We’ve recently been close to someone who has been in ICU with covid. With all the paraphernalia attached, there is one crucial element – the small TV we’ve all seen on ER and the like. It is the monitor, the real-time dashboard, of everything that is going on in the person. It is the dipstick for so many interventions that may follow from its continual measurements.

It is watched hundreds of times a day. Only one of its measures is recorded regularly over time. Only one is static until it is measured again by an attachment. The others are measured in ever-undulating waves of calibration. For the uninitiated, the monitor is mesmerizing. You sit for hours and watch its movements. Every time something changes, your brain registers that, thinking back and thinking forward. Recalculating, you garner strength knowing that all is well, that in all probability, healing and recovery is taking place. But every now and again, things change negatively and, doing the same recalculation, you become aware of your own stress rising as concern takes hold. But then, the next reading is better, and you breathe a sigh of relief. You imagine your own internal, invisible monitor – the one in your head – undulating, progressing and always on – as you draw your own conclusions of past, present and future.

Monitoring is central to this process. Not like an engine’s oil dipstick which just shows you a level once a month. Rather like a probe that measures movements and changes with real-time feedback. You ignore it at your peril but if you over-emphasize every change you become consumed by the detail, perhaps even irrational from too much information. Being aware, you become informed and can adjust intentionally and with a sense of direction and purpose.

This blog is timed at the end of 2020 and on the threshold of 2021. Such a time as this requires that we look back at our footprints in the sand and analyse how we got to where we are and if it’s where we wanted to be. Then, we sink our feet into the sand as the ever-present waves wash over them. And finally, we lift our eyes beyond the backline towards the curved horizon and plot our future course. With that metaphor that I’m sure we all understand (though we weren’t allowed on the beaches☺), let’s have a look at the specifics of the monitor…

Right at the top is the Heartbeat. Only a number to the disinterested but for the person being measured, the confirmation of life. Slow or fast, it speaks volumes to the quantity and quality of life. I put to you my Reader; your heartbeat is more than the pulse in your wrist. In isolation, it confirms you’re living, and you’ve made it to this point but in totality, it speaks of everything that matters to you. Your loved ones, your greater circle of friends and associates, the state of your business or career and even your own physical being. Under stress it rises – not just physical stress but mental and emotional stress. Too much stress and too fast a heartbeat and life itself may be threatened. Too little and you and I begin to atrophy from the inside out. We need some stress, but this last year may have taken its toll.

I have had people tell me that the stress has felt like a band across their chest. Guaranteed, your heartbeat was up then. Our heart drives life’s blood through our veins. Similarly, the heartbeat of relationships, the ebb and flow of what and who you consider important and pin as high priority, effectively giving your life and time for, needs to be measured and controlled. I’m sure each of us in the long days of lockdown have reconsidered who and what we love and what truly matters.

My Takeaway: When the only thing matters is truly the only thing that matters, you concentrate on that thing intensely.
My Question: What is “the only thing that matters” for you?

Underneath the Heartbeat is Oxygen. Covid has taught us that saturation is a measure of oxygen levels in our bodies. The virus attacks our lungs inflaming the air sacs at the end of our lung pathways. At this interface, the blood takes oxygen we breathe in and gives carbon dioxide we breathe out. Our oxygen is our energy, our motivation, our determination, and our drive. Without it, we cannot survive and keeping it topped up is a constant affair. Purpose, meaning, ambition, goals, targets and incentives are all useful as tools for us to remain focussed and intentional. We interact at many interfaces and experience so much that affects us. Are the interfaces you experience oxygen-giving or oxygen-sucking. We sometimes refer to negative people as “oxygen thieves”. They live to extract the last bit of joy and optimism out of everyone around them; perpetually negative. Unless you have a duty to serve such people, or you choose to love them in favour of a higher cause, rid yourself of their influence.

On the one hand, you have enough to cope with this year but on the other, you may be affected by them, influenced to hopeless and even to give up. On the lighter side, I have a friend who tells me he’s “too negative to get covid” – I love him for his sense of humour even though he’s sometimes a pain ☺. You cannot be over-saturated with oxygen as 100% is the limit. But you can be under-saturated, and you need to know the triggers that bring that about and how to counteract them. So many people rely on you perhaps even materially, and no doubt so many people look up to you with respect. You may be their example of how to live a life above the crowd and the woes of the time. Your “oxygen” – your optimism, enthusiasm and the direction of your gaze could well be the vaccine that the world around you needs.

My Takeaway: The example that you are, is influential. Good or bad, you’re influencing other peoples’ lives. So, make it good!
My Question: Do you pay attention to the example you’re setting for others?

The last of the undulating waves is your Sleep Pattern. This one was really interesting to watch. Light sleep or going to sleep was just a small, equally sized wave. As deep sleep descends, the waves have a deep trough as the waves go higher on the screen. At times something disturbs the sleep, and a bump occurs in the consistency of the undulations. The other day I read an article titled something like: 7 Ways to Improve Your New Year. I dived in only to discover the ones we know: Sleeping; Eating; Exercising; Relaxation; Relationships; Purpose and one other. Without disparaging the content, we need to sleep, eat, exercise, and relax while we drive our businesses and/or our interests and the giving of our time.

I do not apologise for repeating that nothing replaces getting this right for you and me. We cannot be at peak performance if we systematically undo the good of proper sleep and food and exercise. Christmas is a time to let go as we relax but it takes more than a perennial new year’s resolution to pull back to peak physical and mental form. You get out what you put in and your body is perfectly balanced given the right fuel. Consistently denying ourselves can have serious consequences. Discipline yourself, eat well, stop worrying and move at pace; it is good for you.

My Takeaway: I commit myself to improve the “over-relaxation” I have enjoyed for a season.
The Question: Want to join me?

Blood Pressure is on the bottom left of the screen. What gets yours up? Fools, taxis, banks, teenagers, cashflow, regrets? Oh, the stuff we give our lives and our sense of peace to! One of the things covid has taught me is not to “fetch” things. It sounds trite and a lot like not worrying but for me it is much more. In negative situations, I have joined the dots even for years forward and ended up with catastrophe in mind. The long days of isolation have cured this trait. The play between living in the moment and being ultimately responsible for everything that can go wrong is simply an overstatement of the facts. Live in the moment; it is good for you and many experts advocate it as the only time over which you have control. Breathe deeply and regularly; it will give you oxygen and regulate your heartbeat. And then analyse what is driving your blood pressure up.

Is the matter caused by facts or self-induced by your own imagination? Do you have control or not? Is there a point in time where you need to act, or would patience be the virtue you need to apply? We may be entering 2021 off a lower base emotionally, physically, or financially so what is it that takes us through or takes us up? Edith Eger in The Choice writes: Be the author of your choice rather than the victim of your fate. But not everything needs to be answered immediately and often patience to wait or allow time to evolve is as good a move as anything. On the other hand, if you need to act, do so. Life is not always easy, but it can be nonetheless rewarding for you.

