> We've just about reached that special time of year again and I'd like to take this opportunity of wishing all my subscribers a Happy peaceful Christmas, and a positive and successful 2005!
Those of you who are out of office or on holiday - I'm sorry I missed you!
It's been a busy year for me, juggling my time between my daytime business, my Cape Town Travel Adviser web site, and family commitments, which should always come, first but invariably take second place.
Although we are as high tech and advanced as most other countries, costs of accessing the Internet here in South Africa are relatively high in comparison. That is because our one and only Telkom, has a licence to control Internet access into the country and set up communication links. All local service providers have to lease bandwidth from this monolith.
What it means to me is that I use the Internet after hours because it is more cost effective to do so, and this limits my time. But most evenings, and a substantial portion of my weekends are spent working on my web site.
The Internet scenario may change within the next year or two, provided a licence is issued to another company with the resources to challenge Telkom. We await this move with eager anticipation because it should encourage more competitive user charges. The cell phone companies are cashing in too, by offering high speed access with the latest new technology cell phones. Where will it end?
Remember to tell me what you'd like to see or not see in this newsletter. I've tried to present interesting issues in an informative way.
I'm open to praise or criticism. That being said – read and enjoy!
I look forward to giving you a regular insight into the Cape lifestyle.
Cape Town Travel Adviser
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Cape Town 2004
It's been an interesting year in Cape Town and South Africa in general.
I have descibed some of the highlights below:
The country's elections were held in April after 10 years of democracy, and as expected, the ANC swept the board with 70% of the vote. Their canvassing even involved our roving president Thabo Mbeki, who could actually be seen strolling among villagers in rural communities, smiling, shaking hands and making promises about a better life for all.
Well it all got Mbeki back into a 2nd term of office but it is apparent that the country is run by his ministers while he jets between international engagements. The reality is that health conditions and service delivery in the rural communities dictate that a 'better life for all' is still very much on the cards.
We've had to deal with controversial and complicated issues such as pricing regulations for pharmacies, where the Government has capped and standardised profit margins on prescription medication, in what has been viewed as a heavy handed attempt to make medication more affordable for everybody. Unfortunately our friendly pharmacist has in many cases been forced out of business as a result because he/she has not been able to cover their costs.
Despite various meetings between representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and the Department of Health, the new regulations were applied, and an ongoing legal battle has arisen. The latest supreme court ruling has been against the Government who are sticking to their guns and - at the time of writing, have lodged an appeal in the constitutional court against the judgement. In the meantime our pharmacists around the country have been completely confused by the ongoing legal wrangling and have no idea about what their correct profit margins should be.
It makes me wonder what the point is in having all these levels of courts. A judgement in a magistrates court can simply be appealed in a supreme court - if not, you just appeal for a ruling at the next level up. Until you get to the consitutional court. The whole process can take years. The lawyers are the ones who profit of course, because they make sure that most prosecutions are appealed. I actually prefer the jury system. Think about it. Once a suspect is found guilty by the jury then that is it.
One of the uplifting Cape events of 2004 was the winning of the bid to host the 2010 Football World Cup. It was given as much attention as the elections. Remember the 2004 Olympic bid debacle in 1997? Millions was spent on promoting Cape Town as the venue. The organisers fell out along the way but they put their cards on the table and went all out for the bid. Through the media we were all led to believe that Cape Town would get the 2004 Olympic Games. Even Madiba made a passionate appeal during the presentation. It was to no avail. During lively but premature celebrations on the Grand Parade we heard that the bid had gone to Athens. Cape Town was desolate.
Our own cartoonist Zapiro captured the mood with a brilliant cartoon of a deserted Grand Parade littered with abandoned paper flags and a lone vagrant exclaiming "Athens se ma se *$#&" (a typical Cape Town street curse)
The 2010 World Cup will mean a lot of work and a lot of discipline for our local authorities and it has to start now. We've successfully hosted one World Rugby Cup, but football has a different following, and unless there are significant changes to our economic and social infrastructures within the next few years, we'll be hosting an event where attendance costs will be beyond the reach of most.
Another soapie saga which has been generating a lot of media interest in Cape Town during 2004 has been the antics of the privileged Prince of the nightclubs. The late Princess Diana's younger son Harry has been taking the bull by its horns so to speak, and in the company of a local Newlands student lass - apparently no less privileged herself - has been frequenting local nightspots, and flying to off to exotic locations such as Argentina and Mozambique for passionate 'holidays'.
Harry has been enrolled at the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy, in the time honoured Royal tradition. Whether he can discipline himself enough to curtail his hedonistic lifestyle remains to be seen. Lets face it. This is 2004. The Royal youth of today surely cannot be expected to continue to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.. Does this indicate that the demise of Royal tradition is imminent?
