Light up a Jakey!

Light up a Jakey!

Behold the Jacob G Zuma Foundation! During a trademark availability search, Mark Smith came across an interesting application.

Nothing is inherently strange or wrong with a charitable entity registering trade marks; for instance, Nelson Mandela’s various charitable interests have applied for almost 160 (and counting) in South Africa alone. But can President Jacob Zuma seriously be imagining himself another Nelson Mandela in the eyes of an adoring world?

A bit of background before the part where things get really strange. All trademark applications must be classified into one or more of 45 goods and services classes. These classes are pretty standard throughout the world, and are governed by an international treaty dating back to 1957, called the Nice Agreement (as in the city; nothing to do with how the signatories were feeling that day). The Nice classification is meant to cover all goods and services that a person or business (or charity) could possibly provide. (It gets updated from time to time.)

Business vultures pick the bones of disaster

Business vultures pick the bones of disaster

Australian activist Antony Loewenstein tells Susan Segar how profiteers make fortunes out of misery.

In January 2010, a huge earthquake shook the Caribbean island of Haiti. In less than a minute, more than 300,000 people were killed, over a million lost their homes, whole areas of the capital Port-au-Prince were left uninhabitable; even landmarks such as the presidential palace and Port-au-Prince cathedral went down. Much of the island’s fragile infrastructure was destroyed.

The country, physically disabled, now found itself at the mercy of vulture capitalism – “an ever-worsening phenomenon” that is dissected by bestselling activist author Antony Loewenstein in his latest book, Profits of Doom.

The Haiti earthquake provides just one instance of “canny capitalists sifting through the ashes of a disaster, looking for business opportunities”, he says, citing several other examples of “the cashed-up world of disaster profiteers, resource hunters, war contractors and aid leeches” and of ways in which the world is being “sold to the highest bidder without public consent”.

In Australia, all the detention centres for asylum seekers have been privatised and are run for profit by multinational companies, in an arrangement that sees little state oversight and few opportunities for media scrutiny.

Fearful pensioners fight for invested billions

Fearful pensioners fight for invested billions

Class action claims R4.6bn from unlicensed Pretoria financial services provider. By Donwald Pressly

Investors in Pickvest, a Pretoria financial services company which is not licensed to operate as a financial services provider, are launching a class-action suit to recover R4.6 billion.

Now called Orthotouch and formerly, PIV Syndication, the company has more than 18,000 investors, most of whom are pensioners terrified of losing their life savings.

Repeated requests for information from the bosses have come to naught.

The Citizen reported in September that the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) ombud had ruled that it was too late for investors to lay complaints with him.

The ombud noted that Pickvest had promoted property syndications worth R5.3bn; that R4.6bn in outstanding syndications was in business rescue, and that investors  were “once again complaining of late interest payments”. He argued that the cut-off date for complaints had been March 30, 2011 – when Pickvest warned investors of a reduction in their monthly income.

Oil companies to gobble up small service stations

Oil companies to gobble up small service stations

New fuel price formula will ruin independents and channel huge profits to the Big Boys. By Ciaran Ryan

Hundreds of petrol station owners across the country are threatened with closure over the next 12 months because of a new fuel price formula that allows oil companies to take a larger bite out of the retailers’ margins.

This is the converse of what the new pricing model is meant to achieve and it almost certainly violates the Petroleum Amendments Act of 2003, which is designed to promote small and emerging businesses and prevent vertical integration. It is supposed to stop oil companies from owning the entire fuel chain from refineries to fuel depots and service stations. In practical terms, it does nothing of the sort.

The act prevents oil companies from holding retail licences, but this does not stop them owning the service station assets. The licensed retailer is then, in effect, just a glorified manager. It’s a neat way around the prohibition on vertical integration and allows the oil majors to feast on the margins of their service station operators.

Berating the rates system

Berating the rates system

Frustrated lawyers complain to Mayor De Lille. By Donwald Pressly

If you have bought or sold a property in Cape Town recently, you may be frustrated with seemingly endless delays caused by the city’s “new advanced electronic” rates clearance certificate system. Its introduction was intended to smooth the process for attorneys to lodge title deeds with the Deeds Office – but the opposite has happened.

The rates clearance system has a bug that routinely sends error messages to conveyance attorneys trying to register properties. Now Mayor Patricia de Lille and Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson have received a formal complaint from the Property Law Committee of the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope.

The committee says the “rather incongruous” data verification process required by Cape Town’s new system “has brought the entire property economy to an abrupt halt”. The system was not reconciling current Deeds Office registration data with future post-registration data.