My Takeaway: Things rile us. Are they worth the anger or could they be prevented or allowed to unfold over time? Focus on the big rocks and you may well find the smaller issues that perplexed your mind dissipate as you work at your priorities.
My question: Do you have clear goals for this year? Are those goals meaningful to you?

Temperature is on the bottom right of the monitor. 37.2 degrees is normal. Anything higher is a sign of illness and inflammation and needs to be dealt with. Anything reasonably under that is still healthy. Of course, on the lighter side, all you have to do is go into three shops in the Mall and have your temperature taken at the door. Between 35.5 and 36.5 degrees, as a rule, I always chirp, I’m cool, hey? as the security guard looks on nonplussed. I’m sure the heat guns are set to give a “next number” like a slot machine gives a random result – whatever! But for our purpose, we live in an environment. It is all around us – invisible dust and viruses, clean air, viewscapes of land, sea and sky, rain or sunshine, people we love and those to whom we are less partial, fairness or unfairness, and life to the full. We are constantly taking the temperature of our environment. We know that our perspective and opinions drive so much of what we believe we are experiencing.

Gratitude and thankfulness are always to be had; there is always something to be thankful for. I listened to that song by Josh Groban and sent it out to tens of contacts on WhatsApp on Christmas Day with tears in my eyes. Always something to be thankful for! On the other hand, life may be happening while you make other plans. Adversity knocks every now and again and indeed I’m clear on my view of 2020 – I’m glad it’s passed and all I want to take from it are the learnings for the future; the rest can sink into forgetfulness. Attitude is often the game-changer of the temperature. I’m always amazed at how two people can be in similar circumstances and take a completely different view of them. None the least, our views and participation in this beautiful, tortured country.

My Takeaway: We can be products of our environment [an external locus of control] or impactful on it in a positive, sustainable way [an internal locus of control]. I have a few close friends who are my “thermometers” when it comes to the power of impact – positive, optimistic and action orientated. I am grateful for their role in my life.
My Question: Where do you stand at the genesis of 2021?

It remains only to wish you a prosperous new year from HLJ. We have much to achieve and many opportunities confront us. Plain sailing it probably will not be, but we trust if the wind howls you will be able to tack your sails and use it to your advantage. Your monitor – the monitor of your heart and mind – will give you important, immediate feedback and what positive you do with it will enhance your life and those of others around you.

We wish you success and standby you as much as we possibly can to help you ensure that.

Some quotes to express my theme a little differently:

“No one has a problem with the first mile of a journey. Even an infant could do fine for a while. But it isn’t the start that matters. It’s the finish line.”
Julien Smith

“Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”
Robin Sharma

“When we make progress quickly, it feeds our emotions. Then, when there’s a period of waiting or we hit a plateau, we find out how committed we really are and whether we’re going to see things through to the finish or quit.”
Joyce Meyer

Yours in Property.


In Part 1 of our blog, we took a look at Sub-prime and unpacked its cause, the effect, and some learnings.

I proceed in Part 2 with covid, in similar vein. In the final analysis, I make a few comparisons between the two global events and suggest some learnings. I dare not say, for future events, because for many people, we are still reeling from this pandemic. Closing the beaches has done nothing but heighten the tension we all feel; though we may not object, we all know that Wash-Wear-Distance could have prevented this and that’s so annoying for those of us who have followed the rules as diligently as possible.

So, not so long ago, only about 15 months we are told, but could it have been longer, and we weren’t told as President Trump told us, in Woo-haan [which literally means: being affectionate towards – a chicken] a guy stepped up to the counter in one of those Animal Markets and asked: Hey, what you got today? The owner, an importer of delicacies from all over the world said: Whatever you want for those lovely dishes you make with Sriracha and Spices. I’ll take some of that and some of that and a little of that, said the guy. Great man! Making a meal full of surprises by the looks of it? said the owner. Ja [or whatever Yes is in Chinese], big surprise tonight!

Of course, some say it could have been a Lab Rat. Conspiracies and Donald have all said it was a Lab Rat that made the surprise. But those lovely people from the WHO did go and do an investigation. They asked the Lab Rat, Did you make a surprise or accidently, let it lose? No, said the Lab Rat and with that the WHO decided it definitely came from the Animal Market. Finished and klaar, said the WHO.

That surprise turned out to be the covid-19 virus. Not the first the world had seen but once the WHO declared the pandemic, it seemed like the only one that ever existed. We talked through Spanish Flu, Asian Flu and Bird Flu and Swine Flu and all flew into a frenzyFlu. But we never knu what to do with this new Flu. We locked down to stop infections and spare the hospitals. Apart from Sweden, every country and every plane and every border in every corner of the world locked down. It was reported that even Beit Bridge and Musina were quieter for two months at least. Only ciggies managed to swim across the Zambezi, defying lions on the land and crocodiles in the river. Clever little ciggies those, some probably dried out on the rocks after the long swim. What a boon for the pirates and their benefactors. Close down BAT and keep the people stocked but remind them, these may be expensive, but you know how hard they were to get here!

And in the course of the pandemic, real stories began to emerge. Stories of frontline bravery. Stories of food lines being fed by the Kind. Stories of neighbours losing loved ones. Stories from the likes of Italy and Brazil of balconies in song, celebrating Life. We lived for months in practical isolation whilst the sick amongst us found nurture, alone with their nurses.

And then stories of corruption began to blot the national adherence and pain; obscene greed, blatant, ugly and sucking from the Poor. Eventually, even the UIF, one of the better managed SOE’s in my humble opinion, was having its funds siphoned off by thieves. The proportion of tainted tenders to total tenders, I believe, is over 80%. I cannot tell you how angry that makes me feel! Indeed, every cashflow has a criminal. But to steel from the Poor, to put those caring for the sick at risk with sub-standard PPE, is despicable. Even the President, in what became known as Family Meetings, displayed some anger as he announced a Special Task Force to investigate corruption beginning with his own spokesperson.

I could go on and on right up to the beach closures, but you know the way 20Plenty morphed into 20Pandemic. Heaven knows we want this year to be over and our much-loved freedoms to be restored in the next! Roll on the vaccine that was produced in record time.