When you have a young Royal on the loose there is always room for controversy of course. The wealthy family of Harry's young lady friend Chelsy, run a hunting safari business in Zimbabwe and apparently have close links with president Mugabe himself.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre has been the success story of the year. It has accommodated around 300,000 visitors in the first half of 2004 alone. A number of conventions and conferences were hosted at the CTICC during the year including the North Sea Jazz Festival which attracted 15,000 people. The Centre has boosted the economy with the creation of nearly 4,000 jobs.
On the education front here in the Western Cape, we are faced with proposed major changes to the existing "learner" allocation per available space in a large number of schools. The phenomenal influx of largely impoverished people into the Western Cape throughout the year has created a logistical nightmare for local authorities as they strive to provide sufficient land and resources for mushrooming shack settlements. The lack of schools servicing our townships and these informal communities is a major problem, and existing classrooms are way overcrowded.
Local MEC of education Cameron Dugmore was tasked with finding a solution and his response has been to request all government schools in the Western Cape to list all available space which could be used to accommodate additional classes. The bottom line is that should his proposal be legislated, then all schools regardless of status, tradition and location will have to take on learners to no less than 38 per available class. It appears that no consultation has been made with school boards, parents, or educational experts on the issue.
The proposed new Cape education legislation is significant. It will mark the end of of elitism and tradition of language and culture in exclusive government schools and paves the way for a 'same education for all' scenario. Despite the logistics involved, it's not a foregone conclusion that should such legislation be put into effect, the perceived standards will drop in the exclusive schools, disadvantaged children will not pay for their schooling, and parents currently paying thousands for their child to benefit from smaller classes and extra curriculum activites are going to opt for Private Schools.
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Harry Houdini's days of running the gauntlet were brought to a satisfying end recently. As reported in the previous eBulletin our slippery 800kg young hippo had been evading capture for some time. The marshy environment of Zeekoevlei in which he had spent the last year had made it extremely difficult for professional game catchers to corner and dart him without the risk of drowning him. One night Harry (just one of his many aliases) had decided to attempt to return to his previous home in the adjoining Rondevlei sanctuary through a gap in the fence, but he was injured and driven off by a dominant adult hippo. It was time to do something about Harry before he got himself killed, or before he became a danger to the public. He certainly couldn't be returned to Rondvlei. It was announced in the press that should efforts to capture our hippo continue to fail, he would have to be shot. In the midst of the public outcry our valiant game experts managed to catch up with Harry at last and put no less than six tranquilizer darts into him during a desperate three hour chase. Thick skinned he was but Superhippo he was not. Harry succumbed at last, and in apparent good health was bundled into a special container which transported him off to the Eastern Cape. Last we heard he was splashing around happily in his new sanctuary home. All's well that ended well.
Here is an article from the Mbendi website which sums up 2004 in Africa
AFRICA AND THE WORLD IN 2004
As we look back on Africa and the world in 2004, we sense a number of
see-saws, long immobile, starting to slowly tilt in a new direction.
In a couple of cases the movement was almost imperceptible. After years
of barracking by the environmentalists, world governments, with the
possible exception of the USA, seem at last to be taking global warming
seriously, prodded no doubt by seemingly freak weather conditions around
the globe. Developing nations are expected to be hardest hit by global
warming. On the medical front, there were hints of progress in finding
vaccines and cures for malaria and HIV / Aids, two diseases which have a
debilitating impact on Africa.
In other cases, the impact was much more immediate. The oil price shot
from a level around US$ 25 a barrel to trade in a zone between US$ 40
and US$ 50, with experts predicting prices will stay there. At the same
time the US$ weakened dramatically with some experts predicting it will
stay weak until American trade and budget deficits are sorted out,
others pointing to the rise of the Euro which, for the first time since
the decline of Sterling, is a competitor to the US$ as a global
currency. These are moves over which African countries have little
control but which impact them greatly.
Perhaps the most significant tilt was that away from the economies of
North America and Europe to China, India and the OPEC members, who, in
partnership with Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa, are starting to have
a major impact in world trade and political fora. In Africa, we see
Chinese and Indian companies following Malaysian companies in tying up
mineral and energy resources in competition with the multinationals.
Judging by the EU's approach to membership by Turkey and, heaven forbid,
Morocco; Western attitudes to Iran having the same nuclear capability as
France or Israel; or the meticulous bodycount of invasion force soldiers
killed in Iraq, while the numbers of local civilian casualties goes
untallied, the West is struggling to come to terms with a world where
the "great unwashed" count just as much as Christian Europeans.
They could well take lessons from South Africa which this year
celebrated its tenth year of democracy. While many of the blights of the
past have yet to be resolved, it has become a "rainbow nation" of races,
languages and creeds in which it is fascinating and stimulating to live
and work. Some examples. A multinational company recently brought its
senior managers from around the world on a team building exercise in a
squatter camp, where they built houses, painted a hospital and assisted
in a school. My son, who travelled through Africa last year and spoke so
glowingly of Rwanda, now teaches in a high school with a real mix of
races; each year they arrange amazing camps for 15 year old mixed groups
where they tackle head on issues of racial and sexual diversity. And at
a service to celebrate the lighting of a Christmas tree last week, the
solo chorister was a Hindu boy, while the main address was given by a
local Imam who started by saying "We all pray to the same god...."
