08 October 2018


Nene on the brink

South Africans woke up today to the news (via Business Day) that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had asked President Cyril Ramaphosa if he could step down following his confession to having met privately with the Guptas and reports on his son’s dealings with the Public Investment Corporation. Later News24 quoted a source in the Presidency as saying the request had been made, but a spokesperson for Ramaphosa then told Business Report that it had not happened: the Presidency had received no such communication from Nene. By then both the EFF and Democratic Alliance were smelling opportunity and calling for Nene’s head. Whatever their sentiments (and the EFF’s dark whisperings), no hard evidence of wrongdoing by Nene has been made public. The key to his survival might lie in his relationship with Ramaphosa, who was apparently blindsided by the Gupta meeting revelations and Nene’s decision to apologise. Meanwhile, speculation on a successor is reaching fever pitch. The ‘favourites’ seem to be former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago, Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele, and the MEC for Finance in Gauteng, Barbara Creecy.

Chilling news

A shocking United Nations report from the world’s leading climate scientists has warned that global warming is at a more advanced stage than previously thought and there are just 12 years in which to achieve ambitious Paris Agreement targets. Without these urgent and significant changes the world would face destructive droughts, floods and extreme heat with devastating consequences. The Guardian in the UK has done a good job of summarising the scary stuff.

R72.6-billion up in smoke

The Democratic Alliance yesterday released its analysis of irregular expenditure by government departments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in 2017-18 … and says it amounts to a staggering R72.6-billion. Irregular expenditure is normally money spent without the proper authorisation – and often an indicator of corruption. TimesLive reports that Eskom was the worst offender with R19.6-billion irregular expenditure‚ followed by the South African National Roads Agency (R10.5-billion)‚ Transnet (R8.1-billion)‚ department of water and sanitation (R6.2-billion) and the SABC (R5-billion).

Zim hoarding

All is apparently not well in Zimbabwe. Reports from our northern neighbour suggest people have started hoarding basic commodities. Various news outlets in the country said that goods such as bread, cooking oil and other staples were disappearing from shelves (and there had been a run on beer). It is not clear exactly what set off the frenzied shopping, but it coincides with shortages of flour and bread and, ironically, the new government’s announcement of a plan to stabilise the economy.

Kavanaugh confirmed

The bitter battle over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court ended on Saturday when the Senate voted 50-48 in favour. Kavanaugh was an unpopular choice for many because of his supposed conservatism and partisanship and his confirmation was nearly derailed by allegations of sexual assault. The vote amounted though to a significant victory for President Donald Trump, who had nominated him.

Happy birthday, Arch

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu turned 87 yesterday amid outpourings of affection from around the world. Sadly, the Nobel laureate was in hospital where he was admitted late last month for treatment of his prostate cancer.


The Nene effect

The rand was sent lower today, reaching almost R15 to the dollar in early trading, after reports emerged that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties, although a presidency spokesman has denied that Nene made any such request. Nene’s position is in question after he admitted at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture that he had made a number of previously undisclosed visits to the Gupta brothers. He made a public apology about the matter on Friday. Business Day cited unidentified government sources as saying that Nene made the request to Ramaphosa in a phone call at the weekend. Following the presidency’s denial, the rand eased slightly but economists were predicting that uncertainty over Nene’s position could still hurt the currency further.


Cane breaks neck against Boks

All Black Sam Cane had to have surgery on a broken neck after the All Blacks last-gasp 32-30 Test victory over the Springboks at Loftus on Saturday. According to The Stuff website, the flanker had surgery to repair a fracture in ‘a vertebrae on the lower right side of the neck’ but he hasn’t suffered from any nerve damage. He was not able to fly back home with the team and will remain in South Africa for a week.

First Youth Olympics gold medal

Amber Schlebusch got the Youth Olympic Games off to a great start for South Africa when she collected our first (and so far only) medal by winning the women’s triathlon yesterday afternoon. The 17-year-old beat Denmark’s Sif Madsen to the line by 11 seconds to put South Africa on the board.

Mbappe bags four goals

Kylian Mbappe underlined his status as one of the greatest young footballers in the world when he scored four goals within 13 minutes to help PSG to a 5-0 win over Olympique Lyonnais. The victory means the Ligue 1 log leaders now have a record-breaking nine wins from their opening nine matches and a huge eight-point lead in the league. The only other major European league team with a 100 percent record is Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, who have 24 points from eight games in the Italian Serie A. In England, Liverpool and Manchester City’s 0-0 draw on yesterday leaves the two level with Chelsea at the top the Premier League table.

