Familiarity with the Market Demand Strategy implemented in Transnet reveals a massive job creation component in the business process– direct and indirect jobs of course. 588 000 direct and indirect jobs were anticipated between 2011 and 2019. Without delving into the details to much, look at a review of the MDS in  John Batwell’s article  or the Parliamentary Group Meeting in 2015.  What I’d like to turn your attention to is new Transnet CEO, Siyabonga Gama’s position on Transnet: shifting toward consumer goods, customer orientation and demand oriented levels of service (through expanding capacity). This is in the face of the Rail Policy Green Paper in South Africa, which proposes that public private partnerships are essential to the development of railways in Africa– toward the end of document. One of the strategic focuses, including shifting rail to road, is incorporating Small Medium Enteprises (SMEs). My argument is that competition between SMEs is good, but for rail sector development pivoting SMEs in a collaborative manner– focusing on regional integration, not just South Africa.

“My argument is that competition between SMEs is good, but for rail sector development pivoting SMEs in a collaborative manner– focusing on regional integration, not just South Africa.”

Collaboration between SMEs in the Southern African region have not been popular. Although institutions and public agencies suggest that good quality engagements are important for regional development, but more practical efforts seem necessary. For instance, much literature is available discussing the advent of a regional currency to ease the flow of business and secure labour mobility throughout the region. The benefits of liberalised transportation services, focused on regional integration (i.e. Yamoussoukro Decision) are obvious throughout the region (InterVistas reported on this in 2014/2015). However, the effect of legislation and political factors are not always positive for regional trade, collaboration and activity (i.e. what’s happening between Zimbabwe and Malawi; inefficient cross boarder inspection processes). For instance, SAA chose Bujumbura over Kenya for a direct freight link 2014 or so–not a good choice for high value goods from Kenya (i.e. Kenya tea which is highly popular in EU).


SOURCE: McKinsey Global Institute: Lions on the Move Report


Circulating regional economic activity is also subject to various rail lines and roadway infrastructure– which is currently at a backlog borderline astronomical. The 1067mm Cape Guage is most frequently used though, making the possibility of goods movement even more valuable. Labour, goods, and ideas circulation within the region are an excellent basis for regional giants to make high quality collaborative footing–amidst all the other challenges that brings.

“In the region, strategies to complement and collaborate on projects with the goal of securing a good brand, and advancing high quality relationships with prudent innovation in mind will certainly set the tone.”

My general thought on the role of SMEs is particularly directed at the transportation, mobility and movement related entities, systems and infrastructure. It does seem reasonable to argue that SMEs that pivot themselves toward emerging business ventures– complementary to larger firms may have strong footing– more-so since black owned business, employment creation and skills transfer are key performance areas for Southern Africa governments and sensible multi-nationals alike. A crucial path to take is one where the evolution of future railway industries redresses two things: firstly the export oriented colonial design of railways in the Southern African region and secondly commercial borders based on nationality.

“Focusing on the up-stream is a serious strategy for success in the SME sector– especially in the process of establishing a competitive railway industry.”

The next generation of African business systems will certainly be one that is on a quest for innovation in high capital cost sectors– not solely consortium dependent small entities, doing a sub-set of the work. Certainly SMEs should start somewhere. In the region, strategies to complement and collaborate on projects with the goal of securing a good brand, and advancing high quality relationships with prudent innovation in mind will certainly set the tone. This is especially true for railway infrastructure supply chains, which include rolling stock componentry, technology, monitoring and evaluation systems with autonomous problem detection, passenger service quality tools, furnishings, lighting and vehicle design. Focusing on the up-stream is a serious strategy for success in the SME sector– especially in the process of establishing a competitive railway industry.




When the Bringers of Wealth Strike Again

There once a time when nations believed that high net exports was a source and representation of power and affluence through the cold gold reserves that are accumulated. During this era, called mercantalism, labour was but a natural resource that could be owned and exploited—a powerful rationalisation for colonial practice in the 1600s. In Africa natural resources have been the reason behind cultural conquest, legal oppression and, nowadays repressed citizenry. We can see this in many cases, one that aggravates me most is the paradoxic oil sector dividing Nigeria and the military slaughtering activists to defend multinationals- see Ken Saro-Wiwa. Thus, the natural sector in resources and labour (i.e. competent and able “black skins”) define the new and the old scramble for Africa.

