Peter Bruce, veteran South African newspaper editor and commentator, interviews the country's social and political leaders and experts in a weekly effort to explain what is actually going on in this complicated country. Bruce's interviews are about making events easy to understand for people with little time to listen.
Time to Rise?
Rise Mzansi is the new kid on South Africa’s heaving political block. Its founder and leader, former Bus9ness Day editor Songezo Zibi, tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that the new party is “onboarding” 20 people a week — they’re not members but people promising electoral support. If he keeps that up until an election between mid-May and mid-August next year he could collect 7% of the vote. And more if the rate of onboarding increases. Zibi says he isn’t joining the Multi-Party Charter, triggered by DA leader John Steenhuisens “Moonshot Pact” last April. But he will talk to them after the election. Meanwhile, he says, Rise is not trying to become an opposition to the ruling ANC, but an alternative to it. South Africa, he says, desperately needs time out from the ANC.
24/10/2023 • 34 minutes 18 seconds
Perhaps not quite the perfect match
The Springboks won an almost impossible rugby test match on Sunday, beating Rugby World Cup hosts France in what many commentators have called the greatest game of rugby ever played. But as Peter Bruce warns in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge, there is a dark side to winning that cannot safely be ignored. As tempers flare and as war and death spreads in the Middle East following the Hamas atrocities in Israel on October 7, there is a danger that Europe, and perhaps Paris in particular, becomes a dangerous place to be. The State de France, where the ‘Boks play at least one more game, and possibly two, has been targeted by Muslim extremists in the past. Both the Louvre museum and the Pace of Versailles Paris were closed and evacuated after terrorits threats last weekend. We must be careful...
18/10/2023 • 10 minutes 43 seconds
High, dry and very lucky
A gigantic flood smashed through the village of Stanford in the Western Cape last week, leaving Podcasts from the Edge presenter Peter Bruce in awe of the silent power of water. Fortunately no-one lost their life but there were some close calls. Its hard, and probably foolish to apportion blame for the rain but, he argues, management of the Klein River and possibly others in the province needs attention. If reeds and other vegetation is damming flood waters near homes, and if municipalities are content to allow residential construction on flood planes then someone’s going to get hurt.
04/10/2023 • 18 minutes 32 seconds
Execrable English or Cunning Code?
The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill is an attempt to rewrite what South Africa’s national interest it. On a first read it turn out to be almost exactly the government interests as well. So opposing government policy, advocating for it to fail or funding legal challenges to literally anything the government wants to do could have to running into trouble with the intelligence agencies. It is’t funny, says Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts From the Edge. If we are not careful, the next target, after the NGOs are beaten back, will be opposition parties and the media.
20/09/2023 • 15 minutes 16 seconds
Cyril Ramaphosa's sweet dreams
President Cyril Ramaphosa told the country on television on Sunday night that the recent Brics summit in Johannesburg was all about creating “a fairer and more inclusive world order”. New World Orders are the stuff the Russian and Chinese leaders dream about. To hear them slip so easily from a potential new vassals lips must be satisfying. No more work involved! But Peter Bruce argues in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that expecting dictatorships, autocracies, tyrannies, monarchies and one party states to change the world for the better is just plain bonkers. The more power they are handed by naiive leaders like Ramaphosa the more the world will begin to look like their countries. Then they’ll chew him up and spit him out.
06/09/2023 • 13 minutes 14 seconds
Honeyed tongues and hearts of gall
The Brics summit in Johannesburg last week has left a simmering argument among South Africans in its wake. Was it a good thing or bad. Who have we become involved with and does it even matter? For some the Brics summit represented an historic turning point but most proponents of that view are too young to have witnessed a turning point before so how do they know? What is clear is that the original five Brics which numbered three democracies, are now, following the expansion of the group to 11 members, are now overwhelmingly undemocratic and that has to be a pity. At some stage, argues Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge, it will matter.
30/08/2023 • 16 minutes 34 seconds
When will BRICS actually do something?
The Brics summit in Johannesburg this week is a giant talk shop. Go back to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in the late 1950s and you’ll find much of today’s grand talk about a New World Order lying, word for word, under decades of dust. So why should things be different now? It is hard to find anything concrete, or even interesting, in any of the rhetoric in the lead-up to the summit. There’ll be no new currency to trip up the dollar. And how will the BRICS decide on new membership? What are the rules? Do human rights play a part? If the do how are the Chinese and Russians members? And what about trade? Ramaphosa said on Sunday night we had exported R450bn worth of goods to China, the US, Germany, Japan and India. What he didn’t say is that the Brics members in that list trade like they were our new colonisers — they take a minerals and send us back the finished goods. Still, lets hope they all have a great party.
22/08/2023 • 17 minutes 46 seconds
Did the moon just get shot?
Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen has pulled off something of a coup by getting author, commentator and scholar William Gumede to chair his Moonshot Pact gathering of opposition party leaders in Johannesburg next week. Well done him, says Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from The Edge. People, including Bruce, were sceptical when the idea to launch a multiparty coalition-type effort ahead of next year’s coalition was first announced in April. But the Gumede appointment signals something important has happened to DA thinking about how this might all be done. It lends next week’s gathering real credibility and whether or not the pact is able to topple the ANC next year — an ambitious target — our politics might actually be coming back to life. The opposition, once comatose, is suddenly sitting up in bed again.
08/08/2023 • 10 minutes 41 seconds
Business tries one more time
This time, business is not trying to fix, like, everything. This time it is just trying to fix three things. It is sort of a lesson learned in trying to tie up with government, but will greater focus — a new business partnership focusses only on electricity, logistics and crime — mean better, or any, outcomes? That remains to be seen, says Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge, because at some stage when you do business with the ANC, you end up in the mud with the real boss, the ANC itself, and not many people survive that intact.
02/08/2023 • 15 minutes 28 seconds
Eskom’s Energy Availability bias
Eskom’s Energy Availability Factor a week ago was 56.3%, a long way from where Eskom and the government keep telling it is or jolly well should be. The cold plays havoc with good intentions and the result seems to be a spiralling diesel bill. Who is paying it?, asks Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge. The bigger question is this: The democratic state bounced back from a deep apartheid-induced recession after 1994. Can it do it again now? Is the state strong enough? Are the skills still there? Why are we waiting?
26/07/2023 • 13 minutes 31 seconds
Say it out loud
For the past 10 years Nicola Harris has built up, under the radar, a stunningly successful NGO helping children in poor township schools transition from mother-tongue tuition to English. Using easily adapted computer software her NGO, Click Learning maintains some 18 000 tablets in 296 schools nationwide. In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge she tells Peter Bruce she aims to expand the number of learners using her carefully-knitted support system of funders, and infrastructure providers, from a current 212 000 to 240 000 by the end of September. Bruce visited one of her labs in the sprawling Mdantsane township outside East London and says he was blown away by the experience. But the secret isn’t in the software, he says. It’s management.
19/07/2023 • 33 minutes 59 seconds
Complain and campaign
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s complaining press conference on Sunday about how much harder his job is than any other ANC head of state has Peter Bruce struggling to contain his despair. Sure, State Capture, but he was inside it. Yes, Covid was a surprise but nowhere near as big a surprise as Ramaphosa’s rough-hewed handling of it. The shock of the rioting two years ago this week was all the greater because, typically, Ramaphosa doesn’t have the right people doing the difficult jobs. So stop whining, make better policy choices and learn how to choose. You can’t fix everything at once. Be braver…
11/07/2023 • 13 minutes 25 seconds
Cyril’s subtle shuffle shuttle
Either he doesn’t know what an economic mess we are in or he does and is hiding it really well, but President Cyril Ramaphosa has a spring in his step at the moment. It must be all the flying he has been doing in that 20 years old Boeing 737 Thabo Mbeki ordered way back. Warsaw, Kyiv and St Petersburg, back to meet the prime ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands and then back off to France for a roundtable with world leaders on the future of finance before flying back to Cape Town at the weekend to close the first serious attempt in years by the ANC to form a coherent party in the province. Is he ready to lose the elections next year? “That’s just silly,” he says, before flying off to goodness knows where. He’s a moving target. Gwede Mantashe is a problem but the list of Ramaphosa’s defeated enemies is, by now, impressively long….
27/06/2023 • 12 minutes 34 seconds
Oh for a peace of the action
It is not only too early to tell whether or not President Cyril Ramaphosa’s peace mission was a success or not, there may be a case for not even trying to tell. He made a few points, his staff sadly made more than they should have and, all in all, a not very good time was had by all. Ramaphosa is surrounded by mediocre people, all chosen by his good self, so he is almost constantly badly advised, says Peter Bruce in this new episode of Podcasts From the Edge. Going to Russia and Ukraine would have been his idea though and you can see the politician in him kicking in. Its election time — let’s go save the world! A bit early in the election cycle but you take your chances as they come. Back home though, the actual business of saving an economy is slightly harder and slightly more beyond his grasp.
