Friday, 19 May 2017

House Chair rules my term "The Invisible Minister Zulu" un-Parliamentary - watch on YouTube video

During yesterday's debate the house Chair, Yvonne Nkwenkwezi Phosa (wife of wannabe-President Mathews Phosa) ruled my term "the Invisible Minister Zulu" un-Parliamentary.

Our whips, John Steenhuisen and Ian Ollis, objected to this outrageous ruling and for a few minutes the House descended into a state of mild chaos as the Chair tried to regain control of proceedings.

While this was going on I conceived a plan to wiggle out of the mess while poking fun at Minister Zulu. Judging by her glum expression and response in wrapping up the debate, she was not amused.

In fact, she declared she was very visible because she was black! It is unfortunate that Minister Zulu should resort to racial stereotyping to try to make a point. She has being doing this more and more lately - she used it when defending her hiring of Dr Thami Mazwai as her special advisor whom I had accused of a conflict of interest in also being a supplier of services to the Department. She asked why the DA only accused blacks of being corrupt!

The ANC has got to get over its obsession with race. Truth is, it's hit rock bottom and can't think of any other way of attacking us.

You can watch it on the video here - 38:45 is where I am interrupted.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Small Business Development budget speech in Parliament

Delivered in the Old Assembly Chamber,  Parliament, 14h00, 18th May 2017

The Invisible Minister Zulu

House Chair

Before I continue let me congratulate and welcome our new Deputy Minister, Honourable November, to her position. We wish you well in your important endeavours. And a hearty welcome to all the guests upstairs in the gallery.

Chair, it is now abundantly clear, three years after the Department of Small Business Development was formed, that it is invisible to 97% of businesses in South Africa.

Let me repeat that. The Department of Small Business Development is invisible to 97% of businesses in South Africa.

How can I so confidently make that assertion?

Well, consider these facts.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Opinion piece in the 2016 GEM report on South Africa

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has just published its 2016 report on South Africa. I was one of four guest contributors of an opinion piece carried in the report, which I reproduce below.

There is a growing voice of disagreement on the methodology, findings and policy implications of the GEM report versus the Global Entrepreneurship Index. The former focuses on the Total Entrepreneurial Activity Rate which equates a high number with positive economic activity while the latter prefers to look at the relationship between fast-growing businesses and a country's prosperity.

This is an important discussion which raises very big issues around priorities for boosting economic growth. I will be examining this in the months to come.

South Africa is under-achieving but can do better if we follow lessons from pockets of success.

Among South Africa’s great paradoxes is that we have by far the most advanced economy on the continent of Africa yet one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurial activity. We have been bumping along the bottom of country rankings ever since GEM started in 2001. Hence the question posed in this report: can the small business sector in South Africa be saved?

In short, yes, with the right policies and the right interventions by government and the private sector, then South Africa’s small business sector can be the catalyst for growth in our country.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Letter to Business Day on the pitfalls of micro loans

Today's Business Day carries my letter about the pitfalls of micro loans for small businesses. You can read the letter here or the full version I sent them below.

Sir

Mark Barnes must realise he is taking Postbank into treacherous waters (Postbank's fresh loan plan aims to boost access, BDay 28 April). While access to credit for informal sector businesses, in the form of micro loans, is touted as promoting financial inclusion, it has more often than not led to over-indebtedness and financial distress among borrowers and boom-bust times for credit providers. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Britain back in election mode

Diana and I often pick momentous days in British history to travel in or out of the country.

On 7th July 2005 I got off the plane and soon heard reports of the terrible bombings of the London underground and buses that happened that very morning. On 8th April 2013 we turned on the radio as we drove from my parents' home in North Wales to Heathrow and sat riveted for the next five hours as reports of Mrs Thatcher's death came through, along with in-depth interviews with significant politicians of her era including Michael Heseltine (who triggered her resignation as Prime Minister in 1990) and David Owen (Foreign Secretary in the Labour government she defeated in 1979 who went on to co-found the SDP which re-shaped the centre left of British politics).

Today, once again driving from North Wales to Heathrow, we turned on the 10:30 news to hear that Theresa May has called a general election for 8th June, just 7 weeks away. The special edition of The World at One on BBC Radio 4 carried interviews with leading political commentators and politicians offering their views on this shock announcement.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Statement on the crisis in South Africa by Revd Dr Jeremy Jacobs, Rector, St George's Anglican Church, Parktown, Johannnesburg

I don't normally post other people's writing on this blog but sometimes exceptions are necessary. This is one such exception. 

