My humble opinion? The Budget was a good one.

Flowery finmin Gigaba and his new President have inherited a mess from his predecessor. Whichever way you cut it, the Budget needed to make the best of a bad situation. We cannot but wonder how the estimated R700bn [per Pravin Gordhan’s estimate, I read] corruption and wasted expenditure could have helped at a time like this. I wrote a while ago about Opportunity Cost and the cost of the Zuma era. Added to the number, triple the cost as my guesstimate. Say, 600 people right at the top of the corruption food-chain, 500000 people waiting for direction and wondering what the hell is happening and R1trillion in corporate investment-in-waiting with all its employment potential, and you have a sense of what anything that looks like state capture or parallel-government means. It bears repeating that if ever you wondered if South Africa has a strong economy, look at the beating it has taken and that it has not utterly collapsed is a miracle. But, if I take Eskom as an example, if ever we were taken to the brink, to the edge of the abyss for the economy, then the last 10 years have taken us there.

Little wonder that Zwelinzima Vavi as a trade unionist looks into the numbers and says the Poor have been made to pay for the sins of the past. Simply put, the increase of VAT was unnecessary. We could have dropped taxes if our economy had been able to rise with the tide of favourable World growth that has occurred over the past 3-4 years. But instead, we find ourselves in a bailout of epic proportions and fighting the winds of downgrades. What a waste! And, tragically, what a long way back – Pravin said 10 years off full junk status so I hope that we are spared by Moodys and that Pravin exaggerated a little. No wonder CR takes Trevor Manuel for runs in the morning – “How did you do it back then, Trevor?” must be the question between pants for breath. But another point I have made is that I believe we can turn this around quickly in economic terms, given the goodwill that exists towards this great nation of ours. With boards like Eskom’s, the National Development Plan spoken about, implemented and measured, SASSA and its like taken off the agenda by sound execution, the appointment of a credible, competent Cabinet, good service delivery to our People, the renovation of municipal essential services, the courage to cut government expenditure and programmes that open 100000 small businesses, we would not recognise ourselves in 5 years’ time. Negativity will never get us there; Optimism will – begin to Believe, my reader!

So the technicality of the Budget in broad brush strokes after you’ve read so much already:

  • 1% VAT increase equals R30bn
  • Estate Duty rise to 20% equals a few Rbn
  • Sin Taxes and some excise duties etc equal a few Rbn
  • And, Fuel increases equal a few Rbn.

The first and the last directly, tragically affect the Poor.


In exchange for our money, we get:

  • Expensive petrol
  • More, but not enough, money for education
  • Free tertiary education for students whose parents earn less than R350000 per annum which equates to 75% of the student body
  • More security
  • Money for drought relief in disaster areas
  • A reduction in the Deficit over 3 years.


We don’t get SOE bailouts, nor competence in municipalities, nor reduced government costs nor spare change for corruption. The margin of error is very tight and no stone can be left unturned if we are to make this year count as a springboard for sustainable economic growth. The 1.4% is good but I must say, I believe we will see closer to 1.8-1.9% this year. Despicably, one of the best things we could hope for is early successful prosecutions of corrupt individuals who have stolen Rbn’s from us. The role of civil society and the courts would receive much-earned accolades when successful convictions occur. In the meantime, we don’t need to put our fingers down our throats to be sickened by the fugitives of justice and those allegedly guilty stare out from certain seats of parliament. I’m reminded of a comment Jack Welsh made when questioned about retrenchments he undertook in turnarounds. Known as Neutron Jack because he took out people and seemingly just left the buildings, he said “he should have cut deeper the first time.” This would have avoided much more pain. Horrible thought, but he experienced that if a company was suffering from bloatedness, doing retrenchments “deeply” avoided protracted uncertainty and pain as more was often required down the line. Extremely harsh, but Mr President, he may have a point for you to take.


