Monday, 24 March 2014

The plight of the Soweto Homemakers community - Part 1

Soweto Homemakers is a community of some 200 households living in what remains of the Jabavu Expo Centre in Jabavu Extension 2, Soweto. This expo centre was built in 1984 to house the Soweto Homemakers Festival which began the previous year in Mofolo Park as a joint venture between the Soweto Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI) and Adele Lucas Promotions (ALP). After years of mismanagement and corruption the property fell into disrepair and the residents have been trying to establish tenure of the land, without success. The situation cries out for a radical solution and hope is around the corner.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Two gala evenings, worthy winners and The Biggest Loser

Last night I attended the SA Premier Business Awards with my wife Diana, who was a finalist in the Media category. The awards, dreamed up and hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry, are in their second year and we weren't expecting much of an event. We were surprised on arriving at the Sandton Convention Centre to see the place locked down by security. What could be going on, we thought? An hour later we found out: JZ was in town, at a place near us: 20 metres away, to be precise. Even from that distance, he looked very small, insignificant even. The reason?  Nkandla.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Cadre deployment and AA: The agony and arrogance of ignorance

How does it feel to be no good at something and find oneself doing it? How does it feel to be very good at something and not have the chance to do it? In the first case the words apprehensive, fearful and challenged come to mind. In the second resentful, angry and defeatist. These situations face thousands of South Africans every day in all walks of life. There are many and varied causes, but two of the most invidious are cadre deployment and the heavy-handed application of affirmative action.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A family (and nation) of entrepreneurs, innovators and community builders

Today I added an article to my website, entitled Chance Brothers: Lighting the World, which appears in edited form in the March 2014 issue of the magazine History West Midlands. The magazine focuses on the six counties that make up the heart of England - Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. The current issue is about the glass industry in the West Midlands, where the firm of Chance Brothers ran a major industrial enterprise for over 150 years (click here for a short video on the firm). The engraving to the right is of James Chance, my great great grandfather, who was the brains behind the firm's lighthouse business which celebrated its centenary in 1951. This year is the bicentenary of his birth. Most of the lighthouses in South Africa (see my summary here) are equipped with optics supplied from their factory in Smethwick near Birmingham, and have become a tourist attraction for thousands of visitors to our scenic shores.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Will the DA make a dent in Soweto on May 7th?

Yesterday I attended a DA meeting in Zola, in the western part of Soweto. I was invited by Nonhlanhla Sifumba, the DA's PR councillor for that area, whom I'd met the previous Saturday at a Soweto West constituency meeting presided over by the MP, James Lorimer and Campaign Manager Hilton Masera. Taken together, the meetings showed how far the DA has come in attracting voters in Soweto since the last election, and how far we still have to go.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The budget and DA policy on small business

The Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, presented his fifth budget to Parliament last week. It was received fairly well by most economic commentators, the minister continuing the tradition of ANC administrations of implementing fiscally conservative economic policies rather than taking the expansionary route and risk incurring the wrath of the ratings agencies. The unions hate this approach, of course, declaring it neo-liberal, while others criticised it for not being radical enough in proposing more measures to stimulate economic growth. One area that has drawn flak is its policy on small business. Most people agree small businesses will be our main engine of economic growth and job creation but there are fundamental differences on how to get the engine into hi-rev mode. What does the DA have to say on the matter?