As Jeremy says below, our church in Parktown has hosted the ANC veterans 101 Group meetings over recent months. But they have been dismissively ignored by the ANC. President Zuma and his handlers have lost all respect for men and women who were once the heart of the ANC, as they have for all other democratic forces in South Africa.

Today's marches are a sign of the DA and civil society's determination to change that, and force the ANC to take action to remove Zuma. This is the beginning of a protest movement that is looking more and more like its predecessors in the 1980s aimed at removing the National Party from government. The climax to this movement will be the 2019 elections when the DA aims to be part of a new government, ushering in a renewed sense of hope for our citizens. We have a bumpy two years ahead.

Mcebisi Jonas resigns a day after addressing the AHI SME Indaba

This morning we heard the news that former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas has resigned as an MP. Yesterday I attended the AHI SME Indaba in Centurion where Mr Jonas gave possibly his last public address as an MP. It was striking in its frankness about the dangers facing SA today.

I sat Tweeting like mad as a substitute for making notes, but the gist of what he said confirms what we all suspected about the state of capture South Africa finds itself in.

In South Africa, "politics and economics are inextricably linked" he said. Economist Dawie Roodt's comments after his speech highlighted Jonas' emphasis on politics rather than a focus on economic policies, the latter being what you would expect from a former deputy minister of finance.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Launch of the Chance Glassworks Heritage Trust

This afternoon, the Chance Glassworks Heritage Trust launched at the Sandwell Council offices in Smethwick, near Birmingham.

The Trust is the brainchild of local businessman Mark Davies, who quickly assembled a first class team of professional advisers and a board representing diverse interests with a strong commitment to rejuvenating this historic site. I was honoured to be invited to act as Patron of the Trust, being the great great great nephew of founder Robert Lucas Chance.

The Trust's website can be viewed here.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Reply to question on issuing of business visas reveals SA is not a business-friendly or Start-Up Nation

Below is the reply I received to a written question put to Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, which reveals just how anti-business South Africa has become.

Business Day picked up the reply and published a story on it yesterday - see it here.

Apart from the fact that no visas were issued for any type of business, the Minister was unable (or chose not) to answer the question about the sum of investment made into the country resulting from the issuing of visas in the past.

I am going to be pursuing this issue as it pertains directly to South Africa's relative attractiveness as an investment destination. 

Yet again we are presented with concrete evidence that our government speaks with forked tongues - last week opening a one-stop-shop investment hub, this week showing its true colours in its anti-business stance by refusing new and existing businesses to bring in vital skills the country so desperately needs.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Press statement: Department of Small Business Development to underspend by between R96 and R125 million

Date: 24 March 2017
Release: Immediate
Type: Press Statement

In the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development this week, it was revealed that the Department of Small Business Development is projected to underspend on its 2016/2017 budget by between R96 and R125 million due to incapacity, poor programme implementation and problems with transferring functions from the Department of Trade and Industry.

This projected underspend represents a staggering 7% to 9% of its budget. Recent statements by Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, claiming that she needs more money to fulfil her mandate are absurd if she cannot even spend what has already been budgeted.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Global Entrepreneurship Congress cavalcade rolls into town

Last week the Global Entrepreneurship Congress cavalcade descended on South Africa, making a two-city stop in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Billed as the biggest entrepreneurship get-together of its kind, it reportedly attracted 7 000 delegates from 160 countries. Judging by the variety of attires I brushed past in the Sandton Convention Centre over the two days I attended that was hardly an exaggeration.

GEC is one of several initiatives and programmes of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, including Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Global Entrepreneurship Index, the Global Business Angels Network and Start Up Nations, “aimed at creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem”.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the keynote address, while Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba welcomed us all to the host city, giving a taster of how he intends transforming Johannesburg into an entrepreneurial powerhouse.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Launch of the Chance Glassworks Heritage Trust film and workshop

For those of my readers living in the UK, and have an interest in the firm of Chance Brothers, founded by my great great great uncle Robert Lucas Chance, there is still time for you to book tickets to attend the launch of the Chance Glassworks Heritage Trust promotional film and workshop at Sandwell Council offices on March 28th.

See this newsletter put out by History West Midlands magazine for more details.

For the past two years, the Trust has been painstakingly working on its grand project, which is to restore, preserve and redevelop what remains of the Chance glassworks, which date to before 1824, when Robert Lucas Chance purchased the site. The Trust approached me to be its Patron, which I was honoured to accept. On most of my several visits to the UK since then I have paid a visit either to the site, or met with Mark Davies, the Chairman, and other members of the Board to check on progress and contribute whatever I could to the success of the project.

