Edition: March - May 2015
Editorials

GRAVY

Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has announced that government will get tough on mining companies that don’t meet targets for 26% black ownership. Bully for him.

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What it means, amongst other things, is yet another tranche of wealth transfer to the relatively few black people who’re selected from the many who’re already invested via their retirement funds. Once again, the latter stand to suffer from black economic disempowerment.

Unless, that is, the trade unions catch a wake-up. Their members, and many more black people besides, are extensively invested in the mining houses. But so long as BEE schemes ignore ownership by pension funds, it’s the members of these funds who pay on each occasion that their shareholdings are diluted.

Since the gods of BEE rarely ask for consent to fleece the funds, and from specifically black members unaware of the dispossession, it’s high time that their representatives – trustees and asset managers– speak out.

A low-water point in financial journalism was reached by Business Report last November: Reported was an interview with Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste. He explained that, by listing in Frankfurt, Steinhoff shares would have a strong weighting on the DAX.

Just as well that Jooste had elected to list on the German market rather than the French where Steinhoff would have been in the Paris CAC.

As indicated by certain articles in this and recent TT editions, there are certain documents on which we’d love to lay our hands e.g. minutes of a GEPF meeting (on the dismissal of its chief executive), records of a PIC discussion (on the investment in INMSA) and reports to the FSB (on various curatorships).

For insiders who might like to oblige with a bit of whistle blowing, on these matters or any others, our contact details are upfront and confidentiality of sources is assured. If the ‘Zuma spy tapes’ saga has shown anything, it’s that even the most secretive information needn’t necessarily remain under wraps forever.

Yup, shareholder activism is a good thing. But it has limits. A case in point is the SABC. Sole shareholder is government. Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, the Department of Communications explains, is responsible “to ensure effective and efficient function of the board and ultimately the corporation as a whole in her capacity as the executive authority”.

Does this extend to responsibility for day-to-day operations? To the minister, perhaps it does. To those who know a little more about shareholder activism, it certainly doesn’t.

A doctor asked a patient whether any members of his family suffered from insanity. “No,” replied the patient. “We all seem to enjoy it.”.