Category Archives: Interesting Information.

MTN and the empty tin syndrome

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MTN Global Markets unstable?

MTN’s two biggest markets are South Africa and Nigeria. In South Africa strikes, limited handset availability and increased smartphone usage hampered growth. In Nigeria disposable income constraints and competition threw a spanner in the works. In Iran MTN’s joint venture did well, and oddly, business in Syria boomed in spite of what is effectively a civil war. By no stretch of the imagination can one call these areas “stable”, yet perhaps it is, ironically, exactly that restlessness that encourages market growth: interpersonal contact and group communication become essential.

Naughty, risky or hubristic?

MTN was fined $5.2bn for failure to cut off unregistered users. Trade in the firm’s shares was suspended at the JSE as stock fell by as much as 12%. Africa’s largest mobile telecoms operator negotiated with authorities in Nigeria and the JSE is investigating the company over possible insider trading. MTN chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa flew to Abuja to make an attempt to have the penalty reduced. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) gave MTN two weeks to pay the fine that has been imposed on MTN Nigeria for alleged non-compliance with telecommunications regulations of that country as well as allegations that MTN Management did not immediately disclose this material information to the market. The telecoms regulator in Nigeria has fined MTN in that country US$5,2bn (That amounts to more than the company’s annual revenue in Nigeria, and nearly double the entire MTN group’s net profit in 2014.) The fine relates to the timing of the disconnection of 5,1m MTN Nigeria subscribers who were disconnected in August and September 2015 and is based on a fine of about US$1 004 for each unregistered subscriber. It seems that MTN either did not disconnect customers with unregistered Sim cards, or did not do it in time.

The Public Investment Corporation, MTN largest shareholder, was concerned that the mobile operator did not anticipate the fine it faces from Nigerian authorities. Things are afoot in Nigeria: A huge drop in oil price, among them. Can we see the MTN fine in isolation, or are there other forces at play? Did nobody take the regulations seriously to begin with or is negligence the order of the day? One supposes if Volkswagen can be foolish, a major listed company like MTN can be foolish too. In contravention of the listings requirements, the MTN group withheld the information from investors.

South Africa – the gateway to?

We rather fancy ourselves as the gateway for investment in Africa, mostly for good reason. We are justifiably pleased with many export products and services. However, do we assume that we can get away with ignoring regulatory institutions? The International Court (and we are signatories to the Rome Statute) is but one recent example of our complacent assumption that we are above the law. One of our leaders (unintentionally, one hopes) said on public television that we in South Africa are subject to the “rule of flaw”. Let’s hope he is wrong.


South Africa – good, bad and ugly

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South Africa in the news – the good, the bad and the ugly

So, the Springboks restored our national pride on the weekend, and men’s egos are pumping patriotism! Bafana Bafana has not exactly helped to boost the frail male self-esteem of South Africa’s collective manhood. The lack of self respect that leads to violence against those weaker than ourselves is an illness not confined to our country, but certainly sadly present if we look at our rape and abuse statistics. Although sport has many redemptive aspects, and naturally we are proud of our teams and individuals that excel, it becomes a minefield (instead of a soccer or rugby field) when identities are defined purely by our loyalties.

Misguided loyalty means murder

Former president Thabo Mbeki and the ruling party appointed ministers and officials on the basis of past ANC connections, some sort of protest-family nepotism. Some would say that loyalty is a good thing – but when it blinds us to the truth it is a monster, as the Jackie Selebi debacle (to name but one) bitterly proved.

Nobody held a gun to the heads of the ruling party when they signed the Rome Statute. It was a freely chosen commitment to being part of a democratic world view. Upholding human rights is the cornerstone of our constitution. The International Criminal Court implements ideals that South Africa agreed to, without any constraint upon the will of the signatories. ANC MPs on Parliament’s justice committee welcomed the accession to the Rome Statute. Crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (recognized internationally) can be dealt with by the ICC if the instruments to deal with it in the countries where these crimes were committed, are lacking. (Rwanda and Bosnia are examples, as is the Pinochet regime.)

And yet …

President Jacob Zuma, in the full knowledge of his Cabinet, colluded to allow the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to escape from Waterkloof Air Force base. By no stretch of the imagination can this be read as an accidental arrangement. This occurred in defiance of agreed to international obligations as well as a domestic court order, after adopting a stance that expressly dealt with justice as regards genocide suspects. By law (not to mention moral code), Bashir was supposed to be arrested in South Africa. This is what a responsible government would have done.