Finally here at MBendi we are also trying to give the African see-saw a
small push. Early this year a student came to work with us for a couple
of weeks. On his last day, he came to me with a big smile to tell me: "I
grew up poverty-stricken in the rural Transkei where the only commercial
entity was the trading store over the hill. Although I'm a third year
accounting student, this is the first time I have been in an office,
absorbing what happens in the workplace, seeing how companies make and
spend money and working with information used by decision makers". We
were so struck by his remarks that we started a more formal program with
the local university so pairs of students, who are similarly financially
and experientially disadvantaged, could work here for two weeks at a
time during their vacations. It also gave our bright young research team
the opportunity to learn mentoring and supervisory skills, something
that's difficult in a small organisation like ours. So, as you use the
MBendi website and newsletters in 2005, remember that much of the
information was compiled through the brains and fingers of Africa's
information-savvy future business leaders!
AFRICAN BUSINESS ROUND-UP
By past standards, 2004 was a good year for Africa. Economic growth was
better than it has been for years and FDI was up, while there is hope
that conflicts across the continent are finally coming to an end. The
Inga hydro-electric project on the Congo River, which has the potential
to transform the region, was given the green light. Free and fair
democratic elections were held in a number of countries, including South
Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Ghana.
South Africa's president Mbeki has played a key role in getting Africa on track, so it's all the more disappointing that he and his henchmen should choose to launch verbal attacks on Archbishop Tutu, union leader Vavi and others for daring to question any part of the ANC government's performance - at the same time he remains silent about the antics of the leaders of neighbouring Swaziland and Zimbabwe, where President Mugabe's Zanu PF is being wrenched by internal power struggles but stays dominant. We also watch the G8 countries with interest to see whether oil or good governance and justice will win the day in Equatorial Guinea where treason triallists are claiming to have been tortured.
On the African business scene the Libyan government is seeking suppliers
for the new Benghazi Medical Centre. There are plans for a railway from
Sudan to Mombasa. DFID is seeking service providers for a hunger
alleviation program. Nigeria has lifted a ban on imports of textiles and
five other goods from neighbouring Benin. KLM is to launch services to
Khartoum and Addis Ababa. The Kenya Tea Development Agency is shifting
its focus from the traditional markets to the USA. South Africa and
Russia have strengthened their economic and trade relations. The Kenya
Ports Authority is to acquire 400 railway wagons to ease congestion at
Mombasa port. The Saudi Uganda Investment Agency is to set up a US$22
million water-processing plant in Kampala. Egypt and Ethiopia signed a
US$ 50 million meat import agreement.
Russia has put into operation a
duty free mechanism for imports from Africa and other developing
nations. South African exports to the US in 2004 are 30% up on last
year, despite the strong Rand. Egypt and Israel signed a trade accord.
Turning to energy, Mobil Producing Nigeria has invited companies to
register to perform tie-ins, while Kenya Power and Light is seeking
suppliers of electrical equipment and cabling. South Africa is looking
to the private sector to build and operate two power plants. Iran is
sponsoring a power project in Senegal. Nigeria is to split the local
power utility into seven companies prior to privatisation.
National Council on Privatisation is to speed up privatisation of
refineries. Total announced a natural gas discovery on the Timimoun
permit in Algeria. Amerada Hess announced an oil discovery offshore
Equatorial Guinea. The Zambia Privatisation Agency chose Athi River
Mining of Kenya as the preferred bidder for Ndola Lime Company.
In the mining and minerals sector, the main talking point has been
Harmony's hostile bid for Gold Fields, a saga still to be played out to
its final conclusion. Xstrata Coal terminated its South African joint
venture with Total. The Zimbabwe government wants Impala Platinum to
include Chinese shareholders in its local mining operations. Konkola
Copper Mines will spend US$500 million to re-deepen the Konkola
Underground mine and sink a new shaft near the concentrator.
On finance, Mali signed aid agreements worth E11.6 million with the
Netherlands. Kenya received 23 million euros credit from Nordic
Development Fund for energy sub-sector projects. The African Development
Fund (ADF) has approved a grant of US$1.4 million to finance the
fisheries resources development plan study in Ethiopia. The US approved
$US 300 million aid for Sudan. The World Bank approved a US$63.58
million grant for Burkina Faso's power sector.
Some more useful pages on my Cape Town Travel Adviser website for you to check out.
Safaris from Cape Town
Cape Town News
About Table Mountain
That's all from me for now <>.
Speak to you in the next issue.
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