Rewarding the Scramblers

In South Africa this natural sector has rewarded the few in the economy with in (a) Krugerrands, which sparked a cold gold coin circulation throughout the world; (b) gold reserves and exports, which still stand as our domestic and international economic position; (c) a diamond monopoly with a controlled market (but apparently market driven lately) and (d) coal reserves, uses and exports offsetting the real potential for a green industrial revolution. Most citizens today strive to access these resources be it in jewelry or energy (coal based electricity), and yet local and long-term rewards remain slim for the majority and bulky for the few.

These rewards have manifested and matured in the form of “old money” and new money, asset formation within a class of elites, and a middle-class that has grown in terms of size, racial profile and income—but not in terms of assets and stock. In the meantime, the labour sector tussles through the dirt, lives beneath the crust and emerges from a profitable underworld with an inequitable share of the natural wealth of a nation.


What do Miners Strike For?

Mine workers are part of the sector that brings national wealth. Trade unions are set, and adamant to support, guide and represent mine workers. When negotiations fail, or seem not to proceed as deemed necessary the “strike voice” is laid on the table and can cost between 5 weeks (during the 2012 massacre) to 5 months (most recent platinum strike) of almost zero output, and a loss to other members in the supply/demand chain. I am not interested in what goes wrong or the real costs of such down tools. But I am interested in exploring what these 5 months (or almost 2 years) were for, and whether they are truly worth it in the longer run.

The deadlock between the mining North-West and miner’s unions resulted in bloodshed, intimidation and new politics. It was as if workers and unions were striking match to torch the mining sector as an example of the impact of unionisation, and the political position of workers in South Africa. The bloodshed cannot be condoned, but the socio-political statement must be heard, and discussed on a national platform.

How Much is Really Much?

The Marikana Crisis is/was a symptom of the state of the nation from 2012 into 2014 and, I suspect, even further on. During that time R12500 was the deal on the table, although the workers were in a the second year of income increases. Two issues that I am compelled to highlight as critical points in maneouvering a negotiation based on economic profit (total profit minus the cost of externalities (i.e. social and natural environmental costs) and opportunity costs), are the rand value and income tax.

The real value of R12500 between 2012 and 2014 has dropped, as inflation mounts and the South African economy weakens. Meaning it is not worth as much as what it was then. This also applies to the increase over 3 years, the public-private-union sector does not seem to argue based on the real value of these increases, thus mine workers may not feel as if they earn R12500. That must be the point of any wage exercise: to encourage the dignity and pride in earning based on one’s efforts, toil and progress. If and when it is not felt in Rand value, strikes easily resurface. Thus, wage increases and, or decreases need to respond and reflect the market most of the labour force grapples with on a daily basis.

On the income tax point: an increase in income can shift one’s tax bracket, therefore pay higher tax as shown in the figure. I am not a tax expert, but if strikes were for gross incomes at R12500 in 3 years, then by the third year annual incomes would be R150 000, but they will only be earning R10250 per month, after tax (first bracket). If unions wanted miners to earn R12500 as take home income (after tax), which is what I suspect minors expect, then an increase of 22% (from R10250 to R12500) would be necessary. Thus, negotiations should have stood at  R15250 deadlock in a new tax bracket—which can be challenging for the sector to realise in the short term.

In this new bracket net (after tax) income would be around R12403.5 in the second tax bracket. In the real economy when mine workers’ net incomes increase, some of them may be shifted into higher tax brackets. This implies that increased total incomes minus the higher tax in the, possibly, new bracket may result in a salary lower than the initial R12500.