All of the above said, the property and finance market should improve noticeably over the next two years. We’ve become accustomed to shocks just as we say that but hopefully, we have seen the last of those, at least, those we can control. At Homeloan Junction, we have put our heads down in the past few years and enjoyed the success that Focus brings. We intend to do more of the same and to do more of it with those of you on Team. They say all the boats rise when the tide comes in. Naturally true, but we’re not boats, we’re people and we can rise disproportionately given our individual effort and consistent application. We stand by to assist in that process, to be there in the tough and clinking glasses when the success comes. Don’t allow anything to hold you back from the success you deserve; You’re Worth It!


Yours in Property.


The Western Cape is in the throes of the worst drought in its history. Cape Town is about to be the first city in the world to face Day Zero. That is, the day that taps are turned off other than for strategic sites; that too, as long as water remains in the dams.

Volumes have been written about the drought but here is our take for your interest. Truth is we don’t know what will happen but some healthy insight and speculation will do no harm.

Day Zero was 11 April. This was moved to 11 May. Now, it is estimated at mid-June. The timing is interesting as nobody really knows what the impact of siltation will be in the dams. At what point will the water become muddy and at what point will the density of that mud make it impossible to pump or to purify the water to a drinkable state? Little is known about this doomsday scenario so the setting of Day Zero must be somewhat theoretical and I presume a safety margin has been incorporated in the Date. At Day Zero, all taps are turned off with the exception of key sites – hospitals, homes for the disabled and, informal settlements. The latter is very interesting as many claim the Poor have been gathering water from taps all along and it is just the Rich who will feel the pain. For those on boreholes, we trust the boreholes will not run dry. On the other hand, Cape Town foreshore hotels are pumping salt water from their foundations which are built below sea level. Now, this water is being run through in-house desalination plants to supply the hotel with pure water.

Of course, Capetonians are running for cover. A family member has installed a 5000 litre tank and has filled it with drinking water. Others have moved into Hermanus, for example, and begun to harvest water. Some interesting facts:

  •  Last weekend, looking for 5 litre bottles of water at the Spar for my son, firstly, there were none by Sunday and the manager informed me that of an order for 500 bottles, only 8 arrived. The reason is that the supplier “is servicing Cape Town first”.
  •  Rentable homes have dried up [excuse the pun] as Capetonians have rented homes to have available on the weekends for showering, washing etc and to live in permanently, if required. [Anecdote or true, the mind boggles.]
  • The Hermanus municipality has requested vigilance of your garden tap as people are filling water tanks with your garden hose and selling it in Cape Town and surrounds.
  • The Hermanus dam is just over 50% full and we have been informed that at 40%, penalties will begin to be imposed. Not too cool!


Who supplies water? To be honest, I thought the municipality supplied but they only purify and deliver from dams which are owned by central government. Key to this understanding is that Provincial government is practically only able to apply for a state of emergency and then, if they want the Defence Force involved, a national state of emergency needs to be proclaimed. Only the President can do that. In all of this bureaucracy, the use of power predominates. If the province is on the president’s side, you get action. If not, you risk abuse. There is a sense in the Western Cape that the latter applies right now. Hopefully, CR will be a better go-to man than the most recent resignee. We shall see. Point is every city in the country needs to be assessed given the recent experience and all the global warming warnings. Beaufort West ran dry and only some new boreholes saved it. Just because a town is small that does not mean it can be ignored; water security is a constitutional right as opposed to electricity which is obviously considered a luxury in terms of the Constitution. So Cape Town needs water truck aplenty immediately and the Army to keep guard and the peace at 200 water-collection points. When we’re through this mess, we need more dams or better still, water desalination plants. The aquifers are just too deep and the risk of salination of the aquifers just too high to continue to rely on deep-level boreholes. Government will need to find money for desalination plants but the PPP’s proposed by the likes of PSG seem to hold powerful promise; let’s hope sanity and competence prevail soonest. Talking to a friend in Sydney, he tells me that a “corrupt Labour government” put in a desalination plant there many years ago and now it’s a white elephant. Boy, could Cape Town do with one spare plant right now!


