Issue: July/Sept 2010


Politicians just can’t keep their sights off pensions money. Latest bright idea, from ministers Patel and Gordhan, is to tap money from the Government Employees Pension Fund (the pensions of civil servants) for “beneficial public projects” like the Eskom expansion.

There’s nothing wrong with this. As policy, the GEPF wants to invest in development projects and allocates a proportion of its assets for the purpose. But that’s provided the investments offer reasonable returns and are market-competitive relative to risk over the long term, just like other development bonds. Otherwise the fund is abused as a piggy bank and its assets are denuded.

Not that it matters to GEPF members who rely on investment performance for their pensions. This is because the GEPF is defined-benefit fund. It means that any shortfalls in honouring the pensions promise must be made up by the employer. And since the employer is the government, it means that taxpayers will cough up.

If they don’t catch you one way, they’ll catch you another.

Remember when Derek Keys, as finance minister in the first cabinet of Nelson Mandela, introduced a special levy to fund development projects? It was met with unmitigated enthusiasm, as no additional tax ever was greeted before or has been since.

Now, when the Word Cup party subsides, we’ll be paying big-time for the pleasure of all those stadiums. And other little luxuries like Gautrain; like affirmative procurement and tendering; like the waste in government departments and the squander in parastatals. Even for the honour of maintaining the lovechild of a beloved leader’s second wife.

Parties don’t last forever. Neither does tax morality. Just watch, unfortunately.

It’s difficult to keep track of all the name changes. Happily, if you turn left onto the R114, you might find yourself in a town that sounds quite lekker for a fun weekend.

There were heartening aspects, for those who enjoy ructions at shareholder meetings, to the resistance faced by Standard Bank chief executive Jacko Maree when he put the golden handshake for retiring chairman Derek Cooper to the vote. But it wasn’t quite the outbreak of activism that it could have been.

True, the PIC and Sanlam voted against. True, Stanlib and the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China probably had no choice than to vote for. True, it came close.

What diminished it as an activist event, however, was that certain institutional shareholders who’d signed the UN Principles for Responsible Investment didn’t comply with its fundamental disclosure provisions i.e. how they voted in conformity with their proxy policies. Stanlib, Coronation and Allan Gray, stand up!

A prominent institution which also voted against was Old Mutual. Of course, as owner of Nedbank, it possibly isn’t the biggest client of Standard. But does Mutual’s proxy-voting policy say anything about embarrassing its competitors? I think we should be told.

The ANC Youth League wants to make the Western Cape ungovernable. This objective is laudable.

It’s unfair that the Western Cape should be any different from the rest of the country.

Go for it, boykie. Tinned or freshly squeezed, you’ve got the Middle East sorted.