Considering Wage Increases

The South African labour is not as productive as it used to be. A 1% increase in labour, arguably results in a 0.08 drop in productivity. And the moment we consider increasing wages without retrenchment, and higher productivity expectations, salary increases such as the above are best reached within a 4 year – 5 year period plus the changes in the Rand value (productivity and, or inflation) and the productivity losses incurred by the mine during the strike. By the 5th year new negotiations should be arranged (and to allowed to just emerge) in response, again to the economy, labour union demands and the company’s equity and financial standing.

The above points highlight a few structural flaws in wage negotiations and South African tax regimes:

(1) In the public eye, negotiations do not seem to grapple with tax bracket shifts, net and gross income change, and labour productivity and other expectations from the employer and employee. Especially since it seems as if, the political statements made by unions argue for R12500 gross income—they have, however, not indicated this clearly.

(2) Income tax regimes seem not to exempt (indirect subsidy) the labour at the bottom of the pyramid scheme of capitalism (i.e. mine sector workers, teachers, textile workers, and academics/researchers) in order to encourage and allow them to advance out of the current classes and social standings.

(3) The public-private-union sector should refrain from annual negotiations because they seem to repress economic strategies, with foresight that encourage firms to organise themselves into the kind of labour market (income-productivity ratio) we have in South Africa.

Thus, as a step forward, public and private sector investment in labour is an absolute priority. This investment must be based on net income, consider tax bracket issues, be geared for exemption or indirect subsidies, and reflect the real value of the labourer’s money and efforts. Employees must feel like they earn the value of money they debate and, or demand for.

Strikes and protests have evolved into an overwhelming trend especially since 2006, from teachers unions to service delivery (and the radicalism thereof). I suspect that there is a market failure in the South African worker’s and teacher’s sectors—public-private-union-partnerships and interventions in the form diagnosis and wage increase regulations based on the above are key modes of responding to this kind of unrest. In the service delivery context the level of “service” concept is a paradox when an nation is pregnant with grants and door to door delivery expectations. As much as it seems like negotiations left to the market have proven deadly and unjust, I believe that the voice of the worker, the information they receive and try to articulate is shattered aside—intentionally or unintentionally—by the unions, public and private sector’s choice of tools for participation, policy making and engagement. I also suspect that these strikes (responses market failures) if not redressed promptly are small whispers of a much larger quake to come from the bringers of wealth to the nation.

Notes on the Articulations and Animations of Love, Communication and Formats of Policy. (1)

There should be an absolution when we are messing with a puritan form and intuitive feeling of love. It is not to say that it may not vary, but it is to say that there is a fabric that one may touch at times that resonates with the absolute compassion that resides between the threads of love. Now, if we would open the absolution up, out of the puritan manifestation- that is intuitively sound. We then expose it (the feeling) to our thought based ideas of variability and change. Obviously the feeling can, arguably, be an internal exhibition and inhibition- in some senses. But when we use ideas like ‘it is what one makes of it’ and attach them to intuitive clarities- like love- we initiate two things. (1) There is ‘one’ the you that makes of ‘it’ and (2) the ‘it’ which in its “absolute” state is itself and augmented by you, your person, surroundings and other things to varying degrees (gestalt maybe). Intuitively, I sense that the genuine actualization of the ‘it’ without the ‘one’/you is close to what we search and find in general. More specifically, however, its absolute form- if it can be boxed that way in thought- is as possible as water coming from the sky. All we have to do is not call it rain. Are these issues of semantics? Words twisted and lost in mental reflections and emotional events rather than processes?

The use of words to describe emotion is, perhaps, an interesting manifestation of: (i) human culture, (ii) evolution and perhaps even the (iii) evolution of emotional elocution. This is profoundly interesting. Imagine, we departed from the situation where we pointed to the tiger and tree to broaden our conversations toward deeper sentiments. Beyond the advent of linguistics, just the unifying thought that: ‘she must know that I am frustrated! This blade is blunt!’. Our conceptual methods, which intuitively, guide our ever establishing interpretations and projections of emotions across the vast spectrum of senses are to blame. This process established forms of interconnectedness that are seldom seen today for, in short, the following reasons:

  • Emotions have been standardised and are articulated within obscenely senile notions, gestures, and projections. Theater is the last place where one may find pieces of emotion being replicated in distinct and individual forms. In popular culture, however, the artist has become commercially appealing and their work has left the challenge and intrigue of and around how we feel to other doctrines. We are now left with soapies, and dramas as reference points- especially since most native parents struggle to articulate their conceptual formulations of feeling.
  • Social media and socio-technological shifts are part and parcel of contemporary conversations- they hinder and liberate. In many ways, we write as much as we talk. We have more time and space to converse frequently. We are, however, struggling to catch our tongues within the reality that we communicate less. Communication is a multi-dimensional conversation surrounded by all kinds of animations: tone of voice, gestures, eye contact and movement, scent, appearance, expressions, choice of words etc.( e.g. Mobuis and Rosenblat, 2005. Their work on physical appearance [beauty premium] as an economic indicator may be of interest) Although we may be able to calibrate typed and or skyped discussions in such a way that the sides of the conversive coin mostly get to shine, we are not reflecting any improvement in our writing or thinking capacities (see The Long Decline of Reading). The magnitude of this varies between worlds. In the global South, we don’t text anymore we chat- note the increase in mobile phone use and the low (but growing) Internet penetration. Conversations seem to be devolving.
  • Personal consumption and the (global) fetishes that are insidiously spawned from it are, arguably, established reasons for the deterioration of a social fabric(s) that used to weave its way into one’s person. When individuals consume behind gated communities, they shamelessly articulate class differences and perceived personal states animated, to a similar extent, by owning a car. For example,  public transport users are part of a community of individuals who are commuting over the same route in one vehicle- they have greater opportunities to converse and articulate themselves. Private vehicle owners tend to hoard space, restlessly hustling over the tarmac feeling very different from the public transport user. Both articulate needs of privacy, and community but as the public transport user aspires to own a car, he/she articulates arguments in favour of individual interest. This can be called the paradox of aspiration for individual gain (it applies in many fields and will be discussed more clearly in later conversations). Individual interest produce envy and fear. Excluded from the gated communities are communities who are willing to extrapolate the material resources from the bright-lit suburban streets to the dark alleys and match-box cities and slums. These are easily interpreted as voices of terror which must be taken away. They are, however, the harvest one would reap if more was communicated and less was said in the public media and other forums. This is to say that, in the global South what is articulated seems dreadfully limited when compared to what is said. More people understand the communication of things rather than their unfathomable and formidable sayings relevant to social-classes that are perceived to have a more important voice- and choice.


This discussion is but a small sketch in the much larger oil-less sculpture that may walk the now flourishing cities on the African continent. It was aimed at introducing communication as an enabler for greater articulations and animations in time and spatial contexts. Though stemming from the emotional level- a greatly human level- its value is found in the links intimated throughout the discussion.

Fearlessly, spatial and human thinkers, practitioners, activists and the likes should begin their conversations with the aim of communicating. Stimulating facets of being human in our communication methods, institutional infrastructure and socio-economic considerations. This has worked very well for political fabrications in their use of demagogue- captivating their congregation. Essentially, this is to reflect and embed the reality of love, in near absolute forms, into our methodologies and so-called dogmatic practices (i.e. academia, philosophy, and even policy in Africa). For many this conceptualisation (its method, presentation and formulation of argument) may seem profoundly distant and plot-less. It would be interesting to note, however, that in the broader scheme of things, we humans can only create plots, purposes and reasons in order to animate faith and the superficial. What then would be the purpose of surrounding motifs with plots in a plot-less paradigm- let alone the lack of film, remote controls and rewinds in life?

“Competition be…

“Competition between people only ensures one thing: that if you win, you will have done a better job at whatever it is than the other person did. That does not mean that you will have done a good job, just a better one. To compete does not ensure certain excellence. It just ensures comparative success. And the problem with that is that it distracts us from examining what good might actually be.”

Nancy Kilne’s book, Time to Think is new on my list of works to unravel. 

Whatever the co…

Whatever the costs of delayed publication may have been, Marshall’s interest in and affection for his students later paid handsome dividends. His influence extended well beyond his role in equipping them with professional skills.He urged them to be engaged with the world’s problems and advised a wary attitude towards popular acclaim. ‘Evil’, he once wrote, ‘is with when all men speak well of them… It is almost impossible for a student to be a true patriot and to have the reputation of being one with his own time’.

