2019 will go down as one of those years we would like to forget.

I’m always reminded as I say that that things could have been worse. A defeat of Ramaphosa in December 2017, just 2 years ago, would have made the last month of Eskom look like a kiddies’ sleepover in comparison. Eskom would have bankrupted within 6 months and Dudu would have flown SAA into the ground. Losing employment would not have been an option so more people and leadership would have been recruited to fix the mess and finally, the goodwill towards the country would have imploded.

As forecasted by RW Johnson, the SA government would not have agreed with the IMF and instead, would have printed more Rands “like America and Europe” in Quantity (sic) Easing, and wham-bang, we would have slid into Zimbabwe-like chaos. My humble opinion granted, it was that close.

I’m pleased I have no need to defend my argument as that never happened. But I read the latest whistle-blower’s report about Public Protector, Adv Mkhwebane, I’m reminded that the country was run by the SSA under the direct command of his lordship. It didn’t happen and that’s all we need to take out of the last two years right now.

There are many articles written about what HAS happened. I cannot remember all, but for me, noteworthy has been:

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa won the ANC election and ousted ex-president Zuma.
  • He has managed to assert many initiatives despite fierce white anting from his own party and so-called allies.
  • He has established commissions of inquiry into SARS, the PIC [imagine millions of civil servants without pensions and their hard-saved cash squandered by Gupta advisors] and State Capture.
  • The first one brought about the demise of Tom Moyane in an interim report and he has since been unable to overturn that decision. SARS, therefore, is on the path to recovery and I note from the matters upon which I serve, that cashflow has returned to SARS and they are no longer being accused of withholding reviewed taxes.
  • The SARB is in safe hands for now.
  • SAA is in business rescue. An absolute first for SOE’s, and an embarrassment to the ANC, it is now going to be fascinating to watch how the seasoned Les Mathusen manages his rescue plan. The unions, which forced the hand of the Presidency, one in shut-down and the other in a court application, have offered to work with the Business Rescue practitioner to prevent the liquidation of SAA. Watch this space as Mathusen unpacks the over-staffing, the over-charging, identifies the profitable businesses and routes, orders the sale of assets and retrenches thousands of employees in order to save the airline. He has endured no bigger stakes in his career, I’m sure.
  • Eskom – Eish! = Eskom Is Shedding Hourly! Every time Eskom load sheds, we write about -1% of our GDP growth into history. Irrecoverable and tragic in its consequences. It would have been worse, and seeing Cyril and Pravin jump in and help, for all the cynicism, is still better than shots of our President visiting Egyptian pyramids. The stakes are higher than wet coal; in faraway walnut offices, our junk status is being debated.
  • The NPA is being fixed and the Scorpions-by-another-name are coming into place. We will see prosecutions commence and some conclude in 2020. If our President really wanted to show intent, he could set up some fast-track courtrooms, resources and processes to prosecute low-hanging fruit cases, like that udder one called Estina Farm.
  • Every day be grateful for Amabhunghane and Scorpio. Bravest of the brave men and women have exposed evidence of exceptional proportions pointing to large-scale corruption by the highest of leaders. If ever a fish rotted from the top, the stench has been reported in excruciating detail by these journalists. Freedom of the Press, a cherished ideal of democracies, is alive and well in SA.

So much is not ideal but so much is far better than we could have hoped for two years ago. I always remind myself of that in my darkest [Eskom and other] days. You and I have been recipients of one of those “miracles” in South Africa; you can use any term you like to describe what could have been, but now what is, happening. 
The property market has been as interesting as ever. Anecdotally, houses under R3m are selling and upmarket homes are only selling at very deep discounts.

Two almost-humourous comments I’m regularly hearing from estate agents are:

“Prices had to drop, you know” and “Bargains abound now.” Both are platitudes for a really quiet, really buyer-based market. If you take the noise of politics, both national and international, out of the data, the fact is that economically, we are heading for an upswing in prices. Predictable interest rates, falling house prices and banks willing to lend are sure-fire bets for an upturn.

You establish a blush of confidence and the market would rebound in months and set sail for easy blogs to be written ☺ [I really battle to write upbeat stories in this depressed market ☹]. Seriously, every downturn has felt like this; we’ve just had more to hang our hopes on politically speaking. October’s origination record may have felt like a flash in the pan, but what if it portends exciting things to come?

Nothing beats a little R&R in the midst of the battle. Christmas is coming and the 13th [Friday nogal!], marked the beginning of builders’ holidays. Even the kids went off earlier this year – sorry, Moms. Com’on, let’s smile a little and enjoy the rest of the Season. I know “things could’ve been worse” doesn’t smack of motivation, but it is a damn side better than many more bitter facts.

Yours in Property.


Jack Trevena
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