We have learned so much in so many aspects, so I’ll just try to share some of my highlights:

  • We got the chance to practice that we should not catastrophise – you all know, one of my deep personal learnings from Sub-prime. Our language, a direct reflection of our heart, should guard against the worst all the time. We are allowed a “meltdown” and who didn’t at some stage? But for those of us in business, especially the property business, the exit from covid has been an unexpected, pleasant surprise. I never saw one person who “called it”. And as we always say, Make hay while the sun shines.
  • Social Media was rampant. Conspiracies, fake news, instant news, news overload, repetition – you name it – social media has dominated our lockdown lives. To be honest, I feel sorry for the granny who never had at least WhatsApp with her children, a little bit of facetime. But for the rest, the overload was ridiculous. I have never been so informed and so confused at the same time. Who do you believe and why, became the question I asked myself and when I was told “They” said so, I want to know who “They” are? Lying with statistics for vested interest has become the blight of social media. The barrage of messaging taught me a lot about how people spend their time, what they view as funny, how they cope with stress and what they believe enough to pass on. No wonder too that Netflix shares increased 365%. I really understand that now. And by the way, for all those hilarious Tik Toks I received, thank you. Many broke the gloom of the 265th day J
  • We are tactile and love company. Of course, we want quiet days and me-time. But so much of it with so much bad news abounding can make us morose. The best antidote for me was movement – jogging, gardening, etc – all helped to lift my spirits. Lungs full of air are good. Not being able to touch and everybody avoiding closeness as though you “have something” or they “have something”, I found really hard. I’ve no doubt some of those psychoses that interviewees on Kyknet and CNN commented on were in some way felt by many of us.
  • From an economic point of view, Sub-prime set the scene. Reserve Banks globally knew to throw money at the covid problem as early as possible. When $2000,000,000,000 [$2trn, and open to correction on the noughts] was announced as relief in America I never knew so much money existed. And it got used up in about 4 months before another round was called for. This weekend, the US will probably settle on another $900bn package to see people through until a vaccine begins to bring economic relief. Across the globe, trillions made available in various shapes and sizes. Where did it all come from? Borrowings, from our childrens’ children. QE of the highest order to bail out every employee and their employers to survive economic destruction. Thank goodness for it but at what cost? Even in Hermanus I had a restaurateur tell me his business survived on financial assistance from the UIF. Thank goodness, our SARB did not succumb to QE according to JP Landman in his latest newsletter. They did contribute massively by slashing the interest rate and being on liquidity standby for the banks. As I said, Sub-prime crippled liquidity suddenly and this was avoided 12 years later.
  • Corruption seems to be eventually at centre stage. Once again, according to JP Landman:

2020 will be remembered for the powerful public backlash against corruption, particularly relating to Covid-19.

The backlash was reinforced by ongoing revelations at the Zondo Commission, the arrest and charging of nine VBS Mutual Bank accused in June and the arrest of seven Free State asbestos project accused in September (including Ace Magashule). 

In total, 402 people were arrested and charged for corruption this year. R3,3 billion was recovered by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Asset Forfeiture Unit from various perpetrators (largely for Eskom’s and Transnet’s benefit). Another R10 billion is in the process of being reclaimed. Nearly R5 billion has been frozen by the authorities. The VBS accused were also sequestrated in their personal capacities and the proceeds paid over to the executor of the failed bank.

The year also underscored the involvement of private sector companies and employees in corruption. Luminaries that had to pay up included McKinsey, Deloitte and ABB. Markus Jooste was fined R121 million for Steinhoff shenanigans.  Apparently, a group of Stellenbosch citizens have voluntarily teamed up and prepared a case on Steinhoff for use by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), complete with affidavits. It will be interesting to see what happens with that.

The ANC is still struggling to catch up with the changing public mood, manifested by the refusal of some accused to stand down. This issue is far from over. Political parties cannot ignore public opinion indefinitely, even when the opposition is weak. In the Namibian election in November there was a strong swing away from SWAPO to a plethora of smaller parties and independents. An observer there noted ‘people are tired of corruption’. In South Africa the state is proceeding with actions against various perpetrators and the state’s actions will only increase, not decrease. Evidence at the Zondo Commission both shame and anger citizens. The general mood in the country is not helping those in the ANC that want to hold out on corruption.

Interestingly, in Gauteng, the ANC structures demanded that the former health MEC be fired after the premier only suspended him on corruption allegations. And he was duly fired. Gauteng is going in a different direction than other ANC provinces and that could be a harbinger of what is to come.

  • Apart from the smell of corruption in Sub-prime, we certainly never experienced anything like this in that disgrace. However, in socio-economic terms, Sub-prime though harsh cannot be compared with the gravity of covid. The best I’ve commented on is the factor of 5 that I saw on TV one evening. But even looking at latest GDP and Growth statistics, covid has been dire in comparison. According to Landman: 

Economists are projecting -8% for 2020 – a very serious contraction. Both the Reuters and Netwerk24/BER polls of economists (38 economists participate in the latter) forecast on average growth for 2021 of 3,5% to 4,0%. They clearly expect a V-shaped recovery or a dead-cat bounce.

Beyond 2021 growth will fully depend on how much structural reform we undertake, a topic we touch on below and will certainly return to next year

  • Sub-prime never caused deaths en masse. Probably as high as 2m so far globally. Nothing like that happened back then. Whether covid should have been declared a pandemic or not, the human tragedy has been on a non-comparable scale.
  • And a final thought…..covid has had its good moments and aspects. Much spring cleaning took place and many families had precious time together. My son summed it up one day saying that nothing but lockdown could have given him so much time with his baby [now 1 on 11/11/2020]. For some corporates, they have been able to make significantly lower cost investments in these trying times and some have brought forward restructures with great effect financially. Just learning not to use ventilators too soon and drug advances have saved many lives and it is not by accident that our recovery rate stands at over 90%. I think many of us have grown personally – trappings are seen as just that, and just being alive is much more appreciated.

In short, these two blogs have drawn some comparisons and learnings together. If we can get through the almost new normal of 100 %-plus national Debt:GDP ratios, Sub-prime taught Reserve Banks how to respond this time. Covid has been crippling but if I look at things returning to some form of normality, we could get through the 2nd wave and on to the vaccine without too much more damage humanly or economically. I believe we have become more sensitive of those around us and caring for those less fortunate, and those who endured loss. We need to embrace what is good and let go of the rest.

In closing, if you’re reading this and feeling okay, YOU HAVE GOT THROUGH! A few more months, maybe one year of caution and we trust we can put this horrible experience behind us. If you agree with anything in my last paragraph, you will come out stronger from the experience. More in touch with yourself, your vulnerabilities, and your strengths. Those you love you will love more, and the chance for an embrace will never be missed again. Like those of us who experienced and survived Sub-prime, you will know you can, and that knowledge will give you perspective and hope grounded in all the learning that got you to that point. Truth is we all bear some scars of that time and no doubt will of this, but to have made it is a cause for celebration, and a deep sense of gratitude.