An independent judiciary

The high court has found that the government is in breach of South Africa’s international obligations and a direct court order. Government is appealing the ruling, claiming that visiting heads of state are granted amnesty and that the property where the African Union summit to which Bashir was invited, is the territory of the AU. Ruling party officials argue that our accession to the ICC should be reconsidered, spreading the plebeian argument that the ICC is anti-African. (Most of the convictions made by the court are against Serbian war criminals.) One of the intentions of the international legislation is that criminals cannot find a haven in other countries when they have perpetrated heinous crimes against innocent populations. It is spelled out in the legislation that a “heads of state” defence cannot be used, and neither can officers who executed a manifestly illegal order be exonerated.

13 years later…

The notion of African solidarity has reached the blinker stage under Zuma. It was disturbing enough when Robert Mugabe was front row celebrity at state functions in South Africa, but now we protect an internationally acknowledged criminal, in fact a mass murderer. If this is the price of loyalty, we have utterly lost Nelson Mandela’s ideals of not only a domestic but also a foreign policy based on human rights.



Why you should celebrate World Smile Day

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Why celebrate World Smile Day?

Don’t forget to put on your best smiley face on Friday, 02 October, when we celebrate World Smile Day®. The theme of this special day is: “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.”

The iconic smiley face was created in 1963 by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts. Ball instigated the first World Smile Day in 1999 after he became concerned that his original meaning and intent behind the beloved yellow symbol might be lost due to over-commercialism. He wanted the world to dedicate one day a year by doing acts of kindness and smiling. After his death in 2001, The Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation became the official sponsor of this amazing initiative.

Smiling is good for you

Smiles are infectious. Very few people can resist smiling back when someone treats them with a smile that stretches from ear to ear. Smiles convey positive feelings and energy. A simple facial expression such as a smile can have amazing benefits for ones health and wellbeing.

When you smile:

  • a cocktail of feel good neurotransmitters (endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin) floods your system and makes you feel awesome and happy;
  • your mood will lift and you will feel relaxed and less stressed;
  • you may experience that you manage chronic pain better;
  • your blood pressure and heart rate may drop;
  • you will appear more attractive and approachable to others; and
  • you will attract smiles from others and you will feel special because of it.

How to smile more often

  • Surround yourself with friendly people who like to smile and laugh a lot. This will brighten up your life considerably.
  • Watch funny movies and listen to jokes.
  • Watch your kids/animal play and join in the fun.
  • Be appreciative of beauty. Smile at the fluffy clouds in the sky, the flowering pot plant on the windowsill, and a beggar’s face when you treat him or her to lunch.

Smiling is the universal gesture for happiness. Almost everyone on the planet knows a smile conveys friendliness, warmth and acceptance. Maybe it is time that you smile more often … Why don’t you show off your pearly whites and flex your facial muscles? Spread some good cheer on World Smile Day.



Joshua Tree: Route 62

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Coming Home to Joshua Tree via  Route 62

The high desert of California is oddly reminiscent of the Klein Karoo in South Africa. Dry weeds tumble on the veldt, and rocky outcrops are littered with succulents under a virulently blue sky. Puffy clouds resembling cotton balls over a wide open horizon sets the scene, with miles of open road to eat up with your wheels. So we arrive at the Harmony Motel along route 62, to find the owner, a South African who has decided to make this place her home. Looking at the corrugated iron fence, she laughs and tells a story of how her relatives from the home country had worried she had fallen into poverty. “They didn’t know it was a work of art,” she smiles at the many layers of irony concealed in this statement.

In the late 1980’s the Harmony Motel was where Bono and the band U2 stayed while making their album Joshua Tree. Their picture and the news articles of the time are proudly on display in the common room library. Many people still visit the Harmony Motel for this very reason, to touch base with the history of the music that came from here. Outside it is blisteringly hot, but the cold pool is invitingly clean and blue. We jump in and cool down instantly. “The water is always cold like that,” says Ash, the owner. The resemblance between this area and its namesake Route 62 in South Africa is uncanny.

Ash exudes a sense of common sense and no nonsense at the same time. Her words are measured and clear as she relates how she came to be here in the high desert of California. It is a moving story of bravery on her part and a certain willingness to face the future with resilience and fortitude. We end up spending many hours visiting with her, sitting around and talking till the cows would have come home were there any. In many ways this feels like a home coming, a familiar feeling place where the tradition of strangers meeting to exchange significant parts of their lives is as simple as putting the kettle on for a fresh cup of tea. It is with high spirits that we leave this haven on our way back on Route 62.


