Friday, July 30

Ludicrous Numbers

Njalo-Njalo has an informative post ( Get permalinks Nick) on the informal settlements along the N2 after reading this previous post.

I stand corrrected. The number of immigrants from the Eastern Cape is 3000 people a month, not 25000 people as I said in my previous post.

As Nick seems to know quite a bit about the subject, I wanted to ask him a few questions, but his comments sections only allows a limited amount of space so I am posting the questions here. Here goes:

1. What is the tribal mix of the black townships. Is it still mostly Xhosa as is believed?
2. How integrated are the coloured and black communities on the flats?
3. Is there any information on the number of people living informally elsewhere in the city (that is, not in townships.)
4. Is there movement of people from informal to formal housing sectors?
5. How prevalent are foreigners in the townships? Cape Town has a large population of illegal aliens. Are they accepted in the informal settlements?
6. How strong are the social links to the Eastern Cape? Do many people still send money back to relatives in the countryside?
7. The agricultural labour sector still seems very much to be dominated by coloured people. Are black people moving into agriculture in the Cape?
8. Is there any information on the prevalence of AIDS in the settlements? Are there large differences in infection between different communities?
9. What is the state of the schools in the informal settlements. Do children have to go to formal neighborhoods to reach a school?
10. Much of the settlements are in areas that are less than ideal. Ive seen some settlements bulldozed, but not widely. Do the authorities plan to just upgrade the informal settlements, or move those that are in areas that are untenable?

A lot of questions, but I hope Nick can answer at least some of them.

Strange

Strangely enough I cant find this story on News24

Embracing your Blackness

Mostly Africa comments on the warped politics of who can call themselves black.
Kenyans themselves dont seem to have any trouble calling Barak Obama 'African' and 'Black'.

Me? Im just looking forward to the day a white man can call himself African without sounding silly.

Thursday, July 29

Double Standards?

Good post by Steve on Al-Qaeda in South Africa and the denial surrounding our involvement in the badly named "war on terror".

Now two South Africans have been arrested in Pakistan for allegedly being members of Al-qaeda.

Of interest however is the response of the South African government to their arrests.

South African foreign affairs officials are trying to gain access to the pair to confirm their identities.

"Our mission has asked to visit these men in prison with an aim of establishing whether they are South Africans," foreign affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said.


How long did it take for the SA government to respond to the plight of the SA men in Equatorial guinea and Zimbabwe? Why the sudden haste?

AIDS in Durban

Is Micheal Wines of the New York Times the biggest ambulance chaser south of the equator? I’m certainly starting to think so.

I commented on Mr Wines previous article on AIDS in Lesotho, where we learned that all the woman of Lesotho will die in a few years time leaving the men to starve, as is their just deserts. As little as that article impressed me, Mr Wines has been able to excel himself with his new 'article'.

Mr Wines is continuing his investigation on the shocking AIDS epidemic that is sweeping southern Africa.

Every time southern Africa's AIDS epidemic threatens to exhaust its store of superlatives, some new, sobering extreme rises to the fore. The latest is Durban, where 51 of the 53 municipal cemeteries are officially filled to capacity, and a surging death rate threatens to overwhelm the remaining two within a couple of years

This is indeed mind-boggling. What on earth can the poor Africans do to help themselves? O, wait, Mr Wines kindly answers that question for us:

Durban could also build new cemeteries, and, indeed, the city is negotiating to buy a 100-acre site to do just that. But it costs at least $1.25 million to build a graveyard, and more to maintain it in perpetuity, money the city does not have. And those 100 acres will last only three and a half years.

So, the government can build new cemeteries, and they plan to do so. This is news? He came to Africa for this? Ahh, but Africans are poor. They cant afford to build even a cemetery. In a pigs eye. Durban has a budget of more than 10 Billion rand. Durban can build a new cemetery for 8 million rand ($1.25 million) every week without spending even a twentieth of their budget.

Where does that leave Mr Wines story? He reports two more facts that are interesting. The first is that Zulus don’t believe in cremation. The fact that this, apart from AIDS, might contribute to the fact that cemeteries fill up rapidly is not mentioned. The fact that most cemeteries filled up long before the current AIDS epidemic is somehow also not mentioned.

