Bruce’s List: A daily guide to informed reads.
Poor Brian Molefe. The Eskom CEO is in a semipermanent state of rage. He fixes the lights and what happens? People carry on complaining about the Guptas. Molefe likes the Guptas. He doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong. But he’s mad as hell at Andrew Canter, the Futuregrowth chief investment officer who recently placed Eskom on watch for its corporate governance and then announced he wouldn’t be investing any more of his clients’ money in coal-fired power until it cleaned up its act. Anyone who knows how short-tempered Molefe is would have been expecting a blow-out and it came, spectacularly, yesterday, after an Eskom briefing to the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town. Canter, said Molefe, was a “raving lunatic” and/or an “idiotic imbecile from the lunatic fringe”. That last bit was about Canter’s decision not to fund coal, but what really got to Molefe was the implied criticism in Canter’s original decision that Eskom’s corporate governance may be wanting.
And, of course, it is. But Molefe is right when he says, as reported in Business Day, that “we would be happy if Mr Canter actually sells some of his Eskom bonds and there (are) enough asset managers ... who are crying out for them, especially our inflation-linked, long-term dated bonds.” And there Molefe is probably right. There are lots of institutions that will do business with Eskom no matter how dodgy its corporate governance. There are institutions that will do actual due diligence on Eskom before a bond purchase or a debt restructuring and let almost anything they find go because the fees are so juicy.
Basically, as Molefe knows, Eskom is fundamentally badly governed simply by virtue of the fact that it has on its board actual representatives or proxies of the Gupta family. That same board, or Molefe himself, gives loads of business and even working capital directly to the Gupta family, who are friends of President Jacob Zuma and business partners with his son. I have never met Canter and he may indeed be a lunatic, as Molefe suggests. But as regards Eskom’s corporate governance Canter is absolutely right. I would not want my pension money used by Eskom to fund the Guptas. Molefe is a clever bully in this way. He has become accustomed to running monopolies (the PIC, Transnet and now Eskom) which tend to feed one’s inner megalomaniac. And it is when you think you can do anything that you fall. I will wait for public protector Thuli Madonsela to tell us the truth about the Guptas because I’m never going to get it from Molefe: Eskom can tackle Moody’s concerns, says Brian Molefe.
And, talking about corruption, it is good to see one of the FirstRand founders, Laurie Dippenaar, finally speaking his mind and warning that whether Zuma signs the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act (the one that lets banks monitor the bank accounts of politically connected hotshots) or not, the banks will do what they have to do to preserve their international reputations and partnerships, all of which depend on them adhering to the strictest possible anti-corruption rules. Zuma is sitting on the Fica Bill despite the fact that SA as a country is obliged to sign it. He’s sitting on it because one of his most fawning admirers, Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi, asked him to think about it. Gosh, what a serious request: Banks will look at accounts of the politically exposed, says Laurie Dippenaar.
Free State University rector Jonathan Jansen is such a wonderful writer and thinker. I cannot imagine how the university will easily find someone equally wise to replace him when he leaves. His column in The Times this morning is heartbreaking and infuriating. It is not the first warning he has given that our universities are close to outright collapse but the best exposition I’ve read yet on the extent to which the students disrupting classes, and intimidating others who want to work, do so because they can afford it. The students suffering the most, argues Jansen, are very poor black kids who won’t get a second shot if they can’t write their exams: You had better pay attention: This could be the final nail in the coffin of higher education.
Finally, more proof that every human is an African. We know that here but there’s a lot of denialism and racism. Among the worst appear to be the Chinese, who are taught that they somehow derive from where they already are. Tsk, Tsk. Nice piece this, from the New Scientist magazine: The most detailed look yet at how early humans left Africa.