The political fallout has been most notable. As the Day drew near, the knives have gone out. Cape Town municipality has not covered itself in glory by any means and too-little-too-late has become the order of the day. Of course, money was a problem from the get-go but even if it was available, little was done until panic set in. Now the blame-game predominates and fingers are pointing outwards. Listening to CapeTalk for a day is enough to realise the knives are out. Mmusi has written a great article Arise, Cape Town, Arise but it truly feels like oration in the face of a possible power shift. Between Patricia de Lille and the ANC, we could see serious fallout politically.


Against this backdrop, the people of Cape Town are very interesting. There have been outstanding examples of community in the face of calamity. The school Smart Meter water saving initiative has saved millions of litres of water. Initially sponsored by Shoprite, 100’s of businesses have come alongside to fit Smart Meters at more schools across the province. A lady I heard has installed a catchment tank from her roof and then sponsored two poorer homes to do the same. How’s that for community!? However, there is something else I hear beginning to rise in Cape Town and that is Stoicism. A stoic person can endure hardship or pain without showing their feelings or complaining. That spirit, so prevalent amongst the veterans of the Wars, is beginning to rise in Cape Town. “We better get on with it” has replaced “What the hell is going on?” And you can feel its influence. Want a pedi or hair wash, take your own water. No more showering at the Virgin just get into your bucket at home as part of your 50 litres and pour the grey water on your plants you care about. To that point, businesses are deciding now to close down and let their staff work from home and be able to collect water supplies daily from the water-points – pre-planned and communicated; not last-minute panic. The farmers of Grabouw have released 10bn litres of water from their dams to Cape Town. Voluntarily and simply because they have been blessed with good watered crops so, through the danger-point of crop failure, they are taking the risk of releasing possibly next year’s water to a community that needs it now. Stoic actions displayed by people who share their compassion and grit; stoical people. I believe that that spirit will carry Cape Town through this catastrophe. Don’t under-estimate the stakes or the potential for rebellion, but somehow people are beginning to see Others as they face their own fears. I believe in that “stuff” even if my readers may have a different view. In crisis, leadership arises and people do extraordinary things. And remember, if dams normally enjoy, say, a 50% top-up to overflow by the end of a Winter, getting a 50% top-up off zero, is very different. In other words, if dams have a normal top-up this Winter, it could still occur that Cape Town runs out of water again in the Summer of 2019. Scary indeed!


As a consequence, property values will be affected. But to what extent nobody knows. So far the slowdown has just been the inevitable drain of a struggling economy and few articles I have read have evidenced the paucity of water as a reason. To that point, tourism has perceptibly been hampered and will be so until water supplies return to normal. My sense is that catastrophe will result in property price declines. Just logically this will occur. However, anything less, coupled with an improving economy on the back of recent political events, will not cripple property values. Put another way, a return to good rains this Winter will make the current slowdown a blip and a good desalination plant PPP will even raise prices slowly. Semigration will continue as few employees would walk away from a promotion to Cape Town if water is at a manageable stage.


Then, for those of us who have faith, we trust the recent rains and the political events spell a turning point in the state of affairs of our beautiful, tortured country.


Hope you enjoyed the read as much as I have enjoyed aggregating some of my thoughts about this current state of affairs. I trust that all the Doomsday scenarios will be spared and that water sustainability across the country will be part of the Marshall [Ramaphosa]Plan to get South Africans working again. Who knows so let’s just keep watching this space? As for Homeloan Junction, we understand stoicism. Anyone who came out of Sub-Prime really does.


Yours in Property.


I loved reading John Loos’ Property Barometer – 2017. John, together with Jacques du Toit of ABSA , is one of the most experienced property market commentators in South Africa. His Barometers are both scientific and appealing. Bad news when revealed, but also good when the tide turns. I am always also struck by “what could have been” if not for a few negative factors. Our president, now for years, has featured in the “what could have been” column and none the least, last year. When we think how we came out the blocks in 2016 expecting 1.2%+ growth and how, despite the technical aberration of 2% in the 3rd quarter of 2017, we only have managed 0.7%, it is good to read John quite up-ish on the scientific numbers for House Price Growth.