The second fact that Mr Wines somehow lets slip is that people 'recycle' graves not because there is no more space, but because it is cheaper to do so. Graves are recycled because people are poor, not because the AIDS epidemic has overwhelmed the government.

So, of the three ‘facts’ in his article one is factually wrong and the other two completely misrepresented.

AIDS is a terrible plague. Mr Wines has a responsibility to factually report what is going on. However, for some reason Mr Wines has felt that twisting the facts would better serve his story.

Ambulance chaser.

Wednesday, July 28

Aaaargh!

Midweek blues have hit with what could be briefly described as ".. vengeance of the LORD!!!" It has not been helped by the fact that I've lost all my personal data with a hard drive crash while I was moving it to higher ground. This could be the onset of an early midlife crises. If I had a dog I'd probably be looking forward to going home and kicking it.

Since I dont I'm just going to lock myself up until it passes. Until then.

Tuesday, July 27

Lone Bull


Unganisha is Back

Have I said he goes to all the cool places?

Delivery

Njalo-Njalo reports that the ANC has come up with an incredible evil and devious plan for total political domination in the Cape. They plan to deliver!! My sympathies must go out to the DA. Talk about just not playing fair.

The Cape Times also reports on their front page; 

           R120m plan to uplift city townships

The City of Cape Town is to spend R120 million - half of it from the German government - in improving conditions and fighting crime in Mitchell's Plain and Khayelitsha. It believes uplifting the two areas that are home to a third of the city's three million people will improve business confidence and that this will ultimately benefit all Capetonians.The plan entails creating "safe nodes", where public facilities and services are to be provided that are expected to benefit between 20 000 and 50 000 people living within a two-kilometre radius.
Which confirms what Cape Townians (Tonians?) have known for years. The Germans are intent on conquest! The number of Germans in Cape Town has now grown  to such an extent that the German government  feels obliged to spend its Tax Euros in the places where its citizens live. And what better way to spend it than improving the eyesore its citizens suffer on the drive from the airport to their homes in Camps Bay!

Update: Well, ok, germans are not really that bad. They make good sausage. Ok, ok, were grateful. Thanks Germany.


What to do in Sudan?

Laurence comments on South Africas options in Sudan. I say we go for option 3 and 4, with a detour through Zimbabwe. Since that wont happen I say we go for option 1 and try to ignore the refugees selling trinkets on our street corners.

It's Almost Supernatural

A blog that South Africa has sorely been needing, Its Almost Supernatural intends to, in his own words;

... detail just how biased the South African press has become against Israel. It is my intention to alert those South Africans to whom justice is important about this bias - to arm them with resources that can be used to challenge the South African media. 

Monday, July 26

Rhinoblogging



Endangered Species? Hell, you can hardly step outside in Natal without stepping on two of these. These are White Rhino, and you can tell by looking at the mouths. They look like pretty good imitations of a lawnmower. Black Rhinos are still very rare, but are getting more numerous as well. Their mouths are more pointed as they use it to pick leaves from Bushes and small children.

Surfs Up

Rogue Waves? Always loved those. Ever since I saw "The greatest disaster movie ever made", anyway. On the other hand, I had a conversation Saturday with one of the production people shooting the remake in Cape Town , and all this might just be a bit of very clever guerilla marketing. 

Fake Bloggers

With Google giving such high precedent to Blogs, its was only a matter of time before people started playing games. Have a look at these two blogs and see if you can find anything in common.

http://www.livejournal.com/users/capedoctor/
http://redned.blogspot.com/ 

Two Roads

As I’ve noted before on this blog, Cape Town for me is best described by looking at the two roads that feed the city and the people that live next to them. The N1, connecting the Mother City to economic heart of our country, and the N2 which travels to the East Cape and the old homelands of Ciskei and Transkei.

The city has been expanding at a rapid rate down both roads. Along the N1 the cities outlying suburbs are now closer to Paarl then they are to Cape Town. Condo style housing developments stretch as far as the eyes can see as developers feed the need for housing faster then communities can develop.

