Rich and powerful cosy up over lavish dinner while voters wait for bread
TRY as I may (and believe me, I have put a lot of effort into this one), I cannot for the life of me understand why anybody in their right mind would pay R250 000 a couple just to rub shoulders with the great and glorious of our land and boast that they had supped on Robben Island with Hillary Clinton. Am I missing the point? Was the food so spectacular, the conversation so scintillating and the wines so rare that people were prepared to dig deep into their pockets for this never to be repeated opportunity. I somehow doubt it.
I read in the Sunday Times last week that the names of the prominent businessmen who attended this decadent affair were leaked despite assurances that they would be kept secret. Why, if you have nothing to hide, would you wish nobody to know that you are prepared to spend R250 000 on a dinner for two on a formal penal colony? After all, South Africans aren't usually so modest when it comes to flashing their wealth about. One probable reason for this coyness is that it wasn't actually the guests who paid but the shareholders of the companies they work for. After all, businessmen are shrewd creatures. They know that, when it comes to putting their hands into their own pockets, they can find at least 101 better uses for R250 000 than dinner with the world's most successful futures trader and her toothy kid. However, if you can wangle it through the books as a legal expense and do a bit of political influence peddling into the bargain, why not?
Of course, the organiser of this lavish thrash, Ahmed Kathrada, dismisses as ludicrous any suggestion that businessmen could be attempting to buy influence. For me, this removes about the only valid reason to attend. Fortunately for the ANC, many of their supporters do not have access to the media, otherwise they would be asking why their leaders are swanning around on Robben Island enjoying expensive meals while they wait for houses, jobs and health care. Isn't life rough when you are merely a voter?
I WAS interested to read last week that the outlook for the Johannesburg CBD is brighter as a Malaysian property group prepares to spend R4-billion on upgrading and revitalising about 40 hectares of inner city property around the Carlton Centre.
Over the past few years accounting firms, merchant banks and law firms have been scrambling to get out of the inner city in the hopes of finding better conditions in the northern suburbs.
The Johannesburg CBD became more and more dilapidated, restaurants closed, crime rose and for a while it looked as though the city would be left to the mining houses and big banks which have all built splendid head offices and can't really consider moving.
In addition to the Malaysian investment, several major retail groups have also invested substantially in the CBD.
Now, paradoxically, the very places that many companies escaped to, looking for a better quality of life, have become just like the old city centre. Rosebank, for example, is no longer the upmarket shopping area it was five years ago.
The few pavements that actually remain are unusable because they are blocked by hawkers.
Oxford Road is the almost exclusive preserve of drug dealers and prostitutes, and in the parking lot outside the Constantia Centre vagrants harass shoppers and urinate in the gutter.
Our only hope is that the Malaysians will do such a good job that everybody will leave Rosebank and move back to Johannesburg.
SOME years ago the medical profession gave the wine industry a boost by publishing an article in The Lancet which said that red wine drinkers had been found to have far healthier arteries than non-red wine drinkers.
A red wine a day keeps the coronary away. The only problem with using this very pleasant method to protect your heart is that you may well be putting a few other organs under pressure in the process.
So good old killjoy science has come to the rescue and you will shortly be able to buy a capsule which contains all the things in red wine that are good for your heart without actually having to risk a hangover just to keep healthy.
With any luck this will have an effect on wine prices and by the next Nederburg Auction red wine prices will be back at affordable levels.