We are aware that some have not had it so easy. Illness is seldom anyone’s best friend and to have longed for loved ones or lost someone dear to you during this time as we have, is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. How we long for grace for you and strength to see it through. Whilst these blogs have been as factual as I experienced the global events and as humorous and upbeat as I can make them, I’m truly aware of the impact of both national emergencies. “Lives and livelihoods” take on new and different meanings when it’s your life or my livelihood that’s been or is being impacted. We honour you sincerely.

But now it remains to say: “Merry Christmas!” to all our readers who enjoy this season of the year. We are so grateful to have walked the road with you and feel a bond closer than this time last year. From HLJ to each of you: THANK YOU for all you have meant to us, and for the exceptional support you have given us.

May you be uplifted and strengthened as you enjoy Christmas and the New Year responsibly with your loved ones.

Yours in Property.


Once again, I cannot improve on the information provided by JP Landman in his 3 November publication. Every credit to him in this blog. It is unusually titled WYSIATI which we’ll allow him to explain:


Psychologist Daniel Kahneman was awarded the Nobel for economics for his work on how we make decisions. A common mistake he identified is WYSIATI – what you see is all there is. We focus on one thing and do not see the bigger picture.

In October there were three important political announcements about the economy: the Expropriation Bill, the Post-Covid-19 Recovery Plan and the mid-term Budget. When combined, they paint quite a picture of where we are going.

Structural reform

Both the President’s and the Finance Minister’s statements have made it clear that the chosen path is structural reform – making changes in the economy to improve productivity and longer-term growth. Growth salvation will not come from the Budget, but from structural reforms in the real economy. Boring and not headline-catching, but real.

In fact, general criticism about the Recovery Plan was that it is nothing new. Precisely. No easy money, no new policies – just working to improve the basics. When parliamentarians denounced that the plan is a repeat of old ideas, the President conceded. What he offers, he said, is a new resolve and political will. So, is there evidence of a new political will?

Political will

Yes, there is evidence of a new political will… if we do not commit WYSIATI.

Take the highly contested Treasury document on economic reforms. When it was first published in August 2019, a prominent investment banker with ANC ties dismissed it as ‘Treasury (having) gone rogue’. The commentariat had a field day with divisions in government, the improbability of implementation, unhappiness of the unions and so on and so on. By February 2020, Cabinet adopted the document, and it became government policy. This October the President announced that he himself, with Treasury, will oversee the implementation of the paper. From ‘going rogue’ to official policy to presidential oversight – all in about 14 months. If that is not evidence of political will…

Then there is the government’s willingness to commit a breach of contract in April and not pay the third year of agreed salary increments. The mid-term budget reinforced this by pencilling in wage increases of only 0,8% per year for the next three years.

Consider the politics: Cosatu unions are the majority in the public service, are alliance partners of the ANC, and played a critical role in Ramaphosa’s rise to power, yet government is taking them head on. The wage fight is certainly not over, but one cannot say that government does not have the political will to tackle the issue.

A third piece of evidence is energy reform. I have written extensively about energy and will not repeat it here, suffice to say that we are seeing the biggest reform of energy in decades, and the biggest structural reform since agriculture, transport and broadcasting in the mid-nineties. When the President launched the reforms in February 2019, the reaction was ‘it will not/cannot happen’. Yet it is happening 20 months later. Here the WYSIATI mistake is to see only load-shedding or irritating bureaucratic delays and not the structural reform playing out.

Expropriation without compensation

A fourth piece of evidence is the Expropriation Bill. It deals decisively with the issue of land expropriation. Ace Magashule said it fulfils the ANC’s resolution on the matter. Business and investment circles heaved a sigh of relief. The commentariat was calm. The Bill clearly succeeded in satisfying all sides. It is testimony of political will… but also of remarkable political skill. A hat tip is in order.

There will no doubt still be shrill political debates and the Bill will probably be challenged in the Constitutional Court, but the matter has been defused.

South African Airways

One structural reform that government baulked at was SAA. The good news is that it was done in a fiscally neutral manner. The bad news is that it was done in a fiscally neutral manner – fiscally neutral means billions were taken from departments like the police (… crime and gender-based violence?), higher education, and health. Eish!

The argument that it was done to meet obligations is not convincing – the point of liquidation is that obligations get cancelled. Swiss Air rose phoenix-like from liquidation – why not SAA? The government undercut itself – good work on structural change is drowned out by SAA’s billions.

Recovery Plan

The other October announcement, the Recovery Plan, rests on five pillars: one covering social support and four covering structural reform. Citizens are tired of yet more plans, so what are the chances of successful implementation?

1. Employment stimulus

This is not structural reform, but a social employment and support programme. It will augment current employment programmes like ‘Working for Fire’, ‘Working for Water’ and various community-based programmes. These programmes employ about one million people a year. Now the President wants to see 800 000 more people employed and/or current jobs protected from disappearing.

Of this, 300 000 will be in schools (200 000 as teachers’ assistants, the balance as cleaners and caretakers), 25 000 in labour-intensive municipal maintenance, nearly 40 000 in rural roads maintenance, 111 000 in early childhood education centres, and 34 000 in creative industries and sport, among others.

Students of the 1930s depression will recognise the parallels with Roosevelt’s New Deal. It is really aimed at the poor and gives a hefty dose to rural areas.

R12,6 billion has been set aside in the current budget year and a further R30 billion a year for the next three years. Treasury calculates this initiative can add 0,3% to gross domestic product (GDP) growth (it stimulates demand). I rate the chances of successful implementation as high because there is political focus, money and the pressure of an election in less than a year. Minds will be focused.

2. Energy

The second pillar for growth is energy and, in my view, the one with the highest chance of successful implementation. Much of the preparatory work has been done, there is strong momentum, and many private sector players are keen to get involved. We have written extensively about this. Suffice to say that private-sector producers will create at least 16 000 MW of generating capacity in the next four years. It will unleash many billions in investment and create jobs in construction, energy, and manufacturing.

Treasury calculates that the energy investment can add 0,25% per year to GDP growth.

More importantly, load-shedding and the lack of energy security is an enormous constraint on the economy. Remove the constraint and more growth will follow. Confidence from energy security alone can boost growth. The turning point on electricity should be 2022.

3. Ease of doing business

Here the Recovery Plan lists several actions, among them a framework to establish a hemp and cannabis industry!

By far the most important on the list is spectrum release. The preparatory work has been done and the spectrum auction will take place by 31 March 2021. Apart from a nice windfall for Treasury, it will bring faster and cheaper internet to the country.

Treasury calculated that telecommunication reforms can add as much as 0,5% to GDP growth per year. Here too the impact should be visible by 2022.