The people that travel the N1 are the middle class of South Africa. The suburbs past the cape flats; Belville, Parow and Durbanville, are jokingly referred to as the "Boerewors gordyn". (Boerewors is the traditional sausage barbecued by most South Africans, but is culturally linked to Afrikaners or Boere.)

On the N2 however, the effect of the flood of unskilled black people from the old homelands after the end of apartheid can be seen. The shanty towns have merged to form a line of shacks along the highway, from the foot of Table mountain to the outskirts of Somerset West. Some estimates have put the number of new arrivals as high as 25000 a month. With almost no skills, and most new arrivals only able to speak Xhosa, getting out of the shanty towns is a dream few will ever realize.

I have a special interest in the N2 as this is the route I drive to work on every day. I live in Cape Town and work in the Boland so I get to miss out on all the traffic and enjoy the scenery. (One of the reasons I bought the damp train car that I call my home). The N2 is separated from the shanty towns by a concrete fence and about 30 meters of grass. As the shanty towns are packed to capacity the locals, in good South African tradition, broke out bars of concrete to get access to the grass for soccer, exercising, an alternative toilet and grazing their goats and cows. And of course getting to the other side. At one bridge unemployed men also gather in the hope that someone will pick them up for a days labour. A large concrete barriers has been built in the center of the highway, but people still regularly cross the highway as it is easier than walking to the one or two pedestrian crossings.

The problem should be obvious. Put large amounts of pedestrians next to a road, along with some farm animals. Add a constant stream of cars traveling at 120 kilometers an hour and you can see the problem. It the children that make me especially nervous. There are two places next to the road where the reeds of the black river give way, forming natural swimming holes. Large numbers of kids usually cross the road here. It also explains why many people avoid the N2 like the plague. Stories of traffic police and emergency response crews refusing to work this stretch of road abound.

Imagine my happy surprise when about a month ago crews started fixing the concrete barriers, extending it in places (And closing of at least one swimming hole. Call me a miser. Id rather see those kids alive than happy). In addition, for the first time in years there is a highway patrol (two cars. But they are new and active), and the council has hired local people to act as 'road guards' that sit at the major crossing points stopping people from entering the no-mans land at the side of the highway. I’ve even seen less goats.

Its still not close to perfect. Kids still play soccer as dusk, when the roads at its busiest and the chance of you seeing them the least. People still run across the road with firewood, dodging cars. And those stupid goats still prefer the grass right next to the highway, but at least there is someone who saw the problem and is trying to help.

Is this the result of an ANC local government? If so, I'm all for it. 

Must Have

A new mp3 player from my favourite Korean company, iRiver. Muuuust... haaaaave...

Borrowing Blues

Wayne sounds a word of warning to a previous post on borrowing capitol. Fair enough. I still believe that we should not see borrowed money as a bad thing and if we hope to grow this country to the potential we all see in it we will have to get pretty intimate with a lot of debt.

Friday, July 23

Zululand



Sunset in Zululand. There is something to be said for a river cruise on an African River (Apart from the free booze).

Enjoy the weekend.

On the other side of the Border

Botswana on the other handhas been going from strength to strength in recent years.

Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest growth rates since independence in 1966. Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $9,500 in 2002. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa. Diamond mining has fueled much of the expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP and for nine-tenths of export earnings. Tourism, subsistence farming, and cattle raising are other key sectors. On the downside, the government must deal with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Unemployment officially is 21%, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%. HIV/AIDS infection rates are the highest in the world and threaten Botswana's impressive economic gains. Long-term prospects are overshadowed by the prospects of a leveling off in diamond mining production. (via nationmaster)
 
In a continent with such abundant mineral wealth, it always amazes me how little sound government is credited for the successes in the africa.  You'd almost believe that the rest of the world was of the opinion that sound government isnt possible on this continent. 

Still. Botswana is going to have to diversify if it wants to continue being as succesful as they have been and that is going to require that the government slacken the reigns a bit in the coming years.

Blaming the Past

The Namibian blames the past and government not implementing a more strident land reform program for Namibia's  slide in the Human Development Index (HDI) from 111th to 126th the last few years.

