Sack the advisers and appoint me Minister of Common Sense
HAVE you any idea how much the Sunday Times could be saving the taxpayer? For the modest cover price of R4.50 politicians could be reading Stephen Mulholland's column and this one to find out how to run a country in easy to follow, weekly instalments. Instead, they continue to blunder on, appointing ludicrously overpaid consultants to lead them down dark and dangerous paths to financial ruin.
It is not as if Mulholland and I are in this for the money, either. All we ask in return for our weekly offerings is just enough to keep us in good Havana cigars, malt whisky and handmade shirts. And do we get any thanks in return? Of course not. All we get for our efforts are letters calling us racists and accusing us of hanging on to our apartheid past.
You can't please some people. Weaker men would have buckled at the knees, given their typewriters away to an aspirant black novelist and gone fishing. Fortunately, we are made of sterner stuff and despite government's refusal to immediately sack all their overpaid and useless advisers and appoint both of us to the Cabinet as joint Ministers of Common Sense, we shall continue to offer our advice and recommendations on how to keep SA from falling off the edge of the world through the Sunday Times.
One of Mulholland's recent ideas was to consult business about the viability of levying a small tax on the market value of quoted companies and to start a business initiative to create jobs with the estimated R14-billion that would flow from such a scheme.
To ensure that there was minimal pilfering, government agencies would be left out of the mechanics of the transaction as far as possible. The idea received many bouquets for its originality, although critics suggested the scheme should also be extended to unquoted companies. Unfortunately the idea was about six months too late because the collapse in the share prices means that the amount raised today would be substantially less and, besides, it is very difficult to find generous businessmen in a bear market. File the idea away for the next bull run.
What we need now is a South African "feel good" campaign. Whatever one may think of President Mandela's recent comments about unpatriotic emigrants, one can't get away from the fact that, as usual, he has got people talking. My own views on the president's comments are that they are the sort of thing one should expect to hear from the head of a visibly rattled government that knows it has fallen far short of expectations.
The fact that SA is losing talented people of all race groups should be of concern to us all, but one can scarcely blame people for emigrating when, as far as they are concerned, to continue living in this country is no longer viable.
We live in a world where talents are easily transferable. Moving to another country is not without its traumas and instead of castigating those who are thinking of emigrating, Mandela should realise that people who are thinking of leaving are generally those of a strong and adventurous disposition who have had to weigh up the pros and cons of life in a new country, often with no friends or family support system.
It is certainly not a matter of getting on a plane, slipping into a cushy job and drawing a salary in real currency . . . not unless you are in the South African diplomatic service.
The topic of emigration was touched on again over lunch at The Grace Hotel last Thursday where one of the party came up with a simple and ingenious plan. His suggestion was that we should have an affirmation of faith in the country's future on the part of leading businessmen and public figures and organise an "I'm staying in South Africa" campaign.
Every so often a country needs an advertising campaign to sell itself to its own citizens and this could be exactly what we need now; a simple, effective slogan extolling the joys of living in SA and boosting public morale. I bounced the idea off two very senior business figures at last week's Best Entrepreneur Awards ceremony and they both said they would heartily support anything that would put a positive slant on the country.
What we need now is a huge response from those of you who are staying, telling us why you support the idea and a good, snappy slogan for the campaign. In return, Out to Lunch will offer a bottle of champagne (French naturally) to the sender of the best suggestion received within the next two weeks.