Editor's Note - September 2016 September 2016

By MYRLE VANDERSTRAETEN, Published in Editor's Note

If there is one thing about which one cannot complain, living in South Africa, it is being bored. August provided everyone with plenty to discuss.


It is interesting that the Municipal Systems Amendment Act (7 of 2011) effectively prevented cadres from holding senior positions in municipalities. In fact senior municipal managers must demonstrate they have the basic skills and their appointments have to be submitted to the Co-operative Governance Minister. It would appear that some municipalities failed to take note of the requirements. And the people ran out of patience.

The much anticipated municipal elections, which were certainly contested as fiercely as would be expected of a national election, brought about the change many people hoped for. The election sent
a strong message to the ruling party that the people of South Africa have come of age (if one takes 21 as the magic number). There were fewer heart-string votes, more people who decided they wanted to vote for what they believed in, regardless of the party involved. The message from South Africans was, we find graft abhorrent, we find arrogance, self-indulgence, laziness, disregard of responsibility, playing the blame game, acceptance of a lack of ethics among leaders, the apparent inability of leaders to do the honourable thing and, if necessary the party to have the backbone to do it for them totally unacceptable. We will no longer tolerate leaders unwilling or unable (or both) to do the job they have been elected to do.

There is considerable comment in the media about the ability and integrity of current leaders. When President Zuma spoke just before the May 7 2009 election he said he would root out corruption. (President Zuma could face 783 charges of corruption.) Promises, promises.

Those who have now been elected to run the municipalities have a tough road ahead; opposition parties have an opportunity to demonstrate that they have both the ability and will to be efficient and effective – let us hope they are up to the task. The general election is just around the corner – 2019.

The mini-bus taxi industry is, as anyone who reads this note will know, one of my pet aversions. It provides an essential service but plays Russian roulette with the lives of its passengers. Gauteng Mayor, Herman Mashaba, has promised to do more for the less privileged in the province. He would make the lives of those who have to use taxis every day, and other motorists, safer and more pleasant if he cracked down really hard on taxi owners, drivers and corrupt Metro police. It would also make a significant impact on the economy.

Are the criticisms the stuff of urban legend? I hear stories from too many people for at least some of them not to hold a degree of truth. These are some of the elements that currently make it difficult to have a well-run taxi service. Many taxi owners are members of the police – they are not going to charge their own drivers; bribes are acceptable all-round to keep the taxis keep running; young men who don't have licences, and don't know (or care about) the rules of the road are driving; drivers live in their taxis so are sleep-deprived; owners are due a considerable amount of daily takings which is why taxi drivers have to speed and make as many trips as possible to ensure they also make something from a day's work; Metro Police are too scared to do anything (and I personally have seen them disregard dangerous driving). Taxi drivers don't only think they own the road, they know they do because the authorities find hiding behind bushes preferable to being visible and preventing abuse of traffic lights, traffic direction and position in the queue.

I know someone who says they pray before they get into the taxi and give thanks when they get out safely. Seeing the speed at which they fly down Jan Smuts Avenue, close to our office, I am not in the least surprised. And crashes caused by taxi drivers take on an added dimension when a family member of someone one knows is killed. Friends' son-in-law was killed by a taxi driver – drunk at 5:30 in the morning – who had been partying all night with his friends (also in the taxi). Having knocked the young father off his motor cycle he roared off but was seen by another motorist and later apprehended. The victim's daughter turned three the day after he was killed; his five-year-old son is asking when his Daddy is coming home.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) is the government agency responsible for collecting, researching and compiling statistical reports on traffic accidents. According to its website, crashes increased yet again in 2015.

The number of passengers in the totals of those killed amounted to 32.7% – think of the number of passengers per taxi. The human factor involved in causing the crashes – 79.6%. The cost to the economy is in the billions; the cost to those personally affected is immeasurable.

The roads need to be safer; come on DA Metros there is a golden opportunity here – show some balls.

In what appears to be an attempt to avoid public comment, Eskom gazetted nuclear procurement plans in provincial documents. According to Outa, the National Nuclear Regulator and Eskom are trying to licence new nuclear construction sites by quietly placing the notice here instead of in the National Gazette. In addition they are trying to shorten the deadline for public comment to below the legally required 30 days. Eskom applied for a site licence at Thyspunt – near Jeffrey's Bay, and at Koeberg – the existing nuclear site. Outa said "This move negates the spirit and constitutional rights for the public to participate in decisions that affect them".

If the public fails to comment on a gazette notice it is taken that it constitutes acceptance.

And, the Pretoria High Court ruled that Nersa's decision to increase electricity tariffs "was irrational, unfair and unlawful". Unless Eskom can come up with a legitimate case for further increases, its "illegal" 9.4% increase will probably mean the utility has to reduce tariffs next year to compensate for the unlawful increase.

A reduction in nominal power costs – that will be a first!

David Lancaster has written an extremely interesting article on the "dreaded" billable hour. As he observes, all complain about it but nothing else seems to be universally acceptable.

However, there are consequences for practitioners who, in the current market, have to contend with smaller client budgets, intense competition, long hours and justifying their existence with the billable figure (Rxx – 1 minute telephone call).

It appears some attorneys are cracking under the pressure and increasing numbers of firms, particularly overseas, are introducing flexitime. Contrary to some initial derogatory comments to the effect that the introduction was to appease working mothers, take-up has been across the board. This topic is worth exploring in another issue of without prejudice.

Our Olympic team did us proud – what a fabulous array of medals! My only negative comment, those tracksuits were dreadful. We have excellent designers in South Africa – use them.

The front cover depicts one aspect of New Zealand's Supreme Court. The contemporary design was by Roy Wilson of architectural firm Warren and Mahoney. It was unveiled in September 2006.