This is an incredibly exciting project, and received a major boost last month when it got a financial injection from Sandwell Council to pay for the completion of the business plan and fundraising activity. The Trust aims to raise in the region of £25 million (around R400 million) to fulfil its vision, which includes the construction of a 30 metre high lighthouse topped with a working Chance lens, which will have the distinction of being the furthest lighthouse from the sea anywhere in the world!

I will post a link to the video after 28th March so readers can find out more about the Trust and its grand vision.

Monday, 13 March 2017

SME Fund slowly starts coming to life

On Friday I had my first meeting with Quinton Dicks, newly appointed CEO of the SME Fund established as part of the CEOs Initiative. This initiative came into being early last year, shortly after Pravin Gordhan's reappointment as Finance Minister and was an attempt by business and government to avert the ratings downgrade which was hanging over the country like the proverbial axe.

Discovery's Adrian Gore and Bidvest's Brian Joffe were put in charge of the entrepreneur fund workstream, charged with raising R1,5 billion to be invested in high-growth potential SMEs. In May my colleagues Geordin Hill-Lewis (Trade and Industry shadow minister) and Michael Cardo (Economic Development shadow minister) met with Gore, Joffe and Lisa Klein, the fund's interim CEO, to find out more about it and get a progress report. In preparation for the meeting I sent them a briefing note which I reproduce below.

In the intervening months the Fund has created a website and appointed Dicks as CEO. Importantly, it has not received the R1,5 billion matching funding promised by government when the fund was announced. There was no mention of it in the budget tabled last month, and I have sent a written question to Minister Gordhan asking why not.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Mail & Guardian article on Department of Small Business Development underspending

Today's Mail & Guardian published an article on page 17 claiming the Department of Small Business Development will underspend its 2016/17 budget by R140 million, more than 10% of its budget.


M&G journalist Dineo Bendile called me on Tuesday requesting comments on the story, which I willingly provided. The article quotes a short segment of what I sent her and there is an unexplained discrepancy between the actual and claimed year-to-date under-spending. She did not reveal her source for the under-spending claim, only referring to them as "Treasury officials".

Minister Zulu wants her budget substantially increased, so it seems these un-named Treasury officials are waging a behind-the-scenes battle with her based on the Department's inability to spend what it's already been allocated. The issue is not just the spending, but how it's spent. Does it produce results?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Letter in today's Business Day: Spazas have buying power

Sir

Matthew Govender's highlighting of the need to tackle the skills deficit in township economies coincides with the publication of recent research showing that township economies are mostly disconnected from supply chains in the formal sector (Township economy plan needs to tackle skills deficit, 2 March).

Results of a survey by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory reveal that 8% of respondents own a business, of which 35% are in the formal sector and 65% are in the informal sector. A map unsurprisingly shows informal businesses to be primarily township-based while formal businesses are in established industrial and commercial hubs such as those north of Johannesburg's CBD.

Relevant to Mr Govender's point is that informal, township businesses tend to buy locally whereas formal township businesses buy from outside suppliers. This illustrates that most township businesses are not taking advantage of opportunities to expand by buying from suppliers who themselves are connected to formal and often shorter supply chains, leading to better quality products, improved logistics and lower prices. 

Both Mr Govender and the GCRO have missed a key dynamic in township economies, which is that foreign-owned spaza shops have been able to reduce their prices and so out-compete locally owned informal spazas by amassing greater purchasing power through bulk buying networks which source from formal sector suppliers. 

Much could come from the form of training Mr Govender calls for focusing on the township retail sector, which in combination has enormous buying power, if they could work together. Moves are afoot to address this key factor in revitalising the biggest sector in the township economy. Expect to see real transformation sooner rather than later.

Toby Chance
DA Shadow Minister Small Business Development

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Department of Small Business Development potentially wastes R123 million on failed coops

This morning the Department of Small Business Development Director General, Professor Edith Vries, and members of her staff were due to present a briefing on the developmental status of all 400 cooperatives funded by the DSBD since its inception.

But when asked to begin, the DG requested that the Committee allow her to postpone the briefing until such time as she felt the Department was ready for it.

This led to three hours of questions, discussion and partial responses from the DG and Chief Director of Cooperatives, Jeffrey Ndumo, the longest period so far given to consideration of a non-briefing in Committee!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Notice of motion in the National Assembly

This afternoon I read a notice of motion in the House:


                                                      NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
NOTICE OF MOTION

_________________________________________________________________________


Internal Ref Number:
011
-
2017
Date:
28.02.2017
Member:
Toby Chance
Motion:

I hereby move on behalf of the Democratic Alliance that at its next sitting this House debates why, when 90% of jobs are expected to be created by small and medium enterprises, the Department of Small Business Development receives only 0,1% of government spending.