20/06/2023 • 18 minutes 27 seconds
Another Brief Encounter
How long will the new “partnership” between the Government and business last? Once the election next May is past, will the government still need it? Right now business is helping lower load shedding and promises to get trains running and the judicial authorities working again. But these partnerships come and go depending on the pressure the State is under. In this Edition of Podcasts from the Edge, Peter Bruce doesn’t hold out much hope for a lasting affair. Ideally, the ANC will lose the election and the need to get outside help to fix a tap or repair a broken window won’t be so acute. The way to make that happen is for business to give its time now to the government and, come the election, give its money to the opposition. Living in hope is a South African speciality.
13/06/2023 • 12 minutes 3 seconds
The DA bowls me over
A New Democratic Alliance policy document, possibly out this week, threatens to do the impossible and to make the party interesting as a place of progressive ideas again. Given the state the country is in, not a moment too soon. For years the official opposition has been selling “good management” as its chief political weapon but with the arrival of a new policy chief, Mat Cuthbert, come signs that the party appreciates the hunger in the electorate for something new. In this latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge, Peter Bruce hopes the DA not only finds a creative and attractive way for ward for South Africa, but that it stays true to its liberal roots while doing it.
06/06/2023 • 13 minutes 24 seconds
South Africa has a skills problem
South Africans are outraged to find themselves last in a prestigious survey of how well our fourth graders can read for meaning. And they should be angry. But the lack of education may not be, as so many people insist it is, the reason we cannot grow the economy. The reason we can’t grow is that we don’t have sufficient skills or we have discarded too early the people that do. In this episode of Podcasts from the Edge with Peter Bruce he revisits the argument for skills and the famous line from Harvard development economist Ricardo Hausmann that “to say that education is your growth strategy means that you are giving up on everyone who has already gone through the school system”.
31/05/2023 • 15 minutes 50 seconds
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s peace mission to Russia and what the intelligence ministry in his office calls “the” Ukraine next month is headed for the rocks almost before it sets sail. It will make the Russians look good (that’s probably the intent) and the Ukranians couldn’t very well be seen saying No to a whole peace team from Africa. So a game will briefly be played. There’ll be pictures of talks and handshakes and drinks and then everyone will come home. Ramaphosa and the ANC are in it for the rubles. Heaven knows how the rest of the team were persuaded to join him. It doesn’t matter much. The short fact is that until Russia withdraws from the sovereign territory it has occupied there is nothing to talk
24/05/2023 • 12 minutes 33 seconds
A Brigety too far…
Apology or not from the US ambassador in SA, the governments slack handling of the visit of the Russian freighter, the Lady R, to the Simon’s Town naval base last year has become a huge deal from which there is no easy out. The American position continues to be that it strongly believes we have been selling weapons to Russia while it occupies, brutally, vast parts of Ukraine in a war that breaks everything we claim we stand against. Except we stand with Russia. Its commercial ships have special access to our naval base, its president to our president. Its aircraft use our military bases to deliver mail. Our defence minister is a huge fan and as Pretoria tries to squirm away from the notion that we have moved into the Russian came, claiming that we are non-aligned — a meaningless concept when you think that most members of the United Nations are also non-aligned and most have voted more than once to condemn the Russian invasion — the head of the South African army pops up in Moscow to d
17/05/2023 • 21 minutes 43 seconds
Leadership is about the country, not the party
The one lesson we can take out of the mess in the Johannesburg City Council is that leadership in local government doesn’t always come with a mayoral chain. The DA is stuck with the notion that because it's the biggest party it should also be the mayor. But that’s being in large. Leadership is something else. As the biggest party in so many vital situations the DA should understand its job as, first, to provide local government stability. It doesn’t matter who the mayor is. And it won’t always matter who the premier is and Cyril Ramaphosa has shown us it certainly doesn’t matter who the president is. “Before you are a leader,” GE CEO Jack Welch said, “success is all about growing yourself. When you are a leader, success is all about growing others.” What matters is the country.
09/05/2023 • 14 minutes 24 seconds
When you see a fork in the road, take it
Trade is the end of the process of dreaming, investing, creating jobs and making things other people want to buy. In South Africa though the obvious seldom has right of way. In this episode of Podcasts from the Edge, South Africa's leading trade consultant, Donald MacKay, head of XA Global Trade Advisors, explains to Peter Bruce just how much delays in making decisions about the imposition of duties or the granting of relief from them is costing local business. Out in rural Eastern Cape, where no-one can hear you scream, MacKay stumbles across the cruel story of the Matador Slagtery, in Somerset East, the town's biggest employer, brought to its knees because officials at the department of trade, industry and competition are 17 months late in compensating the company for duties in posed on imported product otherwise unavailable in the country.
12/04/2023 • 41 minutes 54 seconds
The Book of John
Newly re-elected Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen went out on a very long limb at the end of the party’s Midrand congress on Sunday, putting his job on the line for an extremely short term objective — preventing the formation of a coalition government between the ANC and the EFF after the elections in May next year. That’s not a very long time away and Steenhuisen, declaring the EFF and its leader Julius Malema “political enemy number 1”, has, I think, put his political future and his job on the line with a promise to stop them in their tracks.
It's going to be a big job, especially as he also committed to building an election pact between often warring opposition parties to, in whatever way possible, fight the coming election together. That campaign has already begun. The big question left hanging in the air is whether, if the pact is successful, Steenhuisen would be its presidential candidate.
03/04/2023 • 11 minutes 38 seconds
Heaven will have to wait
We're stressed and anxious. The State is barely functional and in many places it has already failed. While a new minister tours power plants his old, formerly absolutely vital, job is unfilled. While the private sector could fix or make a real difference to the country in weeks if not days, if let loose, the government declines to get out of the way. In this episode of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce wonders how this all ends and hopes at least that Eskom keeps the lights on for the rugby world cup final so we can watch the Springboks win again.
29/03/2023 • 15 minutes 46 seconds
What Was That?
The EFF’s National Shutdown on Monday was a political failure and, if anything, argues Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge, would end up strengthening the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s hand if it is ever repeated. Who would have thought a politician normally as tactically astute as Julius Malema could be so easily thwarted? The truth may be though that South Africans are not easily roused to revolution. In our history the hardest battles have been fought to retain power or privilege, not to gain them. “Casting yourself as a champion of the poor limits you to that fraction of poor people who have given up believing they can do things for themselves,” says Bruce.
22/03/2023 • 10 minutes 40 seconds
How a stinking government kills its children
Peter Bruce is enraged in this episode of Podcasts from the Edge by the absolutely needless death of a four-year-old girl, Langalam Viki. She fell into a pit latrine in her Eastern Cape school last week and drowned. He wants to know why the government, despite all its promises and ringing declarations, simply can’t do as basic a job as erecting a sanitary toilet that doesn’t kill the people who have to use it. No point waiting for an answer though. Children don’t vote and so they don’t matter. In South Africa, he warns, don’t be poor, or old or sick. Or a child.
14/03/2023 • 12 minutes 38 seconds
A Hiding To Nothing
Peter Bruce despairs of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s late night reshuffle in this latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge. The new Electricity Minister, Prof Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, was just down the corridor running Ramaphosa’s infrastructure programme. If the Electricity State of Disaster he announced a month ago was so urgent why has he not had his man on the job already? Sadly, Ramokgopa is a thoughtful and rather ponderous academic with little record of success in action. Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said when Ramaphosa first mentioned the new ministry that its occupant would be a “project manager”. He meant it as an insult and now sandwiched between two heavyweights like Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan at public enterprises the new minister is going to have a very hard time making anything happen without their permission.
07/03/2023 • 19 minutes 36 seconds
The writing on the wall…
Peter Bruce goes solo again in this new edition of Podcasts from the Edge, suggesting that former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter’s revelations about corruption inside Eskom and the direct involvement of cabinet ministers is probably the real reason President Cyril Ramaphosa is being so slow to name a new government. If he knows, as he probably does, what De Ruyter knows and what most of the media appear to have been given access to, it means he knows the names of the ministers involved. The risk of not including them in a reshuffled Cabinet may be intense. At the same time the risk of not firing them now will almost certainly come back to haunt the president later in the year and seriously damage his and the ANCs position ahead of elections in May 2024. Until the dam breaks and a name is attached to the cartels hollowing out Eskom, the country is on a precipice. Anything, it can sometimes seem, could happen here.
28/02/2023 • 15 minutes 58 seconds
There is "almost zero chance" Eskom or another intervening authority, can end load shedding in South Africa any time in the next two years, one of South Africa’s leading energy experts, UCT's Prof Anton Eberhard, tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge. He says President Cyril Ramaphosa has felt himself compelled to appoint a new minister for electricity in the side the Presidency, says Eberhard, "because his energy minister has failed him and his public enterprises minister has failed him. Eberhard says that as Eskom’s capacity to generate power fades there is a growing consensus about the case for natural gas as a fuel for generating power, not merely as a replacement for diesel in peaking plant. This might cheer energy Minister Gwede Mantashe but Eberhard dismisses his role in rescuing the economy. Mantashe’s own plan for sorting out load shedding, he says is “reduced and simplistic” and he is astonished that while TotalEnergies has found significant gas deposits
21/02/2023 • 30 minutes 38 seconds
Send in the Clowns...