The petrol price is not the price we pay

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Maybe it’s time to think differently – in at least 5 areas:

  1. Damage: Human beings are funny creatures. We claim that consciousness makes us superior to the other animal species, but no other species does as much harm to a) themselves or b) the planet we live on as homo sapiens.
  2. Arrogance: Only when people are forced to their knees, do they begin praying. Our ‘stuck-ness’ in our comfort zone prevents us from becoming humble before we are absolutely forced to become humble.
  3. We can, but … :  We are NOT (even though our technology is supposedly so magnificent) going to invent vehicles and other petrol guzzling, Mother Earth destroying devices unless we no longer have petrol. We are exploiters and addicted to our instant gratifications. We lack vision and are too selfish to think of the destruction we cause – even to the inhospitable planet we are fast creating for our children’s children.
  4. The environment: Everybody knows that fossil fuels will run out but also that we cause enormous damage in the process of extracting it. Greed is a very effective blinker – nobody wants to think (let alone talk) about the ecological implications of our dependency on petrol.
  5. Mineral wealth Shapes History: When gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in the fledgling Republic, more that one of the old Boer leaders lamented the fact, knowing that it would bring blood to the land. How right they were: Cecil John Rhodes and Milner engineered a war to be able to steal the resources of this country, nearly managed the genocide of the Afrikaner Nation, and destroyed indigenous cultures to create a slave labour system with which to obtain it. The spilling of blood continues – Marikana is but one. Look at the areas of conflict in the world: ISIL now occupies oil fields. America’s so-called “peace keeping” interventions would have been rather less inclined to interfere if there was no oil.

Denial is one of the strongest aspects of human behaviour. Every time the petrol price goes up, let’s cheer rather than weep. Maybe if it goes up far and fast enough, we might start THINKING of alternative and green sources of energy. The wind and the sun can be harnessed, and nobody can go to war to grab Mother Nature’s free gifts for themselves.

Get away with crime rhymes

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Do you have criminal inclinations? – S.A. beats all other destinations

One does not really feel that the police are combating crime effectively in South Africa, does one? One feels rather sorry for them, too. Many lives of policemen and women have been lost. They have to deal with the consequences of politically appointed leadership, collusion between criminals and their fat cat leaders, corruption in local government positions (millions have gone into private pockets instead of into developing health and housing projects), poverty and frustration, porous borders and previous history … and when finally somebody does get arrested, they are not convicted based on failures in the system or are released due to downright preferential treatment.

One has to laugh … or emigrate – so here goes:

  1. Zuma’s financial adviser, Schabir Shaik

While in prison orders in pizza and cake,

Diabetes and illness he didn’t have to fake

He really was ill from chips and steak.

  1. Omar al-Bashir bombs his fellow Sudanese

Then refuses humanitarian aid if you please

The ICC wants him for crimes and for genocide

South African treats him like a longed for bride.

  1. Shrien Dewani is a clever rich fellow

South African courts will all turn yellow

Need to murder somebody who stands in your way?

South Africa is the place to come and stay.

  1. Oscar Pistorius must have secret means

Ten months after killing the girl of his dreams

He is ready to be free … well relatively

When others for lesser crimes incarcerated will be.

  1. Riah Phiyega shows maturity on her mission

Sending sms messages of charming erudition

Doing the dirty work for political allies it seems

Guarantees one a place in this land of our dreams.

  1. Jackie Selebi’s parole was granted for reasons renal

He took bribes from dealers and all types of criminal

He set the tone for how policing should be done

Of punishment for crime there soon will be none.

  1. Bheki Cele’s wife traffics drug effectively

Police chief wives can operate imperiously

He himself investigated for several charges too

Still walks ‘round spouting wisdoms doubtless true.

Celebrity status can be achieved – all you have to do is be rich enough. How you get all that money is beside the point. Shame is such an out-dated notion. It seems to me that if the crime is rewarding enough (the criminals all seem to live in multi-million mansions) or the media hype loud enough, that you can get away with anything.

Donald Trump plays his cards well

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Donald Trump for President?

In recent weeks Donald Trump has been regularly quoted. In the political debate showcasing the 2016 American presidential election candidates for the Republican Party, his obnoxious statements brought him much attention. So much so, that at this stage of the game public opinion has Trump at the lead of the Good Old Party ahead of Jeb Bush. Listening to Trump speak is like hearing an eccentric uncle vent his outrage at the bumbling nature of politics today. His speeches seem more like ongoing rants than well ordered and thought out strategies for motivating people.