Also, on this list is transport reform, particularly in rail. Legislation on a rail regulator has been prioritised in Parliament and the way is being paved for 8 000 km of unused railway lines to be leased out to private operators. Last week the (new) Transnet management threw their weight behind the initiative. When Ramaphosa, Mboweni, Gordhan and Transnet management are all behind it, chances of implementation are good.

In 2019 Treasury calculated that transport reform can add 0,3% to GDP growth per year. When combined, spectrum and transport can add 0,8% to GDP growth.

The World Bank has withdrawn its Ease of Doing Business Report due to flaws in its methodology, so this is no longer available as a tool for measuring progress. We will monitor the items on the South African list and report on progress or the lack thereof.

4. Infrastructure

The fourth pillar of the Recovery Plan is infrastructure. This is a personal high priority for the President, and he has been driving it hard since 2018. The ANC also came out in full support of the programme, even jettisoning its flirtation with prescribed assets to lure private-sector participation. Yet, it would be wise to temper expectations on implementation.

Firstly, the infrastructure programme hinges on cooperation between the public and private sectors. It will take time for the two sides to find each other. Some reports from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) are not encouraging. Secondly, the state has limited experience in running complex public-private arrangements. The President has made a commitment to grow capacity in the presidency, but realistically, it will take time. Thirdly, getting things done in the state just takes longer. The President announced the Infrastructure Fund (the Fund) in 2018 and it took two years to get it to fruition. It is the nature of the beast.

Having said that, the Fund is now established and operational and the Budget provides for R100 billion over 10 years. We will monitor progress of its implementation.

Treasury calculates that infrastructure spend can add 0,25% to GDP growth per year.

5. Industrial growth

Here the emphasis is on manufactured exports (particularly into Africa), localisation targets, and sectoral masterplans. A word of caution – some of these have been on the list for a decade, so tempering expectations is again in order. But there is progress.

Last year South Africa recorded a first-ever trade surplus with the European Union, driven by manufactured exports. The opening of the new bridge at Kazungula between Botswana and Zambia will help South African exports into Africa, as will the Africa Free Trade Agreement. In the Budget Mboweni announced changes to foreign exchange regulations to advance cross-border investment and financing. There are certainly possibilities and the environment is improving.

Localisation targets have been agreed with the retail and textile industries. More are planned for agro-processing, healthcare, basic consumer goods, industrial equipment, construction materials and transport rolling stock. Big companies will develop supplier development programmes. Here one recognises traces of the Black Umbrellas programme developed by Ramaphosa’s erstwhile company Shanduka, while he was still in charge there.

Masterplans have been compiled for the automotive, poultry, sugar, and clothing and textile industries. It is difficult to judge the success of masterplans from the outside, but last year South Africa exported more cars than ever and Remgro’s Jannie du Randt has made positive noises about engaging with government in the sugar and poultry industries.

Treasury calculates that industrial growth can add 0,33% to GDP growth a year.

What is possible?

In total, Treasury modelling indicates that the five parts of the Recovery Plan can add 1,9% to GDP growth a year. If we limit ourselves to the three with the best chance of implementation, leaving infrastructure and industrial growth aside, we are looking at an increase of 1,3% in growth per year.

Treasury’s base case for growth over the medium term is 1,6% rising to 2,0%. Add 1,3% and growth can reach 3,0% per year. Not enough, many would say, but we have not seen that for a long time. It is also comfortably above the population growth of 1,61%.

So what?

  • Except for the SAA decision, the Budget was the balancing act it had to be. It steadies the ship and buys time for structural reform.
  • Growth will not come from the Budget; it will come from structural changes that enhance productivity.
  • The biggest structural changes in the next two years will be energy and spectrum.
  • Together with social employment they can help lift growth towards 3%, which is comfortably more than population growth.
  • Much space is being created for the private sector with the opening of electricity, spectrum, transport and infrastructure, enabling more exports into Africa.
  • Certainty on land expropriation removes a threat that hung over the economy.
  • The economy is in dire straits and people are suffering. It must have been tempting to go for populist measures. We have seen none of that. Rather, the opposite.
  • Most of us tend to see only the Budget (and then only SAA) and we ignore the bigger picture: the restructuring underway in the economy. It is as if spectrum and energy are not happening. A classic WYSIATI mistake.

For us in property, that he reports “business and investment circles heaved a sigh of relief” as regards EWC, through its enabler, the Expropriation Bill, is particularly noteworthy.

I really try hard not to be cynical and having read Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, I have a sense in case after case, that we have very little information on anything and where we believe “we hold the truth” we need to be humble enough to perhaps realise that it remains Our Truth. What JP often does is give us enough evidence of what is happening or, at least, a trend which is specific or identifiable. As always, we are left to decide from our own perspective whether he has a valid point or whether we discount what he says. An Analyst, particularly a Political Analyst, will always leave us to make up our own minds. However, we have the ANC Secretary General in court facing serious allegations. Something shifted drastically for that to be the case.

So much of the article makes me want to contradict in response. But I have to acknowledge, so much of the article gives cause for hope. We’ll each need to decide what side of the fence we’re on. As I’ve said before, South Africa has a way, sometimes raw and in-your-face, of making you get off the fence onto one side or another. Or, in good, plain language, Jy mag nie draadsit nie!

Yours in Property.


I receive daily screen dumps from one of my associates which show me many aspects of the markets, the exchange rates of our major currencies, the price of Bonds and the movement of each of these.

I’m not a fundi when it comes to these measures but I know red means down and green means up. So, if I look at the movements of the last two days, I’ve seen green – that unexpected Monday morning sense of excitement as the markets and the currencies take action on the back of good news. Our JSE jumped 1.56% yesterday to 57307 and has grown 11% this month so far. I’m tempted to do the sum extrapolating this increase to month-end…let’s do it…68 768…NOW, THERE’S A RECORD!! And in the USA, the Nasdaq is over 12 000 and the S&P just shy of 30 000. I’m open to correction but I reckon these are near highs if not records.

So, what drives this all? Probably three things:

  • President Trump leaving office. 
  • President Elect Biden bringing some hope. 
  • A covid vaccine by Pfizer.

I’m sure if I dug deep into the Google fount of all things, I would find some more good reasons but for now, these will suffice.

Practically speaking, 50% of America voted for President Trump so America remains not a United States. But possibly there were enough investors and enough enthusiasm amongst them to drive the markets up again. On the other hand, President Elect Biden had 50 % so he has brought some hope to some citizens and perhaps enough to settle things down a little as the lawfare ramps up. But then there’s the vaccine and for those of us who are covided-out, it is good news.

I guess you could say it’s like explaining the great property market at the moment by saying it is historically low-interest rates that have brought it about; a Catch-All reason for buoyancy. Whichever, or whichever the combination of myriad factors, Up is better than Down for All of Us.