What happens next is that every week the programming committee decide on which party's motion will be debated. When the DA's turn comes, in rotation, our leadership decide on which motion to choose. If mine is chosen we will have 70-80 minutes to debate the motion and typically the proposer of the motion opens or closes the debate. 

Watch this space!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Speaking to Redi Tlhabi and Kieno Kammies on radio on the same day - a first!

Today I drove from Cape Town to Johannesburg and had the unusual experience of phoning in to Cape Talk and Talk Radio 702 at either ends of my journey and going on air on both stations!

I tuned in as Kieno was speaking to Keet van Zyl from Knife Capital, one of SA's leading venture capital and business accelerator firms. They were discussing the budget and why the Department of Small Business Development did not seem to be getting any traction from its R3,9 billion budget. I pointed out to Kieno that this was its three year budget but did not have time to mention it represents only 0,1% of total government spending, which says a lot about government's commitment - or lack of - to small businesses.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Budget speech a damp squib for SMEs

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan resisted calls from Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu for more money in his budget speech delivered in the National Assembly today.

What some media outlets described as a "windfall" budget of R3,9 billion over three years is in fact a near exact repeat of what he announced in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in October last year.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Africa Teen Geeks hosts a preview screening of Hidden Figures movie

This afternoon I was privileged to attend a special screening of the movie Hidden Figures, organised by Lindiwe Matlali, founder of NGO Africa Teen Geeks. I tracked her down after reading a City Press article about the work she is doing using the principles of knitting to teach 5 year olds basic programming skills.

Today's screening was for 180 girls from disadvantaged backgrounds and shown simultaneously in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, sponsored by the film distributor Times Media Films, City Press and Standard Bank.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Unpublished letter to Mail & Guardian - Zulu's department should not get more money until it proves it can use if effectively

I sent this letter to Mail & Guardian on Monday and was disappointed to see they did not publish it in today's edition.

Dear Sir

Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu laments her department is under-funded (Zulu laments inadequate budget, M&G 3 Feb). 

It is true the Department receives a very small proportion of total government spending. The 2016/17 national expenditure ceiling was R1,15 trillion of which R1,3 billion went to the Department - a paltry 0,1%. This is roughly 114 times less than the Department of Social Development receives, mainly to pay out monthly grants to 17 million recipients. 

Letter in Business Day: Zulu should gun for unity

Today's Business Day published an edited version of this letter I sent them after listening, appalled, to Lindiwe Zulu's speech in Parliament on Wednesday.

Sir

In her speech during the SONA debate on Wednesday Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu said government would use its annual R500 billion procurement expenditure like the AK 47s used by Operation Vula soldiers in the armed struggle. 

As a former MK operative, Minister Zulu knows the destructive power of the AK 47 killing machine. To compare its procurement budget to this weapon is to imply that somewhere out there is an enemy to be destroyed in the march to economic liberation. 

The sub-text is clear: the enemy is so-called "white monopoly capital".

Thursday, 9 February 2017

EU Ambassador and delegation visit the Soweto Equestrian Centre

The following news story appeared in today's edition of the Jabavu Urban News, 9th February 2017. 

The Soweto Equestrian Centre in Rockville hosted a delegation of senior diplomats from the European Union on Friday 3rd February, led by Ambassador Marcus Cornaro. 

The Equestrian Centre was established in 2007 by the legendary South African show jumper Mr Enos Mafokate. Mr Mafokate believed it was important to bring horse riding to the township, so that it was no longer seen as a sport for the privileged few, mainly white riders.

Mr Mafokate's business partner, Sthembiso Mhlongo, arranged the EU delegation's visit after meeting the Ambassador at a function recently. The purpose of the visit was the aquaint the diplomats with an aspect of Soweto which is less well known than the traditional tourism destinations of Vilakazi St and the Hector Pieterson Museum.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Business Warm-Up, Soweto Theatre, Jabulani - 26th January

It's been nearly two months since my last blog post. You could be forgiven for thinking I've been doing nothing, rather just lounging around over an extended holiday period. Nothing of the sort!

Apart from a two week break in Plettenberg Bay over Christmas and new year, I've been working on some long term issues and projects, and initiating some new ones.

It's amazing how our newly acquired status as the governing party in Joburg has transformed the image of the DA amongst the people I am speaking to. We can now DO something about all the ills that we see around us, not just talk about them and blame the ANC.

So whether it's issues in my constituency around corruption, service delivery, jobs and housing, or portfolio-related matters concerning small businesses, there is a renewed sense that under a DA government people's lives can change for the better.