Donald Trump has become notorious for offending women and Mexicans. In his own words he claims that “you don’t want a scripted president,” and “we don’t want a politically correct president.” No, he says, “we’re tired of the nice people.” There are those who say that Donald Trump is but the last vestige of a political system that over the last thirty years has seen presidencies brought out by big lobbyists. Here Trump makes a big statement too, he says; “I’m going to do what is right for the people of the country.” In this context he claims to have turned down billions of dollars from lobbyists in order to prevent them from holding him accountable when he gets to the White House.

Some say that Donald Trump’s popularity is a sign of cynicism among the voting public. Many people were disappointed by the return of their voting investment in current president Obama, who ran on the concept that there CAN be change. People expected that Obama would make an end to the U.S. war activities, but instead, the conflicts in the Middle East have escalated. What this proves is that it is easy to say things and then later turn around and change your mind. Trump may be saying things that people want to hear or getting attention by saying things that people do not want to hear.

Does this make him a good presidential candidate?

Cyber Mayhem Alert!

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Managing mayhem in the Department of Technology and Cyber Stuff

(A short guide to the Gospel of Cyplomacy)

When the gods first ascended Olympus Zeus allocated spheres of influence. Of course, at that time Technology and Cyber Stuff was not a sphere of influence at all. When it became available as a field of influence there were no gods without a portfolio to take over as god of Technology and Cyber Stuff. And so the jostling began for this coveted position. The goddess Athena, goddess of intelligence, skill and wisdom thought that she should be appointed. The god Apollo, god of knowledge and manly beauty, argued that he should be the natural choice. Hades, the god of regret, had a strong argument, saying that humans dabbling in the field of Technology and Cyber Stuff are absolutely guaranteed to experience regret quite often. But Zeus surprised them all.

It was Bacchus that got the coveted new department of Technology and Cyber Stuff. Zeus reckoned that the god of Wine, Parties, Madness, Festivals, Ecstacy and Chaos will be a perfect god for those humans in the field of Tecnology and Cyber Stuff. It actually makes sense: most of them are mad, they drink wine at parties, they are in ecstacy when things go right and they cause chaos in the lives of others. In this way, Bacchus took charge of Technology and Cyber Stuff.

At first Bacchus was elated with his new department. As god of Wine, Madness, Parties, Chaos and Ecstacy he already had a vast number of followers. Followers of Technology and Cyber Stuff were bound to increase his sphere of influence and make him a very serious player in Olympus indeed. Oh yes, he coveted those vast numbers of humans diligently worshipping at the sacred tablets and laptops of Technology and Cyber Stuff. Sadly, he soon became bitterly disillusioned. His dreams just never realized. The reason for this is two-fold: 1)Bacchus simply loved his followers in the Department of Wine, Parties etc. etc. and he spent a lot of time with his congregations (humans call these places of worship pubs). They are such happy congregations; they sing and dance and one can always hear the merry tinkling of ice cubes, boisterous laughing and really, really funny jokes. It is fun worshipping in the Department of Wine, Parties etc. etc. 2) Followers of Technology and Cyber Stuff refused to gather in congregations. They worship in isolation. They are just not fun to be with! All they offered the god was some wayward bits and bytes and, compared with wine, this proved to be a very bitter pill to swallow.

Of course, no god worth his salt can allow his followers to be a disappointment and Bacchus decided to punish the followers of Tecnology and Cyber Stuff. He did this by striking at the very core of these humans’ belief system. He made their servers crash, he scrambled their data and he introduced worms and viruses. He destroyed back-ups and he messed up the Cloud by stirring the ether anti-clock wise. Thus many followers of Technology and Cyber Stuff were struck by despair and sometimes e en by a loss of faith.

Fear not, however, you followers of Technology and Cyber Stuff, for the prophet IT will teach you the gospel of Cyplomacy (Cyber Diplomacy). IT will lead you from the wilderness of crashed servers, wayward routers, frozen screens and missing data. He will deliver you from viruses and worms and he will teach you to safeguard yourself.

The Gospel of Cyplomacy according to the prophet IT

1. Understand and accept the fact that thou shalt not defeat the god Bacchus for he has many followers and he is strong. Instead, thou shalt learn to offer a defense against his mayhem and to undermine his efforts. Thou shalt learn the gospel of Cypplomacy.

2. Thou shalt not allow another human to fiddle with thou Technology and Cyber stuff after worshipping at a temple of the Department of Wine, Parties etc. etc. For verily I say onto you: after worshipping at the temple of Wine, Parties etc. etc. these very humans become the instruments of the vengeful god Bacchus and they shalt crash thou servers, destroy thou routers, spill on thou keyboards and write down thou passwords on the notice board.