I was reading Mark’s EVO Newsletter this morning and I understand his reservation. For three reasons he feels the property market is up and sustainably so:

  • Low-interest rates have ignited affordability. 
  • Developers are up to the challenge of providing stock with a wide range of choice. 
  • The Banks are lending.

I think he’s right. These factors, especially the first and the last, are very important to sentiment and it only takes a few months in lockdown to spur getting into your own home. How sustainable is anyone’s guess, and I’m sure the arguments for and against will flourish, especially in hindsight, a year from now.

What can make this turn of events calm down? A hawkish approach by the SARB for one and then definitely rising Repo rates. But remember, that will only happen if the underlying economy is recovering, or better still, flying. Oh, for some of that! And the SARB is not going to want to switch that off unless the Inflation rate starts to raise an ugly head. My view on that is that prices are not going to jump too quickly in a world which is globally trying to recover and repay mounted debt – because we’ve all been in the same boat this year.

On the other hand, we have a measure called the S&P VIX. We’ve talked about it before and it’s just become one of the first things I watch in my dashboards. Quoting a senior person talking about 2020 in a meeting I’ve just ended, there is “a lot of volatility and a lot of moving parts.” Indeed, and I’m sure some of us have the experience of feeling like a “moving part”; kinda like watching a spin dryer or even feeling in it at times. These days, Certainty – that little bit of normality daily – sometimes goes out the window for a while.

So, what about the VIX?

It measures the volatility in the S&P stock market index. We know that it is really good [in a market traders view, possibly a little too good] when below 10. But it has risen close to 50 during the “collapse of everything” in April. At these levels, it is simply too much to bear and impossible to forecast while unemotionally, it measures a market in absolute volatility and even, as it felt then to us, in free-fall. But yesterday it was 23.39 and had weakened [red!] by 5.91% ie, by about 1.38 points.

On the one hand, it was measuring the upturn in the markets, but on the other as in any market, the prices continued to “jump around” as the post-election news waxed and waned. Whilst I believe Mr Trump was playing golf, it seems he did have time to launch more litigation and fire his Defence Secretary. The VIX is just picking all of that up through the market’s volatility. Still high, it is way down on covid highs and once the election settles down, it too may return to 12-15 again. We wait and see; only a very brave person calls such measures as the VIX. If you asked me what would stabilise it, I would say Mr Trump congratulating Biden on his win and another 90% efficacy vaccine being produced and distributed in 100’s of millions of doses.

But for now, it seems certain that we will continue to enjoy a buoyant market. As I’ll continue to remind us, make hay while the sun shines and for goodness sake, don’t miss the opportunity. Use every relationship you have to harvest everything the market has to offer and don’t languish. Think of it this way….everything you’ve ever done has got you to this point and now it’s your time for success and pay-back.

You have what it takes. Use it!

Yours in Property.


Welcome to Spring! Can already feel a change in the mood although, I must admit, Spring Day was a glorious snow and washout in our parts. No wonder the Cape has dams over 90% full and our own little version in the Valley is at 80% – the highest it has been since we arrived in 2014. It’s been a real Cape Winter and we’ve loved it. BUT, the whales = the tourists = little or none ☹

The picture of this blog is of an Arum lily in our garden. The Cape has millions of Arums this time of the year. This one was an import with the cycad under which it grows. Sometimes it’s so shady under there that it gets leaves but doesn’t manage a flower; just like the one on the other side of the cycad which, by my recollection, has never flowered. But normally out comes the Arum round about Spring Day and it flowers for almost two weeks before beginning to wilt. As with the flower, eventually, the entire plant wilts and disappears into the mulchy earth from whence it came; somehow gathering enough energy to repeat the process every year.

THE MORAL OF THE ARUM STORY: Admiring it in the last week or so from my veranda, it struck me that there are things to learn from this story. For instance, if it chooses, there is a time when it flowers… every year it makes that decision. Stuck in its shady mulch, it always gets leaves but if and when it flowers it pushes that bloom right out of the shade. Has lockdown been your shady mulch – kinda wet, muddy and miserable? Have you decided to go back to work grudgingly and just show enough presence to get by the day – maybe a little fearful to stick your head out, fearing infection, waiting to see what happens; “the worst is yet to come” you secretly think to yourself?

Or, have you stuck your head out with that beautiful face that is uniquely yours – enjoying the height, the sunlight and feeling of growth and the sense of success as the market has surprised you with its busy[i]ness? Imagine if you were still stuck in the shade of your own fears and troubles post-lockdown and you introverted to the point that you could not enjoy the property upswing that is so prevalent at this time? What would you have missed out on! Life’s experience brings learning and learning brings maturity and maturity brings the care and compassion to lift and encourage others. You see, when I look at that Arum lily, it speaks to me of latency coming alive. Determination exists in its DNA, comes alive, grows, and does not stop growing until its head is above the gloom and in the sunlight of every opportunity in its surroundings. What about you, and me?

As you know by now, I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to “the new normal”. I keep hearing that this pandemic and its lockdown will “change the way we live forever”. Having lived through sub-Prime, we came out and returned to one of the best economic periods in human history for all the debt that underpins it. I think that will happen again especially as a vaccine arrives and we have the conviction to get it. But, that said, I think there have been a few lessons that we have learned and may in fact, internalise. Here’s my thoughts:


We can live with less. We don’t have to go out for coffee every day. Jacobs, black or with milk [especially Woolies full-cream, long-life milk [that tastes like Ideal Milk], with or without sweeteners, sugar or honey, is really nice and even though the company didn’t change for about 8 weeks, it was a really nice coffee “outing” on the veranda. We can own less. One of our two flashy cars stayed clean for two months at least. Our day tripper went to Checkers and the vet and the licensing department and it did that for 3 months on one tank. And we were okay… no withdrawal symptoms. We can wear less. Our cupboards with 16 pairs of shoes, 8 suits, 12 jeans and 250 tops were never opened. We wore, washed, stored, and wore 4 sets of clothing for almost 3 months. Did we ever think all that was possible, clattering around in our four 2X2’s [our bed, bathroom, kitchen and lounge] that we could actually live and live well? I think covid has got many of us thinking and may bring some lasting change.


I haven’t flown to Joburg or travelled to Cape Town for 5 months. But I’ve had at least 20 meetings of one kind or another in between watching movies and reading books. All my emails are up to date and I’ve kept in touch with friends and family nationally and in England, Portugal and Australia on a consistent basis. I have been party to multi-million Rand transactions, covid-related contingencies, BBBEE transactions and fiduciary matters. I have facetimed my family and watched my grandson double his age in months. ALL OF IT by means of technology. Netflix, Takealot, Wi-Fi, multiple App’s, Zoom – all enablers of a new way of business and interaction. The point is, did I miss people? Of course! But, did I need to meet with people to live commercially? No! And no doubt, there are real exceptions like an associate who said it’s really hard to drive the acquisitions of new clients for his business over the phone. But for many of us, for many things, we have proven we can radically reduce our carbon footprint and come out on the other side alive and well thanks to technology.


