Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Business Day publishes my article on Richard Maponya

Business Day was kind enough to publish my article on Richard Maponya, which I edited to make it shorter and sharper. You can read the text below or in BusinessLive here. They got my title wrong - I was not an MEC (Member of the Executive Committee of a province) but never mind, hope springs...

Richard Maponya was accorded the rare honour of a state funeral which took place at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus. This honour recognises Maponya’s heroic struggle to build his business in the face of the apartheid regime’s putting every conceivable obstacle in his way. 

It was convenient for today's governing party to lionise one of its own to deflect attention from its long history of racist, anti-business rhetoric, summed up in the pejorative epithet ‘white monopoly capital’. 17th century French author and moralist Francois de la Rochefoucauld had a nice way of putting it: “hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue”.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Richard Maponya – will his life lessons be learned?

Attending several of the services commemorating the life of the late Richard Maponya these past few days has been an eye-opener. In often moving tributes, representatives from business, local communities, politics, religion and academia recalled how Ntate Richard Maponya changed their lives for the better during his 99 years.  

Though much was said, there were four recurring themes – family, respect for others, hard work and entrepreneurship. Maponya exemplified bringing them all together in one life, lived with a purpose. He himself worked until the day he died.

But at another level, the services revealed many of the ambiguities and contradictions in our society which are hard to reconcile and how politics invades even the most intimate moments in a nation’s life. The comparative absence of white faces also reminded me, if I needed reminding, of the deep racial cleavages still dividing our society.

Maponya, a South African and more pointedly a black business titan, was accorded the unprecedented honour of a state funeral which took place at the UJ Soweto Campus. It is convenient for the governing party to lionise one of its own to deflect attention from its long history of racist, anti-business rhetoric, summed up in the epithet ‘white monopoly capital’.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Keepers of the Light - new book and film on Portland Bill lighthouse, Dorset

Two artists from the West Midlands, Brendan Jackson and Geoff Broadway, recently launched their book and film about the construction of the Portland Bill lighthouse on the Dorset coast in England.

They are magnificent works of art in themselves, portraying how the firm of Chance Brothers built a global business on lighthouse design, construction, installation, commissioning and maintenance which lasted for over 100 years.

Monday, 11 November 2019

My article in Business Day on why the DA must embrace the entrepreneurial class and exports

Today's Business Day carries my article on two "killer app" economic policies for the DA - please enjoy!

Hundreds of people turned up at Hyde Park Corner mall to hear Mcebisi Jonas launch his book After Dawn in August. The allusion to dawn was not missed, coming eighteen months after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘New Dawn’ state of the nation speech which did so much to raise the hopes of our nation.

Things are a lot darker now, and not just because the ratings agencies are scouring the horizon for signs of an economic upturn, finding little but thunder clouds. Their assessments are met with determined statements of intent that we must “do better” but with little of the political will required to underpin hopes with a realistic plan.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Why has getting Brexit done been so difficult? - Lord Hill in conversation with Toby Chance

Last week I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Jonathan Hill, who I've known since our student days at Cambridge University. The last time we were together in SA was in 1989, when he and his new wife Alex came for a three week holiday. We recalled how we spent Christmas Eve in Durban watching the toppling of Nicolae Ceaușescu, president of Romania, and his execution, along with his wife, the following day. It was a symbolic moment in the collapse of communism in the USSR and eastern Europe.

South Africa was about to experience its own brand of freedom, with President de Klerk announcing the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela a few weeks later.

Now Britain, of all the least expected countries, is undergoing a political crisis, with the traumatic process of withdrawing from the EU inflaming tensions across the country. In trying to make sense of it all, I was keen to hear Jonathan's views, which are published in today's Daily Maverick - you can read the interview here or in full below.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Measuring the informal economy - stats and impact: the debate continues

GG Alcock's article in BizNews, his interview with Alec Hogg, my response and his riposte, and the Editor's Desk discussion between Alec and Felicity Duncan, have stimulated a lively discussion on how we measure the informal economy and what its impact is on SA's GDP, unemployment and growth.

BizNews has followed this up with a summary of the comments and points made by readers.

Long may this discussion continue, and hopefully it will filter through to the Treasury and Stats SA where the capacity and expertise lies to do the heavy lifting.

It is interesting that the Treasury's economic growth strategy document released yesterday with an accompanying press statement places great emphasis on the role SMEs will and must play in our growth. Many of its recommendations come straight out of work I did with my colleague Henro Kruger in the 5th term of Parliament between 2014 and 2019 - including his Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill, my Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill, our focus on late payments and early-stage funding for SMEs, the need to exempt SMEs from regulations and bargaining council extensions and focus on exports, amongst others.

One topic it does not dwell on is the role of the informal economy in the broader economy. I will be sending my comments to the Treasury on this and other matters. Send comments to

Friday, 23 August 2019

Response to GG Alcock - shattering the myth of high unemployment rate, BizNews

Today, BizNews published my response to an article by GG Alcock which got a lot of reader comments (both positive and negative), due to its contrarian views on the state of the informal economy in SA. I have read both GG's books (Kasinomics and Kasinomic Revolution) and loved them both, and have met with him several times over a coffee to discuss various aspects of the entrepreneurial space. I have no gripes on his point that the informal economy is more alive than most people give it credit for, but was moved to respond in the context of SA's broader development and growth agenda, which his argument fails to address, in my view.

I will read the readers' comments with interest, this discussion has a long way to go.

You can read it on BizNews here or read it in full below.