Issue: Oct 2010/Jan 2011


On the off-chance of some people still believing that the proposed media tribunal isn’t such a bad idea, consider the case of Sharemax and Deon Basson.

This dogged investigative journalist devoted the last years of his life to exposing the goings-on at Sharemax, as he saw them, and warning against investment in the company. Several of his earlier articles were published in various media. Those fortunate enough to have read them, and taken heed, wouldn’t have been stung. Others, less fortunate, are now lamenting the day they parted with their money.

Sharemax did everything in its power to shut up Deon. This included threats of court action that seem to have intimidated some editors. In frustration, Deon wrote a book.

On his death, possibly hastened by the stress, Sharemax purchased the manuscript. Maybe it was an act of magnanimity and generosity, to help his family financially. Maybe it was an endeavour to ensure that the book would never be published.

The point of raising all this is not belatedly to sing Deon’s praises, justified though that would be. Rather, it’s to indicate the dangers of a media tribunal. If it had existed when Deon had started on Sharemax, it would have been the perfect forum to silence him. And many more people would have been hurt.

Barry Tannenbaum, allegedly the mastermind behind a R2bn Ponzi scheme that suckered various SA business people, was once an advertising salesman on Business Day. Those who worked with him don’t believe he was capable. They remember Barry as hardly a master, much less a mind.

That would make for an intriguing defence, should he ever be brought back from Oz to SA for trial: “M’Lord, I’m much too dumb to be a mastermind.” There’d be witnesses to support such testimony.

SA is trying to extend its trade ties with China and take lessons from it. What do we have in common? Test this checklist:

  • The Chinese work hard, without going on strike, for lousy wages;
  • They have the highest savings rate in the world;
  • They have small families, the consequence of a one-child policy that included their president;
  • Their government mistrusts the media and acts firmly against it;
  • They’re ruled by a bunch of commies.

Ok then. Two out of five ain’t bad.

Top execs of Old Mutual are beating a path to Liberty. No sooner had Omigsa chief executive Thabo Dloti taken up his position as Liberty group executive responsible for the investment and insurance businesses, including Stanlib, than Old Mutual Corporate managing director Seelan Gobalsamy follows to become chief exec of Liberty Corporate.

In the corridors of Braamfontein it’s whispered that a Liberty name change to New Mutual is under consideration.

Extract from the latest annual report of ArcelorMittal SA: “The board ensures that the conduct of its business is done according to the highest standards of corporate governance. The board strives to foster a culture that values and rewards exemplary ethical standards, personal and corporate integrity.”

Now let’s talk BEE.

Much anguish behind the recent spate of strikes highlights the widening gap between blue-collar wages and executive salaries. Workers reckon that, if they get a 9% increase and executives 5%, the gap will start closing.

Life, unfortunately, isn’t like that. Simple arithmetic tells us that 9% on R10 000 is less than 5% on R100 000. So the wage gap isn’t going to close any day soon.

At the last minute, HSBC pulled out of its possible deal with Old Mutual for a controlling stake in Nedbank.

If a due diligence by top bankers can’t arrive at a fair price for the bank, after sifting inside information for two months, what are the chances of not-so-poor analysts to claim credibility for the reports they constantly churn out?

There are four stages in a man’s aging process.

First, he forgets names. Then, he forgets faces. Next, he forgets to close his fly. Finally, he forgets to open it.