That used to be theatre-speak for when something went wrong on stage and the crowd began to boo. At South African Tourism there seems to be no need. In this episode of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce digs in to the would wide web (i.e. his phone) to find out a little more about the day to day theatre at SA Tourism, the body tasked with growing the tourist numbers our entire future depends on. What he finds are top leaders in the organisation running side hustles on top of their day jobs. These are the guys who wanted to pay Tottenham Hotspur a billion rand to wear ‘Visit South Africa’ on their jerseys. Because, you know, it’s so cool. As an eternally agonised Spurs supporter himself, Bruce could have told them for free it would be a billion rand down the drain. Yes, people all around the world watch the English Premier League. But his team? Even die-hard fans watch from behind their hands.
13/02/2023 • 14 minutes 33 seconds
True Crime Stories
In his first podcast monologue Peter Bruce takes his Podcasts from the Edge into new realms. Basically because a guest didn’t pitch up he wonders pout loud when President Cyril “The Vanisher” Ramaphosa's reshuffle is going to happen or even if it ever will.
Rumours have Gwede Mantashe keeping his job as energy minister. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, according to some reports, may stay. One because she made it back on to the National Executive Committee after failing to topple Ramaphosa from the party leadership and NEC members need to be sucked up to by ANC leaders and, two, because her vast, deft and sensitive handling of the covid State of Disaster make her an ideal candidate to run the next one, the energy one that the NEC told Ramaphosa they want him to declare.
With a very nasty election coming down the road next year, and the near certainty he is going to lose it, Cyril’s instinct is to make himself a largely indistinguishable part of a crowd. Like a State of
06/02/2023 • 10 minutes 4 seconds
Veteran energy analyst and journalist (and electrical engineer) Chris Yelland tells Peter Bruce in this illuminating edition of Podcasts From the Edge that it is going to take something special for Eskom to meet the exacting deadlines it has set itself to restore Eskom’s vanishing Energy Availability Factor. Fixing the EAF, which has fallen every year since Jacob Zuma became President, regardless of who the CEO has been, sits at the centre of plans proposed by Eskom management and now accepted and endorsed by the failing utility’s new board. But as Yelland reminds us, the EAF in any one year represents the average performance of all 90 or so of its coal fired generators. And the decline first has to be stopped before it can even remotely begin to be reversed. Effectively the board, which has just two months to find a new chief executive and then a chief operating officer a few weeks later, has made an executive decision that whoever replaces Andre de Ruyter (who leaves at the end of Ma
24/01/2023 • 49 minutes 53 seconds
Half full? Half empty? Or just not full?
As Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Commission, Dr Crispian Olver is at the very centre of South Africa’s swirling energy policy debate. The commission’s job isn’t just to plan a way forward for the country, but to find the money to do it. In this first 2023 edition of Podcasts from the Edge he tells Peter Bruce that, despite setbacks and the growing power of the fossil fuel obsessed minerals and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, plans raised to wean South Africa off coal and presented to the COP27 climate conference in Egypt last November are still in place. The $8.5bn pledged by the EU, the US and the UK is, he says, “secure” despite the resignation of Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, who helped raise the money in the first place. Nonetheless, he concedes, we are “in a very real and tangible crisis and we have manifestly failed to make sure that we have the generating capacity” we need. “You can’t sugar-coat the bald facts,” says Olver. De Ruyter, he says, did a lot of good but
16/01/2023 • 33 minutes 27 seconds
Curb your enthusiasm folks… 2029’s the year; not 2024
Even if the ANC falls below 50% of the vote in the next general election in 2024 it’ll be able to form “a relatively easy” coalition with a small and perhaps like-minded party in Parliament. Cyril Ramaphosa will shake off the Phala-Phala game farm cash heist problem that stalks him and the DAs best leaders are running the Western Cape and and City of Cape town and not the party. Listen to UCT law professor and columnist Richard Calland as he leads Peter Bruce through the late 2022 intricacies of South African politics ahead of the ANC elective conference in Johannesburg in three weeks’ time in this final and lively edition of Podcasts from the Edge for the year.
29/11/2022 • 27 minutes 16 seconds
SA's power cuts are deliberately inflicted by the ruling party - Robin Renwick
Robin Renwick, Lord Renkwick, was UK ambassador in South Africa from 1987 to 1991. He was here for the end of PW Botha and the release of Nelson Mandela.
In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge he tells Peter Bruce of his rank disappointment at the way the New Beginning he played such a large role in has been frittered away. South Africa, he says, “has almost the lowest literacy rate in Africa, let alone the world. It is a catastrophic failure, and appalling situation”.
Still a big fan of the country and a frequent visitor, he will give the annual FW De Klerk lecture in Cape Town on Friday. He will tell his audience that load-shedding should be called by its name, power cuts, and that “power cuts are deliberately inflicted on South Africa deliberately by the ruling party’s” refusal to allow private companies to generate their own power. That might be changing now but the ANCs “addiction to State-run everything” is going to take a long time to turn around.
07/11/2022 • 31 minutes 35 seconds
Cyril's big call
Elections analyst Michael Atkins walks Peter Bruce through the bewildering maze of a rapidly approaching Constitutional crisis over our electoral system. The government has ignored advice from its own Ministerial Advisory Committee and is sending a Bill to the president to sign allowing independent candidates to stand for elections against established political parties. The Constitutional Court wants it done by December 10. For that to happen Ramaphosa would have perhaps a week to think of a way to remedy a flawed piece of legislation. "They have simply chosen an absurd electoral system that cannot work," says Atkins. By December 10 though, Ramaphosa will either have to sign or send the Bill back for improvement. The IEC, meanwhile, has precious little time to reconfigure its systems. The election is in 2024, In political terms, in IEC terms, that's like, tomorrow. It is going to get messy. ends
31/10/2022 • 33 minutes 13 seconds
Big Batteries? Here’s a way to do it our way...
s South Africa's efforts to plug the gaps in our electricity supply grind slowly forward there's a clear hole emerging in the plans for new, renewable energy generation. The hole is the absence of storage, of batteries, that are being rapidly deployed now around the word at a fast pace. In SA though, batteries are a sort of afterthought. Assuming the government planned 513MW of battery storage are actually built, storage will still be just a fraction of the new generation procured. It doesn't make sense. In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge, Peter Bruce talks to Frank Spencer, head of deployment at Bushveld Energy, a subsidiary of Bushveld Mining, which is listed in London. Bushveld is building a plant near East London to make electrolyte for its Vanadium Redox Flow Battery. Spencer says a plentiful supply of vanadium in SA shouldn't be over looked as the rest of the world rushes into lithium ion batteries. The VRFB lasts way longer, doesn't catch fire and we can build it here. To
24/10/2022 • 31 minutes 49 seconds
A Boer made a plan and that’s a pebble bed nuclear reactor orbiting above us
South Africa had spent around R10bn developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor before abandoning the nuclear project when Jacob Zuma became President. He had a much bigger nuclear ambition cooked up with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Now, however, Andre Pienaar, a pioneering Afrikaner venture capitalist who lives his life between Washington and London has a surprise in store. He is invested in a US company that has a contract to build what will be a new space station on the hulk of the existing International Space Station (ISS) that has been orbiting earth for the last 23 years. He is also invested in another US company racing to win a competition to build the first Small Modular Reactor in Washington State in the US. X-Energy’s product is a direct descendent of the PMBR and a clutch of the scientists working on it are South African. Or were. And whether X-Energy wins the Washington contract or not, Pienaar, whose roots in South Africa still run deep — he was instrumental in the establishmen
17/10/2022 • 43 minutes 2 seconds
The system is broken
Donald MacKay, director of XA International Trade Advisers in Johannesburg is arguably the most knowledgeable outsider on the inner workings of South African Byzantine trade policy mechanisms — the matrix between the International Trade Administration Commission, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service is pretty much impenetrable but MacKay has stared at it long enough to know that something is going badly wrong. XA has just published a report describing the extent to which investigations for decisions on applications by South African employers for import duty rebates or for the removal of duties, are running over the normal six months.
Some are now nearly two years old. Many more than a year old. In total, some R2.1bn of duties paid are the subject of complaint and possible legal action as a result, of duties being imposed unfairly by the Dtic and Sars. Some are for the import of products that are not
22/08/2022 • 35 minutes 24 seconds
Helen Zille on the ANC polling below 40%
Sunday’s cracking headline in Rapport, “ANC falls below 40%” is the result of the ANC’s own polling, chair of the DA Federal Executive and former party leader Helen Zille reminds Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge. Indeed, Rapport appears to have seen two polls, an internal ANC one warning of a “freefall” in electoral support ahead of the 2024 elections and a “confidential” poll putting the ruling party at 38 per cent on a 56 per cent turnout if the elections were held today. That same confidential poll puts the DA at 27 per cent, which Zille says she thinks is somewhat ambitious.