20 years on... How do we see each other?

20 years on... How do we see each other?

Blacks and Whites share the view that political institutions are untrustworthy. By Donwald Pressly

No, I would not like my daughter to marry a black man” has consistently been the attitude, if not the refrain, of a majority of white South Africans throughout the democratic period, but this attitude is beginning to change sharply.

Back in 2003, nearly 10 years after democracy, just 13% of whites approved of relatives’ interracial marriages. By 2013 this approval rating had rocketed to 35%, meaning of course that 65% still disapproved.

Generally, approval of interracial marriage is not high among all four major race groups – using apartheid definitions.

South Africa is a curious nation.

Everyday adumbrations of folderol in the Lilliputian Karoo

Everyday adumbrations of folderol in the Lilliputian Karoo

Oudtshoorn’s Flying Circus: Everyday adumbrations of folderol in the Lilliputian Karoo

The “Oudtshoorn flying circus” story in last month’s Noseweek has attracted much comment, not all of it rational. The story, lest you’ve forgotten, was about how some residents of Oudtshoorn are upset that the peace and quiet has been destroyed by a flying school that trains Chinese pilots.

These residents are highly suspicious of how the people behind this school (a company called AIFA, part-owned by a Chinese company called AVIC and a South African company called TFASA) managed to get their hands on the municipal airfield at absolutely no cost; how the residents had raised their concerns in various forums and through direct representations to the President, the Premier of the Western Cape, the Public Protector and the Chinese Ambassador; how the residents had come to the conclusion  that no-one will touch this matter because the Chinese are untouchable.

Rocky Road to Blythedale Beach

Rocky Road to Blythedale Beach

Developers dazzled the local community with tales of fat profits – but investors are getting anxious as the huge project stalls. By Gavin Foster

The Dolphin Coast of KwaZulu-Natal just ain’t what it used to be when it was simply the North Coast. Forty years ago the sugar barons reigned supreme on their sprawling sun-blessed estates, with a few cottages scattered here and there for the working-class riff-raff, who were needed to keep the wheels of commerce turning. That all changed, though, when big business took over the farms.

They started selling off the best bits of land to Vaalies and locals who had a little spare tin lying around. Before you could snap your fingers and say “Bring me another Scotch” the area was festooned with expensive housing estates harbouring fast cars, yummy mummies, Harley-Davidsons and squash courts. It got so bad that you couldn’t cross the road without risking being taken out by a property developer cruising the area in a Merc or a BMW or even a golf cart, looking for a few more hectares on which to build another fortified village and country club. The sorry saga of the Blythedale Beach development fiasco serves as testimony that these things sometimes go wrong. Or maybe not...

Blood on the hands of Big Oil

Blood on the hands of Big Oil

SA-born hurricane expert fired for telling horrific truths. By Greg Palast

Crime scene; Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans: Going on for ten years ago, New Orleans drowned. Don’t you dare blame Mother Nature; Miss Katrina killed no one in this town. But it was a homicide, with nearly 2,000 dead victims. If not hurricane Katrina, who done it? Who is to blame for the crushing avalanche of water that buried this city? Read on.

It wasn’t an Act of God. It was an Act of Chevron. An Act of Exxon. An Act of Big Oil. Take a look at these numbers dug out of Louisiana state records:

Conoco: 3.3 million acres (1.3m hectares); Exxon Mobil: 2.1m acres (849,000ha); Chevron: 2.7m acres (1.09ha); Shell: 1.3m acres (526,000ha).

These are the areas of wetlands removed by just four oil companies over the past two decades. If you’re not a farmer, translated into urban-speak,  that’s 38,042km² drowned into the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s what happened: New Orleans used to be a long, swampy way from the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes and storm surges had to cross a protective mangrove forest nearly 160km thick before they reached the city.

But then, a century ago, Standard Oil, Exxon’s prior alias, began dragging drilling rigs, channelling pipelines, barge paths and tanker routes through what was once soft delta prairie grass.

I don't want you, babe!

I don't want you, babe!

Why Jake isn’t grooming Cyril for succession

President Jacob Zuma had barely taken office last May before the first shots in the battle to succeed him were fired. He has already blocked the election of a new leadership for the ANC Youth League, fearing that the top candidates could spearhead a new opposition to his rule. Yet the ANC’s next national elective conference, when Zuma will have to step down as party chief, is still over two years away.

Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Zuma seems consumed by the fear that he will be deposed before the end of his term, in much the same way he unseated Thabo Mbeki.