Those who know me well, know that the state of our country is of great concern to me. However, in view of JP Landman’s last editorial, the best thing I heard signed off by our President a month-or-so ago was the authority for the interim “evidence” of the Zondo Commission to be used to initiate cases against alleged perpetrators of corruption. No waiting for two years, then another to consolidate the testimonies, and then the legal process; prosecutors can immediately commence. Excellent news needed to criminalise corruption good and proper. Allied to this, I will never understand why it took covid corruption to seemingly galvanise our President to “hang his and his party’s heads in shame” and commence with prosecuting covidpreneurs. Why didn’t State Capture, the parallel state as Pravin Gordhan termed it, dynamite the same response into action? I don’t know and won’t share my speculation, but what I do know is that PPE cashflow thieves and the international [IMF?] aggravation towards their theft from the Poor, somehow galvanised him into action. Thank Goodness! Since then the NEC has met and been managed, we hope, to allow the process to jail perpetrators. I don’t understand everything, but I sure hope I’m right that corruption has been dealt a death knell, no matter how slow the blow.


We now have our toes over the edge of the fiscal cliff. At 51%, that’s more than HALF[!] collapse of GDP in Q22020, we have junked and entered an economic depression, in 2020. Listening to a Senior Risk Analyst the other day, he spoke of the international fears of SA “going bust” if “radical reforms” are not implemented immediately, and the Debt Trap not being an “if but a “how deep” because, amongst other things, “in 2 years, government’s spending on interest will be 30% of budget.” To the point above, have the President and the ANC finally had enough of a wake-up call to bring us back from the abyss? Point is, without covid, we may have continually drifted into this mess merrily explaining it away; but with covid, we have been jolted by one million volts [obviously not delivered by Eskom ☺] of angst to do something about the crisis. We have to hope that what I’m tabling is true; this is no longer a game or conjecture but rather mission-critical for our beautiful, tortured country.

Covid has brought about change there is no doubt. From the very personal to the possible shift in the world’s balance of power, it has halted us in our tracks, and for many and varied reasons forced us to reassess our lives and futures. Against these backdrops, the Property news has been varied but enlightening.

From FNB’s Property Barometer of August 2020 titled, Buying activity resurging, supporting prices, the following extract:

Annual house price growth rebounded to 1.4% y/y in July, down from an upwardly revised 0.7% in June and 0.6% in May. We note, however, that April and May’s house price indices are based on significantly lower volumes of mortgage transactions, which affected the stability of our price index. Nevertheless, volumes have since normalised and the index stabilised.

The bounce back in prices reflects the unexpectedly rapid recovery in market activity since the easing of lockdown restrictions. Our initial expectations were for the pandemic to have a more chilling and lingering impact on activity, with pent-up demand filtering through only later this year. In contrast, the volume of new mortgage applications has rebounded beyond the pre-lockdown levels, and across the price spectrum.

We’re all wide-eyed with amazement!!

Of course, there is often a tale of two banks and in this regard, Standard Bank’s Property Research dated 7 August 2020, and titled, House Prices Still Plummeting, reports:

As pandemic conditions keep taking a toll

  • Growth in our inhouse Standard Bank House Price Index (HPI) was just 2.6% y/y in July, after 4.0% y/y in June. Residential property prices are expected to keep moderating, likely averaging 2.1% y/y this year (from 4.0% in 2019) as the pandemic puts pressure on employment and income. The cumulative 300bps interest rate cuts by the SARB since January and downtrading by property market participants, that under normal circumstances would have purchased large and/or luxury residential properties, should provide some support to small- and medium-sized residential property prices.

    First-time buyers in good credit standing with healthy balance sheets and confident about employment prospects will likely support entry-level and small-sized residential property price growth. Still, we’d foresee a contraction of 3.7% y/y in residential property prices next year, with the forecast risks high and the trajectory depending on the evolution of the pandemic and the pace of GDP and employment growth.

  • In July, mortgage applications increased across both freehold residential properties and sectional title properties, to the highest level since March 2019 but YTD applications were still 31% less than the same time last year. Applications approved were significantly lower in April during Level 5 lockdown but have since modestly improved as lockdown restrictions were eased, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels in both June and July. Applications were still concentrated amongst entry-level and small properties but the largest m/m increase in number of applications was recorded in small- and medium-sized properties.

Some of this is not easily understood but Standard Bank forecasts a drop in house prices next year and records the increase in mortgage applications because of lowered interest rates. We’ll take the latter good news and make hay while the sun shines.

In closing, we have traipsed around in this blog. But for good purpose, I hope you’ll see…

Momentum has a TV ad that asks a powerful question:

If you could start the year again, what would you do differently?

You can’t start the year again but you and I can start again today. Like the Arum seemingly caught up in its mulch, every year it grows leaves and some years it flowers. The flower always pushes out like its pride and joy. You and I have all the resources at our disposal, and we have decisions to make. Whether you just push on or really decide to push up, is in your hands.

Yours in Property.




Once again, JP Landman has produced an outstanding article. As a leading Political and Trend analyst, he traces the path of corruption, the fight against it, and what has been done so far. Obviously, the reason why we blog it is that corruption and the fight against it are the two sides of the property-value sword. The one degrades values as property slips lower in the face of the scourge of corruption. The other, the fight-back, if we can call it that at this early stage, lifts hope and spirits. Confidence raises property values.

What has been interesting to me with this article is that I read it as soon as it arrived. Then, most unusually, two people sent it to me expressing it as incredibly positive news. Against that, I have heard some cynics continue to say that it is unrealistically positive. As with the half-full/half-empty glass analogy, we will each have our own views. But we also have the ability to choose our response. I would rather see that something is moving in the right direction than have another News presenter tell me another tale of illicit covidtreneurship at the expense of the Poor.

Enjoy the read…

Corruption                              14 August 2020

There is palpable anger in the land about corruption. The anger is largely focused on what the ANC is doing and failing to do about the scourge. If we separate party and state, it is useful to look at the scoreboard of what the state has achieved so far in fighting corruption.

Critical State Institutions

President Ramaphosa, 10 months after coming into power, fired erstwhile South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner Tom Moyane in November 2018. Moyane fought mightily to keep his job, all the way to the Constitutional Court, who sent him away empty-handed. By May 2019 new Commissioner Edward Kieswetter was in office. Four senior SARS executives left in the next three months, bringing the total senior executive departures to seven. Now, a year later, SARS seems on its way back.