God forbid anyone should point out that Sam Nujoma and his government has been a complete farce. Oh well, I'll do it.

Read the "Burger"?

Mostly Africa asks if someone who can speak Afrikaans is willing to translate some Burger articles on the mercenary story he reported about yesterday. Im more then willing to translate, but since the stories are only in the Burger I dont think there is much point. If the Burger reported that the sun was going to rise tomorrow I'd still get a second opinion.

Who owns you?

As promised Wayne delivers a good post on the traps of buying houses as an alternative investment. I would just like to add that one reason it should be considered medium-to-high risk investment is because it is actually two investment that needs to be coordinated. On one side your investing in property as an inflation hedge and on the other your using it to generate income through rental, which can give surprisingly low returns. Although your investment can be considered 'safe' as an asset backs it up, the risk of under performing even a simple money market account is substantial (especially in property price boom times such as these).

Saving is all good and well, but I want to add to this discussion the question of how much debt should you have, or even should you have any debt?

Capitalism as a system works very well. Unfortunately our education system does a particularly bad job of explaining how capitalism can work for you. It might be obvious, but I'll state it anyway: To be a capitalist, you need capitol. Unless you’re one of those lucky people whose forefathers decided to bless or curse you with a substantial trust fund, this is going to mean borrowing money.

Each person has a certain amount of debt that they should have. If you don’t have that debt it is money going to waste. Unfortunately there is no simple formula which can be used to calculate the amount of debt you should have. The bank will only lend you the amount of money that they think you can have.  The amount you should have is determined by your age and personal situation (called your risk profile), ability, get go, and your goals .If your comfortable as a part time cocktail waitress, kudos to you. Few people ever realize money isn’t a goal.

This means that if your young, with ambitions of the good life, and you feel that money at prime is money sitting idle, you should theoretically be up to your eyeballs into debt. You should borrow as much money as humanly possible. Your first call everyday should be to your venture capitol bank manager saying: Can I get more money?

When do you stop borrowing? This ones easy and has been figured out for centuries. In olden times it is when you would be sold of into debt bondage for the rest of your life. These days you declare bankruptcy. What I’m trying to say is there is little middle ground. You are either successful in adding value to the money your borrow, thereby allowing you to service your debt, or your not in which case you should not have borrowed so much money. Oops.

Debt is not a bad thing. Debt is the stuff that makes life possible. You should be an intimate friend of debt, because you'll never get anywhere in our society without her.

That said, not all debt is good. Any debt that you cant service or where no value can be added to the debt is bad debt. Borrowing money for your living expenses is money down the toilet. Buying a car (in most cases) is bad debt as the value of the asset decreases with time.  Sometimes you need bad debt, but bad debt is something completely different from good debt. Good debt should not even be called debt as to totally disassociate it with bad debt. It should properly be called capitol (albeit with strings attached, but isn’t there always?).

There is a safe route through the debt capitol jungle however. It’s called a career. Your income allows leveraging capitol, covering your expenses so as to avoid bad debt and serves as an insurance policy against you losing everything. It might not be as exiting as striking out on your own, going up to your eyeballs into capitol, and praying that the accountant doesn’t mention cash flow and problem in the same sentence, but it works.

You should still make sure that you have the proper amount of capitol at all times. There is nothing so sad as a man who boasts about not owing the bank anything.

What debt should you have? You should owe money on your house. If you don’t, buy a bigger house. Servicing the extra debt is going to cost a lot less than the money you’re going to make on the capitol gains of the house. Alternatively mortgage the house to the max and start a small business. Employ a person at minimum wage to run it. Buy a farm, and have someone else manage it for you. If a friend wants to start a business and it sound reasonable invest in him. Have your house re-evaluated and if the bank will lend you more on the house get that money. Use your capitol, because you can only get so much of it.

A career is a stepping-stone to becoming a capitalist, and in this game the man who owes the most is probably winning.


Thursday, July 22

More Mercenaries

Mostly Africa speculates that Mugabe has hired a South African mercenary security outfit to provide protection and other services. While I am sure Mugabe needs it, I have to doubt the veracity of this.