William Barber, The History of Economic Thought,a discussion on neo-classical economics. Introducing Alfred Marshall.

On Democratic Access

When one reads the title of this particular piece of writing, one imagines a conversation that involves the politics and constitutionality behind accessibility. Sometimes, we even take the liberty to express our ideas of democracy and access long before we delve into the available readings. This is naturally what human beings with working brains do: we answer a question long before the answer is presented. The primary aim of this discussion is to answer a question with an answer that is unfolding on the African continent and around the world: mobility in cities.

A principle of a democratic society is inclusivity. The degree to which there is access to opportunities of inclusion reflects the elements that embody equality and equity- both socially and economically. We can see this in the placement of school facilities- where high quality education should be universally available, just as schools need be distributed equitably in urban and rural areas (KZN Ugu region).

In early studies cities were understood as centers of economic activities, this paradigm has shifted towards cities reflecting a ‘collective-intelligence’ if not consciousness.  Cities now bear a responsibility toward humanity- they are known to be centers of human development and opportunity generators. Therefore, having access to such an environment would surely mean that individuals and groups are included in this collective intelligence and opportunity generator. Is that not democratic?

We can develop a brief conceptual look at how primitive cities existed in a collective and closed sense. For example, most European cities such as France and England were high density and relatively compact areas of commerce and living. The social fabric of these enlarged settlements produced a network of ideas that are in our conversations today. We can look at a range of compact city fabric “outputs” like the pre-war art movement, Shakespeare, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Jean-Paul Satre- all of whom enjoyed city life. We cannot conclude that cities produced their ideas, but we can understand that their ability to access human life at such a close range encouraged their ideas to spread and foster- internally and externally. Is that not living?

It is by no means a secret that African civilisations were also bound by a kraal of sorts, wrapping the grass huts or mud-brick structures into a protected armor that served to keep the people well knit. It should be no surprise that ancient Asian culture encourage both life in the city and the mystical sage-like experience of the wilderness. The quest for this kind of balance is of growing importance in so-called modern life. Reasons behind achieving this sense of balance stretch beyond the environmental crises that cloud 21st century living. The quest for balance has reached the realms of human quality (better people), not just the quality of human life (Human Happiness Index).

The wilderness, in contemporary society, was part of the suburban pursuit for space under the idea of modernity.  This pursuit grew over the years after the 2nd World War (or in South Africa when the National Party ruled once more during the 40’s) and it evolved through an idea that modernity required the separation of human activities- the separation of human life. This came in the form of greenbelts and other applications in urban land-use planning. As a result people worked in the city, lived in the suburbs or townships and had leisure activities elsewhere (Dewar et al 2004).

The split in our human activity is a dramatic shift for the urban-homosapien’s natural habitat, who’s ideas around and about its existence were formed in closely knit social fabrics that suburban life tended to weaken. At this point, ‘inclusivity’ is mostly present in high density peri-urban areas- places where few can afford high walls and fences. Some argue that these are areas of profound opportunities, as urban planners can build new living areas far more advanced than the 100 year old sewage systems that plague already established cities. Others see the slum dwellings as a dreaded demise that will grow with the city and comes with the city.

Nevertheless, cities reflect significant levels of inclusivity; cities are only democratic however, once they facilitate the ability to access opportunities, activities and society. It is arguably undemocratic to , for example, find citizens of the United States spend almost 9 years of their lives in vehicles. Especially where that amount of time could have been allocated differently if transport solutions were socially and economically viable.

 Access in cities is not defined or confined to transport, but rather shaped around mobility. How mobile are South Africans relative to the rest of the world? What does it mean when people can access spaces through the opportunity to be mobile? Other questions can even filter to the introspective meaning of mobility and the physical experience of movement over space subject to the value of time for the moving. In essence, how mobile we are, how much we can access over time and how inclusive our opportunities to access possibility in the city begin to define a democratic sense of access.