The ANCYL was supposed to elect new leaders at its consultative national conference on 28-29 November. After former league president Julius Malema’s group left, the ANC leadership disbanded the league’s remaining National Executive Committee and replaced it with hand-picked interim leaders, dubbed the “National Task Team”. Former ANCYL Treasurer Pule Mabe and his allies appeared to be the clear front-runners.

However, Zuma and his allies fear that if elected, the Mabe group will formally call for his early retirement and for Deputy President,Cyril Ramaphosa – who is also ANC deputy president – to take over to “stabilise” the party.

Christmas tear. Season of ill-will

Christmas tear. Season of ill-will

Much as one would like to find glad tidings among the Christmas lights and huge blow-up Santas, reindeers and trees festooning many Sydney houses, kindliness seems to have taken a back seat.

In November, the Australian Senate passed a bill described by the Australian Lawyers’ Alliance as having ripped up Australia’s ratification of the Refugee Convention. It gives Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison “unchecked and unappealable” powers to “play God” with the lives of asylum seekers arriving by boat. The 2014 Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Bill in effect discards the crucial rule of non-refoulement, thereby allowing asylum seekers to be quietly “shunted back to possible death or persecution” in the countries from which they’ve fled, without judicial review or recourse to the Refugee Review Tribunal.

Mines for the taking

Mines for the taking

King Croesus would have been jealous of the gargantuan fortunes doled out to a lucky few in the name of mining BEE. These stories are largely absent from mainstream media - perhaps because the ...
 
Light up a Jakey!

Light up a Jakey!

Behold the Jacob G Zuma Foundation! During a trademark availability search, Mark Smith came across an interesting application. Nothing is inherently strange or wrong with a charitable entity registering trade marks; for instance, Nelson Mandela’s ...

Business vultures pick the bones of disaster

Business vultures pick the bones of disaster

Australian activist Antony Loewenstein tells Susan Segar how profiteers make fortunes out of misery. In January 2010, a huge earthquake shook the Caribbean island of Haiti. In less than a minute, more than 300,000 people ...

Fearful pensioners fight for invested billions

Fearful pensioners fight for invested billions

Class action claims R4.6bn from unlicensed Pretoria financial services provider. By Donwald Pressly Investors in Pickvest, a Pretoria financial services company which is not licensed to operate as a financial services provider, are launching a ...

Oil companies to gobble up small service stations

Oil companies to gobble up small service stations

New fuel price formula will ruin independents and channel huge profits to the Big Boys. By Ciaran Ryan Hundreds of petrol station owners across the country are threatened with closure over the next 12 months ...

Berating the rates system

Berating the rates system

Frustrated lawyers complain to Mayor De Lille. By Donwald Pressly If you have bought or sold a property in Cape Town recently, you may be frustrated with seemingly endless delays caused by the city’s “new ...

20 years on... How do we see each other?

20 years on... How do we see each other?

Blacks and Whites share the view that political institutions are untrustworthy. By Donwald Pressly No, I would not like my daughter to marry a black man” has consistently been the attitude, if not the refrain, ...

Everyday adumbrations of folderol in the Lilliputian Karoo

Everyday adumbrations of folderol in the Lilliputian Karoo

Oudtshoorn’s Flying Circus: Everyday adumbrations of folderol in the Lilliputian Karoo The “Oudtshoorn flying circus” story in last month’s Noseweek has attracted much comment, not all of it rational. The story, lest you’ve forgotten, ...

Rocky Road to Blythedale Beach

Rocky Road to Blythedale Beach

Developers dazzled the local community with tales of fat profits – but investors are getting anxious as the huge project stalls. By Gavin Foster The Dolphin Coast of KwaZulu-Natal just ain’t what it used to ...

Blood on the hands of Big Oil

Blood on the hands of Big Oil

SA-born hurricane expert fired for telling horrific truths. By Greg Palast Crime scene; Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans: Going on for ten years ago, New Orleans drowned. Don’t you dare blame Mother Nature; Miss ...

I don't want you, babe!

I don't want you, babe!

Why Jake isn’t grooming Cyril for succession President Jacob Zuma had barely taken office last May before the first shots in the battle to succeed him were fired. He has already blocked the election of ...

Christmas tear. Season of ill-will

Christmas tear. Season of ill-will

Much as one would like to find glad tidings among the Christmas lights and huge blow-up Santas, reindeers and trees festooning many Sydney houses, kindliness seems to have taken a back seat. In ...