Let’s quote FNB and then make some early-2018 points:

“2017 saw the FNB House Price Index growing by 3.7%, a slowing on 2016, and the 3rd consecutive year of slowing annual average price growth. We had expected a slower house price growth rate in 2017, with the country’s economic growth performance having stagnated for some years.

However, monthly house price growth has been accelerating recently.



2017 turned out to be the 3rd consecutive year of national average house price growth slowdown. From a multi-year high of 7%, reached in 2014, the FNB House Price Index’s average annual growth slowed each year, to 4.8% in 2016 and then further to 3.7% in 2017.

Based on 11 months’ worth of CPI inflation data, this translates into an estimated decline of -2.4% in real terms (adjusting house price growth for consumer price inflation).

However, from a low of 1.5% year-on-year house price growth in December 2016, the rate gradually rose to reach 6.1% in December 2017, further up from a revised 5.5% rate for November 2017.

In real terms, house price deflation that had occurred earlier in the year gradually dissipated, and by November we saw a slightly positive year-on-year real house price growth rate of 0.8%, house price growth moderately exceeding CPI (December CPI data is not yet available).”

Under the circumstances, this is truly good news! Could it be better? Of course, but given the state of the economy, we could have seen:


  1. A deeper dive of the real HPI with Inflation higher and Interest Rates higher, thus depressing markets into falling residential prices.
  2. Negative sentiment prevailing in the minds of Consumers with depressing Consumer Confidence.
  3. Even more destructive politics approaching the Elective Conference.
  4. A Full Junk Status with Moody’s making its final move.
  5. Drought in the Western Cape crippling the pearler of a run on property prices in the province.
  6. The practical collapse of the Eskom cashflows.


“Bleak”, would not have been the word to describe the economic landscape. You can only imagine.


Instead, we have:

  1. A 6%+ increase in House Prices in December 2017.
  2. Cyril Ramaphosa as the president-in-waiting.
  3. The Eskom board rejuvenated with Jabo Mabuza and Mark Lamberti [the two I really know, but I’m sure there is still much serious competence] in concert at senior level firing sham re-appointments of Koko and the like.
  4. Good news coming out of Joburg’s business community despite one of their own, being Steinhoff, toxifying the air.
  5. Mike Brown and the likes inviting the ANC President to re-engage Business as Pravin had envisaged the rescue before the Junk status nightmare.
  6. Clean-ups under way in Joburg and Pretoria as fast as possible.
  7. Our SARB and the FIC free of state capture and our Treasury pulled back from the brink. You just have to listen to smooth Gigaba to realize that and, when last did you hear about Nuclear?
  8. Late but not least, some action being taken by the NPA and AFU against the Guptas.
  9. A continued stay of execution from Moodys as regards their Negative Watch for a full downgrade.

Truth be told, if the Cape Town City Council had been one year ahead of itself with the drought measures, there would be much cause for celebration.

Not the best performance of our country but certainly it could have been worse. As I said in my first blog for 2018, I am convinced that CR’s leadership will shine through and that we will see rapid change taking place in critical areas starting [with an excellent start] with Eskom.

It remains for us to be focussed and positive, using every scrap of good news to motivate our actions and be successful.

In closing on the Title’s question, is there a possible detachment between rising house prices, which generally indicate a lively market, and consumer confidence? It seems counter-intuitive to me as over the years. consumer confidence has been the main driver but there is a thing developing called “-fatigue”. Corruption-fatigue, Bad News-fatigue, Politics-fatigue, Negativity-fatigue etc. People just gatvol of everything being down-and-out and needing to just get on and live their lives somewhat normally. If you’re moving from Bloemfontein to Joburg you could sell your house and “rent for a while until things improve”. However, could it be that people are saying “this is as good as it gets so let’s just get on with life”, or, “now is a good time to buy”. Either way, unless December’s number is just a statistical aberration, there seems to be an inexplicably good rise in prices which even has John Loos excited. If I’m right, agents and originators score. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize. But, for sure, we will have a better year than last year – that I’d bet on.

Yours in Property 2018.