But, she says, the party is doing well among black voters despite recent losses of black leaders, and insists that the DA’s “blue values” are there to appeal to black voters. Recent polls, met with some scepticism among the commentariat, have the DA regaining ground lost in 2019 despite an Ipsos poll on Monday that put it at 11 per cent.
“Ipsos always gets the DA
15/08/2022 • 34 minutes 26 seconds
What did we need most — education or skills?
The head of Investec’s corporate social investment programme, Setlogane Manchidi, sits atop a R90m-R100m budget each year to do some good out of the glare of analysts or the advertising department. And he does.
He tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that at any one time he is in the lives of up to 4,000 young citizens at school, university and entering working life. His programme organises extra math and science classes at schools, provides bursaries to good universities and chaperones its charges into the world of work and enterprise.
But, in a way, education is an easy choice. Much of the R10bn corporate SA spend on CSI every year goes to education. It’s an easy choice. But it excludes practically, skills, which, arguably, we need more than mathematicians.
Listen as the pair discuss research that suggests fast growing economies such as China and Thailand have on average lower educational outcomes than slower ones.
What are we missing? H
02/08/2022 • 30 minutes 52 seconds
Will the ANC go quietly in 2024?
Veteran South African editor and commentator Tim du Plessis tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that he worries that ANC may not accept the result of a 2024 general election in which it loses badly. This is a party that knows only liberation struggle and state power, he says.
Opposition is foreign territory. In fact, since it lost power in the Western Cape, its only real experience of a major loss of power, the ANC in the province has withered on the vine and is all but dysfunctional. There’s also the worrying precedent of former ANC president hiding the contents of a report into the 2002 election in Zimbabwe, which Robert Mugabe stole until he was forced to punish it. And the Independent Electoral Commission’s handling of elections generally, Du Plessis notes dryly, is not improving. This is a kept debate for the next few years as the ANC edges towards an election loss. What may matter is how big it is.
25/07/2022 • 28 minutes 19 seconds
Flights of Fancy
The Competition Commission is investigating three (yes, three, that’s all it takes) complaints that South Africa’s domestic airlines are overcharging since the collapse of Comair at the end of May. Air travel expert and consultant Linden Birns tell Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that he doubts the investigation will find much to complain about. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed the price of jetfuel to $151 a barrel, a full 78% higher than it was a year ago. What’s an airline to do? As it is, with SAA a shadow of its former self, no SA Express, no Mango, no Kulula, no British Airways there’s about 35% less capacity domestically now, says Birns. Yes, there might of been periods when our skies have been overtraded but whether there’s room for a new airline, or whether the current players add capacity the fact is demand is growing.
18/07/2022 • 35 minutes 6 seconds
Lines in the sand
Change is coming to South African politics, former DA federal chairman and now Eastern Cape Provincial Chairman for ActionSA, Athol Trollip, tells Peter Bruce on this edition of Podcasts From the Edge. The thing is to get the ANC out of power. But Trollip is no starry-eyed idealist. Only coalitions can feasibly replace the ANC at the next election in 2024 and he knows probably better than anyone how difficult coalitions can be. Forced by conscience to fire his corrupt deputy in Nelson Mandela Bay, Trollip was himself then upended when his coalition partner turned on him. So how to get it right? Does the public have a right to know in advance who would coalesce with whom? Or to be consulted afterwards? Will independent candidates make a difference in 2024?
11/07/2022 • 32 minutes 38 seconds
Gqeberha 2022 is not Cape Town 2018
"We need political stability to get to economic stability," Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Denise van Huyssteen tells Peter Bruce as they chart their way through Gqeberha's approaching water crisis. Yes while there is no water already in many City taps, and while some local dams have run dry due to years of drought, the fact is Gqeberha has a water management problem rather than an absence of water. The problem is politics. The city has been run by unstable and squabbling coalitions since 2016, chasing the last remaining engineers and artisans out of their jobs. Now the chickens have come home to roost. In theory, enough water can be pumped in the city from the Gariep Dam hundreds of kilometers away but work is behind schedule and key pump stations don't work. Load shedding doesn't help. Van Huyssteen has finally persuaded the council to allow business to fix leaking pipes, broken sub stations and other infrastructure but its late in the day. If this doesn't work, nothing will
27/06/2022 • 25 minutes 9 seconds
Not a moment too soon
People have been celebrating with some relief the publication of Songezo Zibi’s new book, Manifesto. It’s been a long time coming and with characteristic reticence, former Business Day Editor Zibi tells former Business Day Editor Peter Bruce in this episode of Podcasts from the Edge that he still isn’t quite ready to say quite what his new future will look like. Getting the book done was just the start but Manifesto at least makes his intentions clear. “It is Herculean,” he says of the job of forging a new think tank, the Rivonia Circle, and of creating a possibly new institution. But, he says, “in this respect, I have decided to take every step necessary to ensure that what I say here (in the book) does indeed take place”. In other words, there’s a new political party/formation/something on the horizon and it promises to be exciting. Zibi is young and smart and deeply contemptuous of our current political choices. He believes though that there is a vast mass of voters looking for an a
20/06/2022 • 32 minutes 46 seconds
In six weeks Cyril can save South Africa
Whatever your politics, there’s no doubt that Eskom’s unreliable power supply, the worsening condition of its kit and the prospect of a complete Eskom system failure are the single biggest barriers to investment and growth in South Africa. Something radical has to be done and it has to be done now. And the amazing thing is it can easily be done. We just need leadership. Prof Mark Swilling, among many things the current chair of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, has a simple plan he puts to Peter Bruce in this episode of Podcasts from the Edge: Put all arguments about coal and other fossil fuels aside for 24 months, clear all regulatory and ideological barriers aside, and for two years build and install 10 000MW of renewable power... wind and solar. And 5 000MW of battery storage. Once that’s done there will simply be no more load shedding and Eskom and start maintaining its plant the way it should be maintained. “I think we have a six week window to make a strategic decision tha
13/06/2022 • 35 minutes 11 seconds
Let's try not to pass gas
As business and the State lean towards gas as an intermediate fuel between our current dependence on coal and our future commitment to renewable energy, some voices are being raised about the futility of inventing, building and paying for an entirely new energy infrastructure to power South Africa, only for it to be abandoned for renewables by 2020.
In other words, natural gas, by the time we are burning it for electricity, will be obsolete and hideously expensive.
Listen as Peter Bruce quizzes amaBhungane veteran Susan Comrie on her pioneering recent reporting on the "burning" question of the moment. How much gas will we actually need?
As it turns out, very little. If any. Why bother?
Should we not be moving directly from coal to renewables, asks Bruce: "In South Africa," says Comrie, "we have this idea that resources are the things that we mine out of the ground. But we have incredible resources around us like solar and wind and for a country with such an e
06/06/2022 • 32 minutes 48 seconds
Too complicated to contemplate?
Peter Bruce asks South Africa’s busiest and arguably most influential agriculture and land advisor, Wandile Sihlobo, why the newly-released Agriculture and Agro-processing Masterplan is so complicated. Does he really expect this ANC government to be able to do any of the things the plan says the state will do? In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge Bruce and Sihlobo go back and talk about what has to be fixed before farming can be fixed. Its a lot. The sewerage in Idutywa might be one problem but farming is different — it’s about history and land and the people that have it and the people that want it. What’s fair and how we get there? Ultimately it's about trust. Sihlobo is a positive guy…
23/05/2022 • 34 minutes 57 seconds
Just, please, stop talking and get on with it
Goldfield CEO Chris Griffith tells Peter Bruce in this episode of Podcasts from the Edge that he thinks South Africa is still investable but that the state makes too many plans that it doesn’t implement. On the cusp of switching on a 50MW renewable power project to help power close to 30 per cent of Goldfields' South Deep mine on the Witwatersrand, he reckons the goal would be enough renewable to make it 100%. Investors want it. Banks want it. "Going green won’t reflect in your revenue,” he says. “It’ll be in your share price.”
In this wide ranging conversation on of South Africa’s top industrialists reveals his picks for South Africa’s future energy mix. Gas? Nuclear? Listen in….