Chad the shad

Chad le Clos added to his tally of World Cup swimming gold medals when he ended up with two golds and two silvers at the Budapest leg of the series. After winning the 100m butterfly on Thursday, Le Clos won the 200m butterfly on Friday in a time of 1:50,29. On Saturday he finished second to Brazilian Nicholas Santos in the 50m butterfly and won silver in the 200m freestyle behind American Pieroni Blake.

Jose looking for reassurance

The Telegraph reports that Jose Mourinho wants a public reassurance from Manchester United that his position as manager is safe. There were reports the Portuguese manager was going to be fired over the weekend regardless of the result of Sunday’s match against Newcastle. The Telegraph reports executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward texted Mourinho before the match to reassure him he could ignore reports he would be sacked. United fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, but Mourinho wants that reassurance made public.


Hate speech ruling

In January this year government employee Velaphi Khumalo commented on Facebook that white people should be killed ‘as Hitler did to the Jews’. On Friday the Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech, ordered him to remove all such comment from his social media platforms and to apologise to all South Africans, and undertake never to repeat such comment. Just desserts for a nasty Menace.


Laughing all the way, Banksy

It’s the ultimate commentary by the ultimate subversive anti-artist artist Banksy – it’s art that devours itself.  Banksy’s Girl With Balloon went under the hammer at a Sotheby’s auction last week. The piece was said to be the best version of one of the enigmatic artist’s most iconic images. Made with spray paint and acrylic on canvas, mounted on board, signed and dedicated on the reverse, and framed in a thick ornament artist’s frame, by the artist, so the world was watching how far the auction would go. And it went far. Selling for $1,35-million … and then after the auctioneer’s “going going gone”, confirmed the sale – Banksy’s real art took place, the painting started shredding itself through the thick frame. Imagine, having just spent about R20-million on an artwork that doesn’t exist?  Banksy briefly posted a one-minute video about the event and then deleted it, but British writer Zoe Smith was on the ball and screen recorded it. She reposted it on Twitter at the weekend. You can watch it here.


Today this highly prestigious award goes to inkedupandsonic (@sonictyrant) for this bit of drollery:
[Hotel room]
Mini bar: you have lovely eyes
Me: i love a complimentary mini bar


Today’s clue is compiled by Makhanda cruciverbalist George Euvrard and we chose it in honour of the Arch’s 87th birthday yesterday: Tutu finds himself in some confusion (7)

The solution to Friday’s clue, Recipe: stir rum into loaf mix (7) is FORMULA – an anagram of RUM (stir is the anagram indicator) plus an anagram of LOAF (mix is the anagram indicator) gives a word that means recipe.


If there’s one reason not to delete your Facebook account, it’s Gus Silber, the multi-talented journalist who writes poignant slices-of-life commentaries that give you a front row seat to the action – even, at times, when there is no action. There’s plenty of action in this, though. This is a big read, but it’s not a long read. It will take you about six minutes, about the same length as the Bohemian Rhapsody, which is what Gus’s piece is about. It will probably take you 12 minutes, though, because you will want to read it twice. In fact, it will take you 18 minutes, because you’ll decide to read it just one more time with Bohemian Rhapsody in the background. Thunderbolts and lightning!  You can read the piece on Silber’s Facebook page or you can pop over to the.news.letter’s website to read it here.


However the Nhlanhla Nene issue plays out, there are some insights to be gained about politics in South Africa right now. One is about integrity: Nene has apologised to the nation for meeting privately with the Guptas, while others who were effectively in the Indian family’s pockets (it’s a long list) carry on in cushy jobs without as much as a blip on their conscience. Another aspect has been how the baying mob gains purchase in South Africa. As is often the case it is being led by the EFF, which is administering its particular variety of blackmail to the issue. Perhaps most significantly, there is no smoking gun – questions, yes, but no evidence directly implicating him in serious wrongdoing – and yet the pressure on Nene has become overwhelming. In all of this people seem to have forgotten that Nene saved us from a financially crippling nuclear deal which Jacob Zuma had cooked up with Russian President Vladimir Putin. What they might like to ponder is that it was his evidence to the Zondo Commission that landed him in trouble: his departure from the finance ministry would have a chilling effect on the work of this vitally important commission.


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