. Neither am I convinced that CVs are routinely checked for authenticity.

In the private sector, let prospective employers beware. In the public sector, let’s see whether worms will emerge from the woodwork if the Government Communication & Information Service offered a website facility where profiles of senior officials included certificates of qualifications they purport to have.

Just a suggestion that I expect GCIS will ignore.

How’s this for a measure of the difference between the presidencies of Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma?

In 1996, following the withdrawal of the National Party from government, President Mandela announced the first all-ANC cabinet. He took the NP’s withdrawal as an opportunity to reduce the number of cabinet members to 25, he said, “in order to save public funds”. Compare this with the new cabinet appointed by President Zuma that has 74 members.

Too frequently, the legacy of Mandela is revered in words and reversed in actions.

The notorious Russian spy service has been renamed, its initials being switched by the Kremlin from KGB to FSB.

This shouldn’t be taken to imply that there are other similarities with an organisation closer home.

The term “white minority capital” is again gaining currency in our political lexicon, most recently by Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim delivering the annual Ruth First memorial lecture at Wits.

Now we can all understand the meanings of “white”, “minority” and “capital”. But “white minority capital”? What on earth is that, having regard to where the pension savings of Numsa members are invested?

In a running band below its news broadcasts, the Al Jazeera TV channel keeps recording the names of its three journalists and the length of time they’ve spent in an Egyptian prison. The idea is to serve as a constant reminder.

In similar vein, it’s noted that the suspension of John Oliphant as GEPF principal executive officer is about to hit its first anniversary.

“Beer must be good for you,” a little boy tells his friend. “My daddy says that the more he drinks the prettier my mommy becomes.”