16/05/2022 • 32 minutes 45 seconds
It's decision time
You don't hear a lot (or enough) about South Africa's Presidential Climate Commission but it is at the very centre of what happens to us as an economy over the next two decades. Unless the highly unlikely occurs and President Cyril Ramaphosa is somehow removed from office, It is this Commission that will decide what energy we will use and who will run it. It promises to be a difficult and often nasty job, messy and always controversial. An experienced public policy expert, activist and author, Dr Crispian Olver, is Executive Director of the Commission's secretariat. He tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge the commission is finalising a framework for a Just Transition, the first in a range of mountains it has to climb to get our economy off coal and into renewables. And yes, he's aware that people worry the Just Transition is simply the Arms Deal redux to decades later. Over his dead body but keeping the process free of corruption is one thing. Making the right de
09/05/2022 • 40 minutes 34 seconds
Make the call already
Ukraine Ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that preparations for her President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to take a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa are afoot but, boy, is it hard getting the attention of senior figures around Ramaphosa. The sooner she gets to talk to senior members of the government and can build some context for a call with her boss in Kiev, the sooner the phone call can happen. "Both presidents need this call," she says. For Ramaphosa, that's putting it mildly. Diplomacy and cheery read-outs of calls with world leaders aside, the Europeans, especially, are furious with South Africa's tacit support for Vladimir Putin's invasion.
11/04/2022 • 30 minutes 5 seconds
The worst of all
Analysts and journalists who couldn’t function without Robin McGregor's fine Who Owns Whom were shocked rigid in 2008 when this giant figure was brutally stabbed to death in his new home in Tullbagh. He was 79 and full of life. A murderer was quickly found, tried and put in prison. But that wasn’t the end of the story for his daughter Elizabeth, who has just published her account of the murder and its aftermath. Listen to this episode of Podcasts from the Edge as Liz McGregor tells Peter Bruce about her efforts to meet her dad’s killer in prison and how she eventually succeeded. And whether it mattered...
28/03/2022 • 33 minutes 1 second
How would you like your transition Sir? Just, or corrupt?
When the great and the good are lining up to manage South Africa’s transition from coal fired energy to renewable energy, you just know money is going to do most of the talking. Now that business has thrown its weight behind minerals and energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s favourite new fuel — gas — the transition to renewables just has to be under threat. How could it not be. Renewable energy — wind, solar, hydro and batteries — are already mature technologies and the fuel cost for each is zero. But we will have to wait while the rich and their political enablers eat. Listen in as Roland Ngam, project Manager for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation talks to Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge about the Just Transition. Who would that justice be for, exactly? Certainly not the poor, who could be generating electrify this morning if the state had any imagination.
18/03/2022 • 35 minutes 50 seconds
Gas is just so much hot air...
When Eskom plunges is into load shedding, it is often because it is diverting power to pump water uphill for its storage systems, or filling up the tanks at the 20 diesel generators it uses when its plant falls over. In other words, we may mot have enough storage. So why don’t we get more storage? Partly it is because the energy establishment is still wedded to always-on power — coal of gas or fossil fuels of one kind or the other. And partly because the alternative — batteries — are expensive. But as expensive as constant load shedding? Unlikely. Independent energy analyst Clyde Mallinson tell Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that, starting tomorrow, South Africa could begin, at pace, to install up to 35 000 MW of renewable storage by 2035 to completely solve our power problems. Obviously in addition to ramping up solar and wind investment as well. While the government and business slow-talk their way through our crisis the answer is right in from of us. Why trans
14/03/2022 • 38 minutes 59 seconds
There is a crack, we must get through
Climate change is now so severe that unless we speed up our adaptation now, by 2050 more than 250 000 people will die each year directly because of heat, undernutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. That’s according to a new report compiled by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Heat and drought will reduce the ability to work outdoors and lead to food price increases. If we don’t cut emission sharpish in southern Africa, the heatwaves we experience now could rise 12-fold. Peter Bruce asks UCT’s Dr Chris Trisos how much time we have to get it right. “There is, Trisos warns “ a brief and rapidly closing window” of opportunity to do so. “Rapid and deep cuts in emissions are required.” Tell that though to the government as it tries to ensure the jobs in coal are given a just transition to renewable energy. What might be the cost of waiting too long.
07/03/2022 • 32 minutes 25 seconds
Batteries not included
Gas is minerals and energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s New Big Thing. He can barely contain his irritation with the renewable energy lobby as it racks up legal successes against fossil fuel exploration offshore. We should, he told and energy symposium last week, avoid becoming “an island of angels” on the question of energy and fossil fuels. Listen though to senior UCT researcher Jesse Burton as she guides Peter Bruce through the risks associated with using gas as a transitional fuel as we move from coal to renewables by 2050 of before. The National Business Initiative has just produced a seminal document and proposals for a gas-based transition and the time for making decisions is tight. For gas power in 2035, a call would have to be made next year. Burton warns though that that new gas investments could quickly become “stranded assets” as technology runs away with the energy solution. Now is the time for cool heads.
28/02/2022 • 30 minutes
Don’t look down
Valli Moosa, former environment minister and deputy chair of the Presidential Commission on Climate Change, tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts From The Edge that South Africa’s transition to green technology is inevitable. “Nobody wants to invest in fossil fuels,” he says. The Commission is charged with negotiating a “just transition” from our dependence on coal to a net zero carbon economy by 2050. Moosa is relaxed about the transition. “You’re going to need a degree of gas,” he says Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is “only doing his job” by speaking up for the coal industry: the investors and workers are his constituency and the protests at offshore seismic surveys for oil or gas are passing shows. Very soon, he reckons, renewables will be clearly cheaper than fossil fuels and current debates will simply be academic.
14/02/2022 • 34 minutes 22 seconds
SA has a power problem? Just nuke it.
Former Eskom chief nuclear officer David Nicholls was once chief engineer on a nuclear submarine. So he isn’t scared of the technology. What does scare him is “renewable” energy technology. As he tells Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge. “If you’re going to tell me renewables are the solution then why do you need a policy document/“ His point being that no-one wrote a policy document for mobile phones. There was no need to. They just worked. To fix our energy future Nicholls, now chairman of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, reporting to minerals and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, says we need more nuclear. The government’s plan is to extend Koeberg’s life from 2024 but then, he says, it must press ahead with another 2500MW of nuclear written into the Integrated Resource Plan, the famous 2019 IRP. That would mean two new units of around 1100MW each added to Koeberg and the return of some form of the old Pebble Bed Modular Reactor that South African sci
07/02/2022 • 35 minutes 41 seconds
Cyril's search for just one horse
President Cyril Ramaphosa's problem as he approaches ANC elections at the end of this year is which of the two horses he rides -- party unity and clean government -- does he get off? Listen as former Cosatu head and Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa colourfully educates Peter Bruce on the intricacies of the ANC's big election year. Quite frankly, Shilowa suggests, "we are better of leaving the ANC to worry about its own affairs". Somehow we have to fix the country ourselves. Opposition parties don't help that much. We all know what's wrong with the country, but where are the big ideas to fix it?
31/01/2022 • 35 minutes 23 seconds
The biggest story of our lives
Peter Bruce speaks to author and journalist Simon Mundy about his groundbreaking new book, Race For Tomorrow, gripping, real-time dispatches from the frontlines of the way climate change is reshaping our world. From Mongolia to California, Israel and Brazil to Ethiopia and Iceland, humans are suffering from events they cannot predict or control while others experiment with technologies to slow down rising temperatures or to take advantage of them. Mundy, now Moral Money Editor at the Financial Times, is a treasure trove of stories and while he is in no doubt the world is in deep trouble, he’s also seen enough to reassure himself that humans are smart enough to stave off the worst. That’s not to say nothing changes. In fact, everything changes. After the last Ice Age, at took 15 000 years for sea levels to rise 120m. Today our ice is melting much, much faster. Take a deep breath.
24/01/2022 • 50 minutes 12 seconds
Our Hiding To Nothing
Peter Bruce talks exclusively to Wits vaccinologist and Dean of medicine Prof Shabir Madhi about our response to the Omicron Covid variant. And there is good news and bad (beyond that fact that Japan has entirely closed its borders, including to the economies that have shut SA out). First, early outbreaks with the variant appear to be relatively mild, at least among vaccinated people. Madhi reckons it could take two to three weeks to see what kinds of pressure hospitals come under. The bad news is that we don’t know enough yet. Madhi warns people who have had just one shot of the John & Johnson jab need another one and that two shots of the Pfizer vaccine provide much greater protection. He hopes the government soon imposes vaccine mandates for entry into shopping malls, Post Offices and the like (but not hospitals). And, he says, get the hospitals prepared. One of the first ways of doing that is to clear your trauma unit, a move which always end up with restrictions on alcohol sales.
29/11/2021 • 29 minutes 40 seconds
And now? What happens now?
Is South Africa in a growth crisis or a debt crisis? Economists and experts wildly disagree. One important figure pressing the government to provide more social relief in the face of widening poverty and hardship is former investment banker Colin Coleman. Listen in to this edition of Podcasts from the Edge as Peter Bruce and Coleman, a strong supporter of President Cyril Ramaphosa, clamber over the rocky terrain SA and Ramaphosa find under their feet. Do we have a debt problem, a growth problem or a leadership problem? Coleman concedes Ramaphosa has been slow but insists real growth is within reach.
