Sunday, 25 May 2014

Presidential inauguration - hurry up and wait

Here is a summary of yesterday's Presidential Inauguration, which Diana and I attended and which rounded off an extremely eventful week and a bit for us:

Total travel time: 4 hours
Total waiting time: 6 hours
Total eating and drinking time: 2 hours
Total airshow time: 20 minutes
Total inauguration / speech time: 40 minutes
Total time: 13 hours
Question: was it worth getting up at 3:45 am for this?
Answer: most definitely

Friday, 23 May 2014

More than merely semantics

Today's Business Day published my letter on the semantic muddle the Chief Justice got into in the opening of Parliament on Wednesday - click here for the link.

Here is the letter:

Dear Sir

Yesterday, the newly sworn in members of the national assembly (of which I am privileged to be one) listened to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng brush aside a point of order from Corne Mulder MP on the procedure for the election of the Speaker. Mulder pointed out the rules of the election, drawn up by the Chief Justice himself, state that MPs “must” exercise their vote. During the vote it became clear that a significant minority of MPs were abstaining, hence Mulder’s point of order. The Chief Justice responded by saying that in our democratic system, voters were not compelled to vote but could exercise their choice to do so, and the same applied here, so where it was written “must” we were to interpret it as “may.” To which Mulder, raising a laugh from the House, suggested we apply  the same interpretation when asked to pay our taxes.

To those who dismiss this as mere semantics, I refer them to the Free Market Foundation’s court action challenging the constitutionality of Section 32 of the Labour Relations Act, concerning the rules governing bargaining council agreements. The FMF is requesting the Minister of Labour to replace the word “must” with “may”, thus freeing her from being compelled to extend these agreements to all parties.

Can the Chief Justice’s interpretation of his own rules yesterday be regarded as setting a precedent in law, and if so may the FMF withdraw its action, or must it still go ahead?

Yours sincerely

Toby Chance

Cape Town

Thursday, 22 May 2014

First day in Parliament

Yesterday went by in a blur and I am now officially a Member of Parliament. It started with our first caucus meeting at 7 am and ended with dinner back at the hotel at 9 pm, in between which I met countless new people from both sides of the House and a fair few surprised ANC members I'd known from my previous life at Adele Lucas Promotions. It had its moments of drama and a few hours of waiting around, but overall it demonstrated a functional South African political system with its traditions, pomp and ceremony intact and respected by all concerned - even the Economic Freedom Fighters, who redefined our understanding of "formal" attire by dressing in red boiler suits and domestic servant attire.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The power of 10

Yesterday I got a step closer to becoming a Member of Parliament, by registering at the National Assembly and getting my security clearance. Diana accompanied me all the way. Amazingly, I have never set foot in the Parliamentary precinct so every step was new for both of us. It was a poignant moment when I was handed the lanyard and tag, saying in black writing on a gold background Member of Parliament. When I began this blog the thought of actually being an MP was very remote but now it's only a day away. I am sure every one of the hundred or so new MPs must be going through the same set of feelings and emotions as I am. It all began with that magical number - 10 - on Friday January 24th, and yesterday that number took on an even greater significance.

The literati gather in Franschhoek

Franschhoek must be one of South Africa's most picturesque towns. Just an hour's drive from Cape Town, it's in the heart of the spectacularly beautiful wine country, is home to some of SA's best restaurants and offers a hideaway for celebrities and tycoons who enjoy its uber-civilised atmosphere and Europe-in-Africa feel. No doubt reason enough for Richard Branson to choose to buy a country lodge and estate there recently. Last weekend the town hosted its annual literary festival and Diana and I were lucky enough to be there. It was a last-minute decision, Diana being commissioned to film a debate for Carte Blanche on the high-fat diet promoted by celebrity nutritionist and sports scientist Tim Noakes.

GIBS forum on SME incubators

There has been so much going on in the last week that I have got behind in my posts! Three to write today, beginning with the Gordon Institute of Business Science Forum focusing on small and medium enterprises (SME) incubators.

GIBS is rightly taking the question of SME development very seriously, with the topic drawing a lot of attention particularly in respect of its potential for job creation and reducing the chronic state of unemployment in South Africa. Four of the leading private sector incubators were represented, each practicing a different business model.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Short & Sweet at Katy's Palace Bar

Last night Katy's Palace Bar in Kramerville, northern Johannesburg, hosted the debut appearance of short-film promoter Short & Sweet. Founded by Julia Stephenson, it grew out of her experience in the UK film industry and started life in Cape Town in 2009. With an unmatched view of the Sandton skyline Katy's Palace Bar was the perfect venue. Eight short films ranging in length from five to twenty minutes had the 150-odd guests rubbing our chins and smiling quizzically as we tried to get the film directors' messages. It's a genre that has yet to take off in SA, and only one of the films was from here, but this is a good way to get people interested.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Contrasting images - an election comes and goes

Having been awake for over 24 hours I finally slipped into a delirious sleep this morning at 5:30, at my bed and breakfast in Soweto chosen for its proximity to my operational area during the election. I figured the 40 minute drive home as dawn broke would be one journey too many after the rigours of overseeing 40 voting stations and driving the last party agent home. Now, with the vote tally showing a clear ANC victory nationally, the DA retaining the Western Cape and missing out on the possibility of a coalition in Gauteng, I can reflect on some of the images imprinted on my brain from an election of enormous contrasts.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Calling for freedom anew at Walter Sisulu Square

The final major gathering for the DA was a #WeCanWin concert. at Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Soweto. Built some ten years ago to commemorate the Congress of the People (no relation to the political party Cope formed in 2008) who gathered here 1955 to sign the Freedom Charter, it is now a national heritage site and called Freedom Square in official circles. Today, some 7 000 DA supporters brought a new meaning to the word freedom, calling for a release from the bondage of a corrupt, venal and crony ANC at the polls on Wednesday.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Democratic Alliance's final campaign rally

This morning the DA held its last big rally before Wednesday's election at the Coca Cola Dome in northern Johannesburg. It was a spectacular affair, with all the party heavyweights giving rousing speeches to around 12 000 DA activists. The DA's message is clear: another 5 years of an ANC government will lead to more unemployment, corruption, deteriorating services and economic stagnation. Give the DA the chance in this election to bring good and clean governance, incentives for economic growth and service delivery targeting the poor. To sum it up: Together for Change, Together for Jobs.