3. Thou shalt fool the god Bacchus by pretending to become followers of the Department of Wine, Parties etc. etc. Thou shalt accomplish this by taking thou Technology and Cyber Stuff gadgets to a temple of Wine, Parties etc. etc. and thou shalt worship at the sacred tablets and laptop in such places. Thou shalt make the deceit realistic by partaking in wine, by telling really, really funny jokes and by laughing boisterously. Thus the god Bacchus will be fooled and he will see no reason to crash thou servers and cause other mischief.

Thus spake the prophet IT.


Is the South African judiciary under attack?

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Why the South African judiciary is under attack (again)

Once again the south African judiciary is under attack. This week, S’dumo Dlamini, president of Cosatu, launched a vicious attack on the judiciary. He says that the judiciary has become a serious threat to the democracy. He is not the only one that thinks that the judiciary should be radically reformed. The Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, told his senior staff that the judiciary is harbouring a “sinister” agenda. The Secretary General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe gleefully joined in the fray saying that the judiciary is interfering with the legislature and the executive. He even coined a phrase to express his opinion: “judiciary over-reach”.

Why is the judiciary under attack?

Well, there is no denying the fact that opposition parties and civil organizations such as Afriforum has been successful in bringing a wide variety of issues to the courts for consideration. Government ministers, heads of departments and many other senior officials have been exposed as corrupt, incompetent, arrogant and as liars. The courts have made several landmark rulings against the government, exposing new legislation as unconstitutional, rulings of the legislature as illegal and decisions of senior officials as invalid. It is only natural that the government is starting to feel as if it is under attack itself.

The president and some of his ministers and officials must think by themselves: “Who would have thought that these judges, the very ones that we appointed, would actually believe that they are independent and that they have the power to censure parliament. My goodness! They have even dragged the president into court! No, no. This will not do. A lapdog is not supposed to bite its master.” And so the ANC resort to their standard response when they feel under threat: they blame the troublesome judiciary of interfering with the freedom of the masses, of threatening the hard-won freedom of the working class and of destabilising the country. Luckily there is an easy solution: we reform the judiciary!

Ordinary South Africans will be well advised to watch this struggle very carefully. If the government succeeds in bringing the judiciary to heel we are in very big trouble. The judiciary is not a lapdog, it is a ferocious guard dog and that is what keeps our democracy safe.

To Velfie … or not?

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Velcome to the vicarious vorld of the velfie

People will believe anything! How many times have you heard somebody speak arrant nonsense with absolute conviction? Often, I am sure. How many times have you called for an explanation or a source and heard the reply, “But it was on the TV/in Die Son”? 

Astonishingly, in our era of information overload, people seem to become less and less informed. Access to more and more information seems to be the death of actual knowledge. Because I can get hold of information, I don’t have to retain it, digest it, discern the truth and nuances in it, test it for validity or ground it in real experience = in other words, make it my own in a way that makes me a wiser or more insightful person. More is considered to be better and depth is a waste of time.

Download culture

The German Dubsmash website claims it has 50 million downloads in 192 countries. The success of smart phone apps phenomena sweeps across the globe. But whether it is a blessing or an illness of our times remains to be seen. Unlike the static selfie, the velfie craze, an Indian invention, claims that it is more social because it can speak emotions, has a pause-play feature and subtitles. In its short life it has had 200 000 downloads in 140 countries. This removed and virtual interaction is a far cry from real social connection. A face-to-face conversation requires engagement with another soul in physical and emotional circumstances that impact on the contact in ways that force one to have courage and empathy, or reveal the lack thereof. Deception of the self or the other is more difficult. But in cyber reality fake is fashion.

Who embraced it and to what purpose?

Bollywood film industry stars post videos of old movie classics lip-synced onto their own faces. Sport stars strip the clothes off their false tans and photo-shopped bodies for their fans. Anybody can now be seen and heard to sing a hit song. Politicians can speak ‘directly’ to their electorate, infusing whatever promise they make with ready-made ‘sincerity’.

The velfie lends itself to shallow consumer values, but has far worse potential. Entertaining it may be, but is it real? How many people that use it have the discernment to separate it from truth? Imagine the politicians that will be elected on the false promises made in this way, the terrorists recruited by convincing megalomaniacs, the children seduced by perverts. Because it is a global craze does not mean it does not pose a global threat.

The velfie is a powerful tool. Be awake. Take care to use it wisely.