22/11/2021 • 45 minutes 20 seconds
Austerity in SA? It’s just not happening...
If you’re on the Left, or trying to score quick political points, then President Cyril Ramaphosa is imposing a harsh period of fiscal austerity on South Africa. If you’re in the sensible middle, he is doing nothing of the sort. South Africa is already spending more than it earns, as our constant budget deficit proves. Listen as Peter Bruceasks his favourite economist, Thabi Leoko, why she responded so sharply last month to suggestions from former Goldman Sachs SA chief Colin Coleman that over and above current deficit spending, much more was required in order to stimulate the economy back into growth….
16/11/2021 • 26 minutes 37 seconds
Stop squatting on South Africa’s spectrum
Listen in as digital entrepreneur and former FNB CEO Michael Jordan joins Peter Bruce on Podcasts From the Edge to make an impassioned plea for Icasa, the telecommunications regulator, to stand up to local cellphone giants and retrieve extra digital spectrum loaned out at the start of the Covid pandemic. Telkom and MTN have gone to court to stop Icasa taking back the emergency spectrum it lent them early last year. But this, warns Jordan, threatens a a major economic reform — a planned auction of spectrum to the private sector by the end of the first quarter of next year and, he says, a competitive auction process could see a host of new opportunities open up in the market.
25/10/2021 • 29 minutes 32 seconds
Earth to ANC: Avoid disappointment - lower your expectations
The last election Jacob Zuma fought as leader of the ANC were the local government polls on 2016. The ANC vote collapsed to just over 54% nationally and set off a series of events that eventually saw him removed from office. Listen now as razor-sharp independent elections analyst Dawie Scholtz (@DawieScholtz on Twitter) tells Peter Bruce in this latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge that 54% at the 2021 local government elections on November 1 would be almost miraculous, so great has been the change in our political landscape. Scholtz and Bruce test the Democratic Alliance’s battle to bring out its base, perhaps especially the Afrikaans -speaking part of it, and the increasingly sophisticated strategising of the Economic Freedom Fighters as they try to plug the gaps in their constituency — women and the elderly.
18/10/2021 • 29 minutes 34 seconds
The DA may not have an economic policy but its message this election is new
Former DA leader Tony Leon tells Peter Bruce on this edition of Podcasts from the Edge that the DA is not selling a value proposition in these current local government elections campaign. “Rather,” he says, “its transactional.” Vote DA and we’ll fix your problems. The two cover a lot of ground — why the DA doesn’t have a central economic policy, why President Cyril Ramaphosa has only spent two hours in KwaZulu-Natal since the violence in July, how in SA you think you’re doing well in the polls until the past few days before the vote when the ANC machine gets going and why getting a new chief justice is going to be a good thing.
05/10/2021 • 29 minutes 24 seconds
Money for nothing and your pills for free
If you’re running a large workforce and the guy cleaning the entrance to the lift you ride to the top floor has nothing to fall back on when he’s sick, shame on you. Not every company can put the entire workforce on Discovery or Bonitas but in the edition of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce talks to Dr Reinder Nauta, an entrepreneurial medical man who reckons he can get blue collar employees private sector primary care for under R100 a month, per employee. Is that really possible? Nauta has signed up some 3 000 South African GPs reckons he can get your lift entrance cleaner into the same doctors rooms as the CEO with little more than a WhatsApp exchange. Back of an envelope, he reckons the potential market for his product could be 20m people. Put another way, 20m fewer people wasting time standing in queues at public hospitals…. listen in.
22/09/2021 • 27 minutes 41 seconds
What’s the rush?
Former Umkonto We Sizwe commander, SanParks boss and Home Affairs director general, Mavuso Msimang is widely recognised as one of the most level-head people to emerge from the struggle against apartheid. Now retired, he has been corralled by President Cyril Ramaphosa to do an almost impossible job and to speed up the process by which someone with a so-called “critical-skill” can come and live and work in South Africa. The problem is that there’s this list, and if your skill isn’t on it you can’t come and live here, no matter how good you may be at whatever it is that you do. The Critical Skills List is the produce of the Department of Higher Education, The Department of Employment and Labour, the department of trade, industry and competition, the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Qualifications Authority so you can imagine what a disaster it is. The latest draft of a new list wants you if you’re, among others, a farm manager or caravan park and camping ground manager. It
20/09/2021 • 28 minutes 24 seconds
The day the TV went black
Arguably the most storied foreign correspondent still working in newspapers, the UK Sunday Times' chief foreign correspondent, Christina Lamb, talks to Peter Bruce in this exclusive interview from Kabul. Journalist and author, Lamb knows Afghanistan intimately, having covered the story for 33 years, from back when the Soviets occupied it. She describes how eerie the country she knows so well has suddenly become. There are no women on the streets and the Taliban are everywhere, long-haired and some even wearing make-up. For her friends in Kabul it is another story. She knows a rapper who changes houses now all the time. One friend describes the arrival of the Taliban as being "like the television suddenly switching off in the middle of a show". The pair also talk about what Lamb is sure is an increasing use my militaries around the world of the rape of woman as a weapon of war. It it in fact a war crime, Lamb reminds us, but the people who negotiate the ends of wars are almost always me
07/09/2021 • 31 minutes 54 seconds
Why Duferco is just walking away
Ludovico Sanges is MD of Duferco, one of the biggest producers of galvanised and coated steel products in South Africa. The corrugated iron on your roof could easily have been milled at its plant in Saldanha. Durferco is also easily one of the biggest employers on the West Coast. But the company and its MD have been caught sup in the government increasingly erratic attempts to protect the single primary steelmaker, Arcelor Mittal, from steel imports and one of the biggest users of scrap, Scaw Metals, from a shortage of scrap. So exports of scrap are to all intents and purposes impossible now. Two years ago they earned the country R6bn. Duferco’s response to the inevitable price increases that accompany import duties has been to opt out of the local market altogether. It means it can import duty free from wherever it wants (there’s plenty of steel around) and then export it. Sanges says it has saved his business, which one way or another feeds 1000 souls. Listen to him talk to Peter Bru
31/08/2021 • 24 minutes 38 seconds
Does “intervention” work?
Peter Bruce talks to former UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Nicholas ‘Fink’ Haysom in this edition of Podcasts From the Edge. Is it worth the effort trying to build democracy in countries that have never experienced it?Haysom reminds us that for the Taliban, the power to govern comes from above, not below, but he remains convinced the effort is worthwhile. Now UN Special Representative in South Sudan, Haysom learns that failed states aren’t always the poorest. The poorer you are, the less there is to go wrong. The most complex your economy and your structures the more vulnerable you might be to state failure.He doesn’t say so but a nod, perhaps, to South Africa?
23/08/2021 • 23 minutes 40 seconds
How to tame a bad spy
With South Africa’s intelligence services found grotesquely wanting before and during the looting and destruction of July President Cyril Ramaphosa has removed the minister of intelligence and not replaced her at all. Instead, the agencies, domestic and foreign, will report into the presidency itself. That’s led some people to argue this is Cyril Ramaphosa empowering himself. But that may not be the case. In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge former spy, diplomat and head of the South African Secret Service, Moe Shaik, tells Peter Bruce that Ramaphosa has returned to the original intent in 1994 when the intelligence services were run by a co-ordinator, Joe Nhlanhla. The idea was always that they reported to the presidency. Ramaphosa, reckons Shaik, is doing absolutely the right thing.
10/08/2021 • 25 minutes 40 seconds
Why is clean energy just so, well, exhausting
If you’re about to buy a new car do you stay with petrol or do the environmentally right thing and go electric? On the face of it not the most complex of decisions, except that the electric car you’re buying now might be obsolete sooner than you think if proponents of hydrogen fuel cell power get their way. Hydrogen is so cool and the only by-product of of a 100 km drag race in a hydrogen powered car might be a litre of water — what comes out of the exhaust is H2O. Listen in to this edition of Podcasts from the Edge as Peter Bruce gets an education from auto industry writer and consultant Alexander Parker on with to do with his Toyota Hilux.
02/08/2021 • 30 minutes
What eye? What needle?
If there is a rational centre to South African politics, DA leader John Steenhuisen want his party to be in the middle of it. He sees our politics changing inevitably, as the ANC’s loss of coherence and unity becomes more clear. What he can’t be sure of, he tells Peter Bruce in this latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge, is what the end looks like, perhaps especially after the violence and insurrections of the past few weeks. Steenhusisen has lost his Chief Whip voice and, in the process, found his leader voice. It may be beginning to suit him. With the DAs normally accurate polling showing the ANC losing its national and metropolitan majorities, listen as he and Bruce walk through the possibilities opened up by a future of coalitions, pacts and deals.
26/07/2021 • 37 minutes 50 seconds
When the Lions go, where does SA rugby go?