Mugabe would have to be seriously out of touch or have a death wish if he thought he could hire South African mercenaries. Apart from the fact that a number of South Africa mercenaries can probably show a few scars from the war in then Rhodesia, I imagine a large percentage of the rest of the group would probably do Mugabe in for a substantial discount to their usual fee. (Hell, its like Yasser Arafat hiring Isreali mercenaries for protection.)

The most likely country would probably be Mosambique. Security is still a serious issue in this relatively backward Southern African country, and skilled people (even white ones) are welcomed by the government. You will recall that a large number of white farmers from Zimbabwe were invited by Mosambique to settle there.

Then again, you never know and there is a reason Bob is called Mad.

Wednesday, July 21

Cheetah Cubs



Ok, granted. My catblogging hasnt been all that exciting so far. But, to make up for it, how about some cheetah cubs? They are about 2 weeks old.   There are 4, with the other two and their mother already on the other side of the road. 

Rich South African, Poor South African

Wayne Wides points to speculation that South African GDP growth has been underestimated for the last few years. It does not seem unlikely, as STATS SA has done it before and South Africans confidence in their economy is certainly not explained by the meager growth we have apparently been achieving.

Wayne also encourages South Africans to save more, something I can certainly recommend. He does not include capitol gains tax into his calculation however, which I believe will have a major impact on those numbers and complicates the situation.

I just want to make a few points about saving money in SA today.

Investing in a retirement annuity allows you to lower your income tax as well as escape the ravages of capitol gains until you retire. Management fees for most funds in SA are insane however, so finding a safe, low cost, index tracker might be difficult. You'll possible have to use slivers of bamboo and hot tongs on your insurance consultant to drag out this information from him, even if they offer something like that (he makes more money selling you high return, high cost managed funds). If he tells you the return his fund has been making the last few years makes his management fee insignificant, explain to him the law of diminishing returns then tell him you think you've got a lump in your back and can he explain their life insurance policies to you again. That should get rid of him. Two things to remember. You cant touch this money until your life is over, and you'll need less money to retire with than the insurance agent is telling you.

In the comments of Waynes Post the SATRIX 40 is recommended as an investment alternative. I heartily concur. I cannot laud this investment vehicle enough, even if its management costs are still high compared with international standards. If your looking to start saving relatively small amounts (say R10000)  for the long term it is possibly South Africas best option.

Saving is more than putting away a R1000 a month however. The fact is it takes money to save money. The best savings account is borrowing money to buy a  house, as perverse as that sounds(up to a monetary limit  and if your planning to live in it, otherwise the rules change again). Apart from the monthly loan repayment, any money you put into your homeloan is free from capitol gains tax (CG tax will be charged to any profit you make when you sell your house due to growth in the market, not money saved by paying less rent), earns interest at prime and is immediately available if you need it with most modern home loans. Buying a house also protects your savings from the ravages of inflation as well as providing security for other investments you want to make. (It also forces you to save by just making you service the loan every month.)

Another savings vehicle often overlooked is spending money to decrease the cost of your lifestyle. If you’re spending R400 a month at the laundromat, buying a R2000 washing machine will pay for itself in less than half a year.  Spending too much money on food? Buying a fridge allows you to purchase food in bulk and storing it for when you need it. Spending too much to keep your car running? Buying a new second hand car (Never buy a new car in South Africa. Were being cheated. Lets repeat that so everyone gets that. Never buy a new car in South Africa. Were being cheated. ) can lesson your costs considerably even if it does increase your short term debt. You can use the money you save on the car to pay of your car debt faster.

Rich people get richer because they can save money just by spending it. Buying a Mercedes? Chances are you'll be able to sell it in a years time for the same of more money. Buying a dining room cupboard? You'll never be able to get rid of your fake oregan pine chipboard monument to "I bought it for myself before we married",  but the R80000 Stinkwood Louis XIVth imitation is going too make you a pretty penny in 10 years time. Woolies plates at R30 a pop? Cracked and sitting in the attic for when "You throw those parties for 'those' your friends". Spode dinner plates at R350 a pop? Not a scratch and its listed in your will. What is the moral of this story? You can save just by spending decadently wisely. Buying something valuable to use is not necessarily extravagance, but good business sense (and it makes your wife happy, which is priceless).

