Lean years, Zondo blues and a red harvest

How high-flyers met to turn off the lights

What do you do if you are the chairman of a failing power utility?

Why, you take some strategic direction from the chairwoman of a failing airline, naturally.

The State Capture inquiry heard last week how former Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi was summoned by SAA’s Dudu Myeni — no reasons given – to meet then president Jabco Zuma, on 7 March 2015.

By Tstotsi’s telling, as reported by TimesLive and others, he arrived at the official presidential residence in Durban the following day, where he was welcomed by Myeni (declared a delinquent director by the Pretoria High Court in May this year).

Zuma left it to Myeni to do the talking, Tsotsi testified. She told him to get his board to suspend the Eskom chief executive and a number of his executives while an inquiry into its performance was launched.

Puzzled

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chairman of the state capture commission, was puzzled by the arrangement.

Eyewitness News reported that Zondo spent  a number of hours trying to understand who between Myeni and Zuma actually decided to set up the Eskom inquiry and suspend the executives in 2015.

Zondo wondered if Tsotsi had asked Myeni why the affairs of another state owned enterprise were her concern.

Tsotsi said: “I did not address it at that meeting in Durban but it preoccupied me for some time, to the extent of calling her and asking her: ‘How do you come into picture?’ She did not avail herself for us to speak about it.”

Nor would she have needed to. Myeni, as we all know, was the head of the JG Zuma Foundation. 

For more skulduggery, dot-joining, dirt on the Guptas and general verneukery, including mention of a one-time Rhodesian magistrate said to be mixed up in the sorry business, read this BizNews report. 

TWISTED: The men and woman at the top – then and now – have let us down. Picture: ph

Lean and mean

If economics is the dismal science, where does that leave the science (if we can call it such) of the tax practitioner? 

No-one can accuse these boykies of brimming over with joie de vivre. Take as evidence the words of Keith Engel, chief executive of the SA Institute of Tax Professionals, as reported by Moneyweb’s Barbara Curson.

Engel, speaking at the Tax Indaba held online last week, warned of desperate times, pointing out that we started the year in recession, a consequence of the “Zuma malaise”.

“We were struggling economically … and then the coronavirus came like a tidal wave.”

South Africa’s massive debt deficit has to be funded – by making cuts, or raising taxes, or growth. But growth requires capital and the government will have to raise enough money to pay off the interest and fund growth, said Engel.

A real recession may be on its way, then. And lest anyone accuse him of being pollyannaish, Engel’s language took a turn for the Biblical: “We need to plan that there will be seven lean years and three hard years.”

Let’s hope he’s over-egging it. Even the Pharaoh’s people got a better deal than that: seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine.

In fairness to Engel, he does speak a lot of sense too, including how corruption has undermined the social contract, fuelling tax evasion. And he also suggests some new sources of tax revenue that if tapped might restore some faith in the system.  

SEEING RED: ‘The party has franchised violence and when questioned, leaders will say that it has not patented the red overall and beret and that members engaging violence are not EFF.’ –  Ferial Haffajee, writing in the Daily Maverick. Picture: creazilla

Seeing red

“Three CEOs [of Clicks, H&M and Vodacom] have caved in to the EFF’s bully tactics. As a party represented in Parliament and with an outsize influence on South African politics, the EFF could easily use procedures at the legislature, through the Chapter Nine institutions and the courts to ensure that corporates who haven’t shrugged off the apartheid past are put through their paces.

“But violence has come to serve the EFF well as a means of populism and of patronage. Part of the Clicks settlement allows the party to extend its patronage because it will decide where and to whom the sanitary towels and bursaries are distributed.” – Ferial Haffajee writing for Daily Maverick

The no-need to read the story now blurb or headline of the week (verbatim)

I fought for my son’s right to be a girl when he was alive… now I’m fighting for her right to be a parent after her death: Mother of transgender teen who died aged 16 of cardiac arrest embroiled in landmark legal battle over her frozen sperm – Daily Mail Oline

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