In many ways, UK Sunday Times rugby writer Stuart Barnes tells Peter Bruce in this latest edition of his Podcasts from the Edge, “professional rugby is going to break apart the greatest rivalry in rugby history — South Africa and New Zealand.” Listen as Barnes, a former Bath, England and British & Irish Lions fly-half describes how four local franchises — the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions — walk away from Super Rugby to join the United Rugby Championship, where they will play team for Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy. Not from England! Not from France.! What on earth is going on? Will the Munster faithful fill a stadium to watch their team play the visiting Stormers? Unlikely, says Barnes. But there’s a bigger goal here perhaps. once you have the European Six Nations joined by South Africa, how long is it before New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Japan join them for a continuous globals season of test rugby?
13/07/2021 • 30 minutes 21 seconds
Flying lessons with Minister Pravin Gordhan
From South African Airways to Eskom’s transition from coal and private investment in South African harbours, the political noise surrounding any meaningful movement or reform in South Africa’s political economy can often drown out the facts, or at least that facts the reformers say they see. Listen in as Peter Bruce talks to Public Enterprises Minister and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan about his satisfaction with the process underway to effectively privatise SAA, big hints around the introduction of private capital into South African harbours, where it has never been allowed, and political support, says, the minister, “at the highest level” for Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter despite regular publics attacks on his person. Sure, Eskom will make some future investments in gas and maybe even a little nuclear. But the leap into renewables and battery storage will be “phenomenal”.
05/07/2021 • 37 minutes 29 seconds
Big job — saving Johannesburg
There’s no denying Johannesburg has seen better days. It is dirty and broken and now the centre of a Covid-19 firestorm as the Delta variant runs through South Africa’s financial hub. But don’t underestimate Johannesburg’s resilience and deep love for it that much of its population has. Listen here to Peter Bruce talking to Shawn Theunissen, freshly-appointed President of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He’s the face of business that the local government, such as it is, talks to. Almost everything about Johannesburg is up in the air ahead of local government elections later this year and while the new JCCI boss is careful to call even the most daunting problems “challenges” he has a clear sense of community and purpose that may make a real difference. Maybe.
28/06/2021 • 27 minutes 51 seconds
Who’s been a bad boy then?
How come China gets to be vastly corrupt and grow so strong at the same time? Why can’t we do that in South Africa? Is their corruption better than ours? Actually, it may be. Peter Bruce talks to leading economic historian Keith Breckenridge about a new book that studies the nature of corruption across 15 economies in an attempt to explain why corruption in China has not damaged growth the way it has here. The answer in the book, says Breckenridge, is that Chinese officials are incentivised to be corrupt and to cut corners that make things happen. It’s just bizarre….
21/06/2021 • 29 minutes 36 seconds
Will we ever cotton on?
As Ebrahim Patel ploughs on, recasting South African industry in his own image, good news stories on the ground are hard to find and one of the minister of trade, industry and competition’s frequently used weapons in his drive to promote localisation and import substitution, the Industrial Development Corporation, reported losses of R3.8bn last year. That’s a big number and testament to the quality of companies that its political masters (Patel) is driving it to invest in. In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce talks to Nick Steen, a rock- hard former CEO with long, bittersweet experience in the local textiles industry that Patel is determined to protect. Do we have a future in textiles? Steen says we do, but not the way Patel imagines it…
07/06/2021 • 26 minutes 17 seconds
Can SA keep up with the Joneses?
Can South Africa compete in the global automotive industry as our economy stutters and stalls while our main car export destinations — Britain and the European Union — set their own markets tough new targets in emissions and carbon foot print (they’ll want to know how the electricity powering SA car manufacturing is generated).? There is no room here for being second best. We are either at the top of our game or we can pack it in. There are, of course, bright spots and reasons to be cheerful. Australia lost its car industry but we have kept our and it is doing well. In this edition of Podcasts From the Edge, Peter Bruce talks to Justin Barnes, Executive Director of the Toyota-Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies. Barnes, the lead consultant in the creation of the SA Automotive Industry MasterPlan, is no starry-eyed optimist but he tells Bruce there’s good reason to believe we can continue to hold our own small but perfectly formed place in the automotive firmament.
31/05/2021 • 34 minutes 38 seconds
Who do we think we are?
Peter Bruce gets a history lesson from South Africa’s top economic historian, Prof Keith Breckenridge. Trying to draw parallels between South Africa now, an economic wasteland coming out of a devastating pandemic, and South Africa a hundred years ago, an economic wasteland devastated by the deprivations of war and the Spanish flu, Bruce finds some unpleasant truths — World War 1 might have been followed in the US by the roaring twenties then but there was nothing roaring about the 1920’s here and the same is likely to apply now. Back then we suffered crippling strikes and an overvalued currency that made it hard to export. At the same time, the outline of what our industrial skeleton began to take shape. The ANC is still trying to recapture some of that confidence but, as Breckenridge points out, the same opportunity the colonialists and Afrikaner nationalists missed in failing to give property rights to the poor, where they live, is being actively reproduced by the ANC now as it empow
24/05/2021 • 29 minutes 21 seconds
Localisation — is it siege or surge?
As the policy debate around localisation — or import substitution — as a formula for reindustrialising South Africa heats up, the lines are being drawn between fervent advocates of the government line on making imports as expensive as possible and trade liberals arguing for as few barriers to imports as possible, both Business Unity SA and Business Leadership SA have produced helpful research that tries to slow the argument down and to focus on where localisation makes sense and where it might not. The report was written by economist and Intellidex partner Peter Attard Montalto, who chats here to Peter Bruce on Podcasts From the Edge about where constructive opportunities for localisation might lie, and the work the government and its many diplomatic outposts might do in promoting the best possible results of localisation, which is to export. Are we doing enough to develop new markets?
18/05/2021 • 33 minutes 2 seconds
When Cyril speaks out of both sides of his mouth
If President Cyril Ramaphosa needed to take anything out of his two-day appearance at the Zondo Commission last week then he would have needed to put a lot more in than he did. Instead, he was allowed by his inquisitors to have his cake and eat it without ever being asked how even one example of grand corruption may actually have worked. Listen to former Cosatu leader and Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa talk to Peter Bruce about the centrality of party funding in corruption, the way forward for our politics, why a disastrous ANC will probably sweep the upcoming local elections and what needs to be donate make the way we create wealth more inclusive. If we want to avoid awful stories like Absa losing CEO’s of the quality of Daniel Minele then unions need to be sitting on the boards of South African companies. Business doesn’t want that and, frankly, neither do the unions. Which is why the state may need to find the courage to bang some heads together.
03/05/2021 • 35 minutes 6 seconds
The R1 deal that could make or break South Africa
In this latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce talks to Seriti Resources CEO Mike Teke about the choppy waters suddenly surrounding the agreement to take over the vast coal-mining resources of South32. Combined with the Anglo American coal business Seriti has already acquired, the South32 mines would make Mike Teke the biggest single coal-supplier to Eskom, SA’s debt-drunk power utility. But there’s a problem — one of the South 32 mines supplies directly to Eskom’s critical Duvha power station and it loses money with every delivery. Teke says he won’t do the deal until Eskom agrees a better coal price for the supplying mine. The National Treasury won’t give it permission to pay. But without the mine Duvha would close and that would bring even more chaos to the power grid. What is to be done? South 32, desperate to get rid of the assets, has since offered Seriti $250m over the next decade. That’ll help, says Teke but he still wants to hear what the Treasury does with a sec
19/04/2021 • 31 minutes 35 seconds
Lockdown alcohol bans? The game has suddenly changed.
Government has banned sales of alcohol for 19 weeks overall since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in South Africa last year. New research, paid for by Distell but conducted independently of the company, says that not only has that cost the economy R2bn a week in growth and much more in excise taxes, but that it hasn’t has much effect at all on hospitals, which according to the government the bans were implemented to protect. The research is explosive. The 60 per cent drop in trauma at South African hospitals matches similar trauma unit statistics from all over the world during other lockdowns. They neither the UK (down 57%), Italy (-57%) to the US (-54%) banned the sale of alcohol. So why us? Listen to the latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge with Peter Bruce as he talks to Ian McGorian, who did the research, and to SA Liquor Brand Owners Association chair Sibani Mngado to try and unpack the slippery thinking that drives the huge and influential anti-alcohol lobby in South Afr
13/04/2021 • 31 minutes 40 seconds
Without Graeme Smith our cricketing future is bleak
Can South Africa’s cricket team, just ten years ago number one in the world, come back from what is clearly a major slump? Are Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar, new captain’s of the men’s short and test forms of the game good enough to take us back to the top? Can anything be done about the administrations of the game and has the involvements of sports minister Nathi Mthetwa done more good than harm? In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce talks to leading cricket commentator and writer Neil Manthorp about his impressions of the game and where we stand. If anything emerges from this conversation it is how central CSA director of cricket and former Proteas captain Graham Smith is to the future. He is the only administrator anyone else in the world knows, explains Manthorpe. His contacts and phonebook are priceless and he is uniquely placed to bring us into competition with the world’s top teams again.
