Gentle Reader,


This will be my last Business Bytes. I need to move on to another chapter in life and have other priorities to address.


I started writing Snippets, the precursor of Business Bytes, in 1997, on going on my own. Then, newsletters were scarce and only in hard copy. In that year, one third of my attorney clients had an email address, a year thereafter two thirds and, by 1999, virtually any self-respecting lawyer had one. This made keeping in touch, and the dissemination of information, both quick and affordable.


I enjoyed writing these; keeping up with business and professional news benefits the writer more than the reader. Generally, if one can pace oneself and keep going in education, as with anything else, one must needs outpace those who don’t.


I shall probably resume writing a newsletter in another format in future. Do keep in touch.





Economic review


Our bourse is burgeoning. One report holds that it is driven by foreign inflows into equities. Another attributes this to the repo rate cut and the resumption of dividend payments by Anglo and Kumba. Whatever.


TransNet reportedly holds the ambition to grow ours to the fifth-largest rail system, globally, in two years. This is seen as key to future industrialisation in Africa. One wishes it the best, but TransNet’s track record militates against it achieving this soon.


Much has been said about businesses withholding money from our economy. Nedbank’s CE has pointed out that, since the 1980s, investment by the public sector has been consistent, ranging between 10 to 17% of GDP, at an average of 12.8. Public-sector investment has ranged between 3.7 and 18.5% of GDP, at an average of 9%. Interestingly,  research by the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development has shown that real investment in South Africa has plateaued at around 10% since 2010.


A prediction by Group of 20 Global Infrastructure Hub is that South Africa will, between now and 2040, be able to meet only 66% of its infrastructure investment needs.


Business review


The ANC has proposed that poor students receive higher education at no cost next year, but universities SA says that students want free education for all. This issue is unlikely to be settled soon.


I really cannot remember the number of turnaround strategies that SAA has floated over the years. The next one is at hand, given SAA’s commercial insolvency and a reported intention to sell profitable assets in order to help fund the shortfall. Remarkable.


We often find ourselves assuming that certain of our woes are owing to this being Africa; TIA. On examination, one finds that most of these are common to mankind. One such example is the wage gap between black women, white women and white men-in America. Black women in the USA receive 17% less pay than their white female counterparts and 63% less than white men. We are actually not badly off in comparison.


By hook or by crook: The Australian weather bureau has been caught changing its temperature records from a slight cooling trend to a “dramatic warning” of global warming.


Do you pretend to be happy at work or is your job depressing and a meaningless vale of tears? Is happiness the same as job satisfaction? It appears that happiness is a convenient idea that looks good on paper and which is assumed to lead to a more motivated and productive workforce. Some of these assumptions lead to bizarre behaviour in companies such dancing our way to joy and so on, to the delight of motivational speakers and the like selling us ersatz positivity. In any event, it turns out that Northern European countries are happiest and African countries the unhappiest. If this piques your interest, look up Ricardo Semler on Google. I used to be a fan and sought to implement his ideas in my then legal practice. It does work up to a point but I found that its key weakness is that there are as*h**s in life.


Property review


Absa is reportedly loosening the terms of mortgage loans in order to re-grow it’s share of this market, following on the Barclays sell-down. It promises a reply on applications for bonds within four days. Now may well be a time to apply, in order to get a good rate.


It is interesting to note that consumer sentiment for the purchase of residential property is still strong. The reasons why this appears to be the case is that consumers’ perceptions are that residential properties still accumulate value, and are relatively affordable at present. The majority of consumers believe that it is better to buy and pay off a bond than to rent.

Au contraire: objectively, this year represents the third consecutive year of slowing average annual house price growth and the second consecutive year of house price decline in real terms. For the period January to July, the average residential year-on-year price growth was only 2.8%.


Big malls are not doing well. The response in Australia, has been to redefine malls away from a shopping focus to a community-driven service and entertainment space. Think amusement parks and the like.


Practice review


The maximum yearly allowance paid out by the RAF has been upped to R 262 366.


The South African History Archive has approached the High Court, Johannesburg to force the SA Reserve Bank to release records of those suspected of apartheid-era financial crime. Whatever one’s political persuasion, the result, if the request is granted, will be interesting.




Consent by occupier to eviction


Even where an illegal occupier consents to eviction, this does not absolve the court from its duty to consider all the relevant circumstances and satisfying itself that it is just and equitable to grant an eviction order. Eina.

Occupiers of Erven 87 and 88 Berea


Death benefit allocation by RA


The board of a pension fund has a duty to allocate death benefits in terms of section 37 C of the Pension Funds Act. One very seldom sees such allocations challenged. In this case, 60% of the sum available was allocated to the life partner of the deceased, 30% to her grandson and 5% each to her two sons. The above Act places a duty on the board to identify the beneficiaries of the deceased member and vests the board with discretionary powers on the extent and manner of distributing the proceeds of the death benefit. A board may not fetter its discretion by following a rigid policy that takes no account of the personal circumstances of each beneficiary. In this case, the deceased’s life partner did not qualify as a legal dependent and no proof had been given as to the financial dependency of the grandchild on the deceased.

Malan v PPS [2017] JOL 37964 (PFA)




King Goodwill Zwelethini: “Sometimes when I speak, it is not me but someone is speaking through me. I am commanded and I have to cough it out whether you like it or not.” ‘Nuff said; in his defence – many would accept such statements, unquestioningly, if it came from a preacher.


Edward Zuma has referred to Derek Hanekom as “white monopoly capitalist offspring – who is no better than a vile dog trained to maul black skins….a  white Afrikaner, anti-majoritarian sell-out.” It is just as well that he is referring to someone who will not take the matter up, as he would most certainly have come a cropper otherwise. This speaks more of the invulnerability of the speaker than what he says.


We all carry on about corruption but there are equally disturbing parallel trends which, according to Steinberg, points to dictatorship. One of these is a tendency for executive power to bypass the organs of state and the governing party. A second is a criminal justice system that has lost its independence. He sees the civil disorder as a breakdown of the order that democracy would maintain. I’m not sure that one should agree with him but factually our current leadership displays many dictatorial traits.


On the subject of corruption: the Chinese report that 210,000 officials have been punished for corruption in the first half of this year. Bribes in excess of 3m Renminbi car carry a death penalty. Attaboy!




“Find me a man who is interesting enough to have dinner with and I’ll be happy.”

Lauren Bacall


Lighten up


Classic short replies in Parliament:


A House member, after rubbing Speaker Nicholas Longworth’s bald head: “Nice and smooth, feels just like my wife’s bottom.”

Longworth, running his own hand over his head: “Indeed, it does!”


Henry Clay: “I would rather be right than be president.”

Thomas Reed: “The gentleman need not trouble himself. He’ll never be either.”


Actress: “I enjoyed reading your book. Who wrote it for you?”

Ilka Chase: “Darling, I’m so glad you liked it. Who read it to you?”


Drunk man: “I can’t bear fools.”

Dorothy Parker: “Apparently your mother could.”