However! The first rule of saving will always be that you will never get rich by just saving. The second rule is that you cant take it with you. This means that next time the clever young salesgirl tries to explain to you how much money you can save in the next 20 years by just giving up drinking a soft drink at work every day and applying the laws of compound interest, explain to her you like drinking a soft drink everyday and talking to that smart young chap from marketing with all those crazy ideas. Having a party is an investment in your business network. Lunch is networking. Don’t try to save money by skimping on those things that make your life enjoyable and might just make you rich (If not in money, then at least in friends. You can repeat that as a mantra later in your life "At least I’m rich in friends...".).

The third rule of saving is you should always be saving more. How much should you save? Between 20 and 35% of your income if your earning less than R20000 a month. If you’re earning more than that you should be saving more.

How do I start saving? Small amounts in a bank account monthly, and lump sums of R10000 into Satrix and similar investments. Why not directly into Satrix? Because you want to lower your banking costs and the higher the lump sum investment the lower the administration costs usually.

How much should I have as a cash reserve (or short term investments)?  At least 3 months income. That’s a lot of money if your making R15000 month, but you can reduce it considerable by having medical, automobile, life and house insurance.

Should I get a credit card? If you’re able to manage it responsible. If you know you cant, don’t get one. If you can, then easily accessible short term debt is one of the modern worlds greatest inventions. Bigger than the indoor toilet. Grander than sliced bread.

When should I buy a house? As soon as you can afford it. The sooner the better. If you cant afford it, you should still be looking at houses. For most people, your house will be your single biggest investment of your life. Buy in bad neighborhoods, buy a crummy dump, but get into the market.

As for getting rich? You’re on your own with that one. Would I blog if I knew how? 

Tuesday, July 20

Lions


 
Ok, I promised. Here are the Lions. What? They dont look very exiting? Its daytime, and they are trying to nap. The lady in the back is pregnant, the other two are just full from the Kudu lying about 100 meters further into the Bush.

Mercenary Round-up

Mostly Africa has a good round-up of the current events around the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea and the 70 mercenaries in jail in Zimbabwe. He links to a facinating article on one of the captives, Simon Mann, in the Gaurdian. 

AIDS in Lesotho

An article in the New York Times about the AIDS epidemic in Lesotho. It manages to blame poverty, men, capitalism, draught and  apartheid for the epidemic, with young, poor, black, woman being the innocent victims incapable of changing the lot fate has dealt them.
 
Still, its nice to see Lesotho covered in the NY Times, even if they feel they have to tell their readers how to pronounce the countries name.
 
The situation in Lesotho (pronounced le-SOO-too), a tiny, mountainous kingdom with the world's fourth highest H.I.V. infection rate, mirrors the catastrophe barreling through sub-Saharan Africa. A confluence of factors - including culture and the destitution that turns sex into currency - has transformed AIDS here from an indiscriminate killer into a plague against women.
 
As with all good stories, this article is bereft of facts and overflowing with innuendo. In my minds eye I can already see the reporter jetting into the country and picking up a local paper on the way to the hotel bar. Always good to hear that were going to be destroyed by a killer plague (the woman will all die first of course), starved by unending draught and discarded by the maelstrom of globalization. Its all the mens fault naturally, but America is probably ultimately to blame. 
 
Is there a serious situation in Lesotho? You bet. Should you cancel your skiing holiday? Absolutely not!  In fact, what they are trying to tell you in their own demented little way is that theres never been a better time for a skiing holiday in Lesotho.  If you don't go now, the maelstrom might have gobbled it all up by the time you want to go.

Monday, July 19

Come to Africa, See the Lions!

Can you see the Cheetah?

Back to the Blog

Back from vacation, and what do I find? Mental Acrobatics is back from the great google cache in the sky and he's posting again. 
 
Now I'll have to go there at least 5 times a day.
 
Also new and very welcome are the  new tools that have been added by blogger-dot-com. Now if only blogger can add the word 'blog' to their spellchecker I'll be happy.