16/03/2021 • 36 minutes 46 seconds
Man bites dog: The political news in SA
Nothing is harder to divine in South Africa right now than what true true “balance of forces” are inside the ruling African National Congress. Put another way, who is in charge, the cowboys or the crooks? You can make a plausible case for secretary General Ace Magashule being poised to remove, or begin to move, President Cyril Ramaphosa from power or that Ramaphosa is wholly untroubled by Magashule and will easily see a second term in office. I this edition of Podcasts from the Edge, Peter Bruce talks to veteran political editor and now Financial Mail Deputy Editor Natasha Marrian and asks which way she thinks the currents inside the ANC wetlands are slowly moving.
Like all smart political watchers, Marrian hedges her bets but, for now, reckons Ramaphosa has got the better of the Radical Economic Transformation (or RET) faction. “Have a look at what ANC voting block has been to visit Jacob Zuma at Nkandla recently,” she suggests. The Women’s League, and they would, wouldn’
08/03/2021 • 36 minutes 39 seconds
Getting, farming and land right, once and for all
In the latest edition of his Podcasts From The Edge, Peter Bruce speaks to widely-celebrated agricultural economist and government advisor Wandile Sihlobo about South African success in farming, and how that might be built on. We’ve become the second largest citrus exporter in the world. Can we do more of that? When it comes to sorting out deep rural SA, says Sihlobo, both in farming and in local government, “it might not be a bad idea” to no look back to methods the Old Regime used to use that worked.
02/03/2021 • 43 minutes 26 seconds
Scrapping for Steel
Doron Barnes has been fighting for steel for as long as he can remember. When he and his dad were running Barnes Fencing two decades ago he was fighting Arcelor Mittal for steel rod to make wire from. Now he’s the owner and boss of Scaw Metals, one of South Africa’s biggest steel suppliers, and he’s still fighting his corner. This time he’s taken on the scrap metals industry and, as he did with Mittal back then, he’s won again as the government puts a raft of regulations in place to keep quality scrap in the country and to clamp down on exports. Some might argue state regulation distorts the market but Barnes isn’t phased. He melts his own steel in arc furnaces and as far as the scrap industry is concerned, he’s just doing what he has to do.
23/02/2021 • 45 minutes 42 seconds
Paper Cuts from the Pink ‘Un
Podcasts from the Edge this week sees Peter Bruce talk to former Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber about his new book “The Powerful and the Damned — Private Diaries in Turbulent Times” now widely available in South Africa. The two talk about life in a newsprint newsroom, going full speed for digital subscriptions, the prospect of Donald Trump returning in four year’s time and what it feels like to talk to Vladimir Putin (its creepy). Barber was FT editor for 14 years and, always, only one thing matters. “I want to win,” he says of his everyday driving passion. “I’m more competitive than the Springboks.”
16/02/2021 • 38 minutes 58 seconds
Speaking truth on power
The government may be looking at procuring nuclear power and the electricity regulator may just have stopped Eskom from buying in power from eight private sector generators. But that’s just life in South African power generation. UCT’s Prof Anton Eberhard tells Peter Bruce in this fascinating episode of Podcasts From the Edge that he remains quietly confident that the government, distracted and stretched though it might be, will indeed meet the independent power targets it has set itself in it Integrated Resource Plan. With Australia now installing 1 000MW-plus batteries, Eberhard also flags rapidly developing battery technology as a potential game changer in the South African power sector. Until then, gas-filled ships feeding onshore turbines could also help and when they’re no longer needed why, they could just float off somewhere else.
09/02/2021 • 37 minutes 38 seconds
The IMF can’t help SA. We don’t need dollars!
In this episode of Podcasts from the Edge, Former National Treasury Budget Officer director Prof Michael Sachs tells Peter Bruce he doesn’t expect Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to announce tax increases in the budget later this month. Not in the middle of a crisis and not with a resumption in private sector investment the last hope for growth still standing. And because our debt is rand denominated ours is not going to be a classic developing country fiscal crisis. We are not Argentina and we don’t need dollars and the IMF can’t really help. “It is going to be messy,” says Sachs, if we end up having to have crisis negotiations amongst ourselves.
02/02/2021 • 37 minutes 35 seconds
Are we crazy enough to think we can change South Africa?
Listen to author, former newspaper editor and thinker Songezo Zibi talk to Peter Bruce about how to find the political space in South Africa to get us thinking constructively about the future. “Everybody I know is having the same conversation about change,” Zibi says. But how does it start? When? And who starts it and what does it end up looking like? A fascinating exchange with with one of South Africa’s most entertaining public intellectuals.
25/01/2021 • 38 minutes 18 seconds
Heavy Metal Blues
Why would trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel slip through a massive 15% import duty on aluminium sheet products in the very last government gazette of 2020? Is it because the state is the biggest shareholder in Hulamin, our only producer of aluminium sheet products and can’t compete? Why is industrial policy happening behind closed doors? It seems inevitable that if you take price pressure off local producers by protecting them from imports, then prices in South Africa will rise. Peter Bruce asks international metals trader and Hulamin shareholder Volke Shütter and the answers are brilliant….
18/01/2021 • 38 minutes 23 seconds
Tough love and real science for Ramaphosa
Top South African vaccinologist Shabir Mahdi strongly advises against any further strengthening of lockdown regulations in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge with Peter Bruce and ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation. Tougher restrictions won’t work, he says, and we have to keep people outdoors and in the wind, We will only know in a few weeks whether or not current vaccines are going to be effective against the new South African variant of the coronavirus, Madhi warns, but there’s clear evidence that antibodies produced in people infected in the first wave last year are up to 10 times less potent against the new variant than they were against the original.
11/01/2021 • 42 minutes 46 seconds
Why Gidon Novick can’t stop flying
Veteran columnist and newspaper editor Peter Bruce talks to one of South Africa’s most innovative entrepreneurs in this final edition of his Podcasts From The Edge for the year. Gidon Novick, co-founder of Kulula, began carrying passengers in his new domestic airline, Lift, just last week. Believe it or not but it was the coronavirus lockdown at the start of the year that got him thinking about a new airline. Most people would have thought that crazy but he is confident about his lean and flexible business model and an optimist about South Africa and tourism. Mainly though, he just loves to fly…..
15/12/2020 • 35 minutes 18 seconds
To what problem is Afrikaans the solution?
Veteran newspaper editor and commentator Peter Bruce speaks about the beginnings and future of the Afrikaans language and the people who speak it to Theuns Eloff, priest, academic, entrepreneur and Afrikaner as the DA prepares to campaign for the re-introduction of Afrikaans as a teaching medium at Stellenbosch University.
08/12/2020 • 44 minutes 32 seconds
Finally, an SOE chairman standing up to political bullying
Veteran newspaper editor and columnist Peter Bruce talks to SABC chairman Bongumusa Makhathini about the challenges of trying to run the public broadcaster while politicians are determined to boss him around. He is firm that communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams cannot stop the corporation’s retrenchment process even though one last independent arbitration will take place in the interests of “transparency” A remarkably forthrite Makhathini reveals that 98% of the SABCs news division budget is used to pay salaries and offers some unforgiving advice on leadership to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
01/12/2020 • 33 minutes 57 seconds
Business and the brink
Veteran Editor and columnist Peter Bruce continues his Podcasts from The Edge with a frank talk to B4SA chair Martin Kingston, who urges the government please to just focus for once. Without fast, focussed action South Africa is in trouble and our society is at risk. Is localisation damaging businesses? The two discuss the merits of a wider immigration of skills, the absence of time and the ANC alliance's inability to do one thing, properly, at a time.
23/11/2020 • 44 minutes 52 seconds
How much pressure can Ramaphosa take?
Columnist and former Business Day and Financial Mail editor Peter Bruce continues his new Podcasts From The Edge series in a discussion with journalist and veteran ANC watcher Karima Brown. As investors gather for a third round of fund-raising for the country, the President faces a fightback as ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is charged. But does Ace really have the firepower to hurt Ramaphosa and what is the Ramaphosa camp doing to counter the propaganda effect of the Magashule trial afforded him by television channels? How likely is it that Jacob Zuma all ever give evidence to Raymond Zondo and why does the president leave Bheki Cele in charge of the police when he is clearly so unsuited to the job. Finally, what was the meaning of that orange tie Ramaphosa wore when he addressed the nation last week.
17/11/2020 • 54 minutes 42 seconds
Helen Zille, still standing...
Democratic Alliance fedex chairperson Helen Zille tells Peter Bruce why it's perfectly fine to compare Julius Malema and the EFF with Nazi Brownshirts, why she wears a mask in public and why Mbali Ntuli still has a future in the DA after losing her party leadership bid to John Steenhuisen.