At the Public Investment Commission (PIC) no fewer than 17 board members and senior executives left in the nine months between June 2018 and April 2019. The Mpati Commission’s report was released in March. A special team under Judge Yvonne Mokgoro is now assisting the new board in implementing the recommendations of the Mpati Commission and a much stronger organisation is emerging. Some have already received summonses to repay money and I suspect more summonses will be issued.

Eskom retrieved R1 billion from McKinsey and R150 million from Deloitte. (Two Deloitte directors also resigned.) Eskom cancelled a coal contract of R3,7 billion with Tegeta, the erstwhile Gupta company, as well as a R14 billion oil supply agreement. Other contracts are being investigated. On 3 August Eskom and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) launched proceedings to recover R3,8 billion from 12 individuals, including the Guptas, a former minister, former senior executives and former board members. In its investigations at Eskom, the SIU notified the board of wrongdoers – some resigned before disciplinary hearings started. There are consequences, even if we don’t see orange overalls yet. (As an aside, 300 managers left Eskom with voluntary severance packages.)

At Transnet, a new board was put in place and 15 senior executives left over a period of 12 months. South China Rail has repaid R618 million; the two Transnet pension funds recovered R1,168 billion from Gupta entities; and assets worth R232 million from a former Gupta associate were frozen. Not all institutions were cleaned up as successfully. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) remains a mess and is now thankfully under administration. Gratifyingly, SARS attached some of former CEO Lucky Montana’s private properties.

The Land Bank had to be bailed out with R3,5 billion, but three people have been sent to jail for fraud at the bank – one for 20 years. Mercifully, South African Airways is on its way out (unless a benefactor appears) and SA Express is in liquidation. Denel also saw a clean-up and has a new and very competent board, but it can probably no longer be saved from the ravages of earlier corruption – the military procurement environment has changed too much.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)

A most critical institution for corruption is the NPA. A walk along the timeline of what has happened there since Ramaphosa became president is quite revealing. (I apologise for the detail, but it discloses a lot.)

In August 2018 Ramaphosa fired previous National Director Shaun Abrahams. (Like Moyane, Abrahams challenged his dismissal in court, but he too was eventually sent away empty-handed.)

In October 2018 Ramaphosa suspended the two deputy directors, advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi. As required by law, he appointed a commission to investigate the suitability of the two to hold office. Following the report, they were fired in April 2019. Like Moyane and Abrahams, Jiba challenged her dismissal in court. She threatened hellfire and brimstone, but eventually simply abandoned her case and went into oblivion. New permanent deputies have been appointed.

In February 2019, while these clean-up processes played out, Shamila Batohi assumed her position, having been recruited from The Hague.

Also in February, Ramaphosa announced in his state of the nation (Sona) speech that a special investigative unit would be created inside the NPA to prosecute state capture cases. The unit would combine prosecutorial and investigative capabilities like the Scorpions used to have. Ramaphosa promised that skills from ‘within government and the private sector’ (my emphasis) will be brought in. He also left the door open for ‘a more enduring (anti-corruption) solution’ to be developed.

The unit was gazetted in April, and in May 2019 Hermione Cronje was duly appointed from outside the NPA to head this new unit.

In September 2019 Ramaphosa returned to the NPA and revoked the appointment of five senior prosecutors who were promoted by Zuma just before he left office. Two accepted the reversal in their fortunes; three threatened to challenge it in court – of which only one has done so far. The director general in the Presidency revealed that Ramaphosa took this decision on the five prosecutors after consulting Wim Trengove SC. Clearly Ramaphosa does not just blunder in.

In October 2019 the Treasury allocated R38 million to get the special unit going; a further R25 million was allocated to appoint private sector practitioners to assist the NPA (there is Ramaphosa’s promise of ‘private sector skills’); and R102 million was allocated to fill vacancies at the NPA.

In February 2020, 800 posts at the NPA were advertised. More positions were advertised in August 2020.

In July 2020 the regulations on the Zondo Commission were changed to allow the NPA to use evidence from the commission in criminal prosecution as well as to use the services of people currently working for the commission. This was not possible under the commission’s previous regulations. One must remember that the Zondo regulations were promulgated by Zuma just before he left office; and it was a balancing act to protect people’s right to remain silent, but still get the stories out. That balancing act now favours the NPA.

In August 2020 the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC) has resolved that ‘government (must) urgently establish a permanent multidisciplinary agency to deal with all cases of white-collar crime, organised crime and corruption’. Later, Justice Minister Ronal Mamola confirmed ‘it is clear, the country needs a permanent structure’. This sounds much like Ramaphosa’s Sona speech of February 2019 where he left the door open ‘to develop a more enduring (anti-corruption) solution’. Looks like he knows where he wants to go and is playing the long game.

In the meantime, several investigative agencies have been pulled together in a ‘fusion centre’ to work on Covid-19 corruption, creating precisely the integration of skills and a more enduring capacity President Ramaphosa was looking for.


Sixteen months ago, in this column, I tried to temper expectations for quick prosecutions. I wrote that prosecutions will only happen in 2020. Legal processes take time, simple as that. How much time was again illustrated by an adjournment of the Zuma case to September to allow for documents to be exchanged between the two sides and for other preliminary matters to be concluded? If these matters are all cleared, a trial date can be set. In the meantime, Zuma has suffered a number of setbacks in various courts. As he is discovering, the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.

The Hawks are investigating 250 cases of municipal fraud of which 93 are already before the courts. More people will discover that the wheels of justice actually turn, if slowly.

In June 2020, nine suspects were arrested for the VBS Mutual Bank saga. They were granted bail and will appear on 8 October 2020. One of the nine has turned state witness, which should help to secure convictions. The danger of relying on proceedings at commissions, in books and by investigative journalists (undeniably useful as they are), were underlined this week when one of the prime suspects in the VBS case brought a successful application against the report of Advocate Terry Motau on the VBS scandal. The NPA has to build every case, piece by piece, with its own witnesses.

In the meantime, five of the nine VBS accused, including the former chair, chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief operations officer, were sequestrated and their assets seized to repay money to the bank. Two directors were declared delinquent and cannot be company directors again. Consequences are following even without jail sentences.

Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and Special Tribunal

The SIU is a division of the NPA with the mandate to investigate and recover public money through civil claims – it is not a prosecutorial body. Where the SIU comes across evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it is referred to the prosecutors at the NPA. (For example, it laid criminal charges against three companies in Gauteng and identified two senior officials as ‘enablers of corruption’ relating to Covid-19.)

Criminal prosecutions can still follow a successful civil claim. Criminal cases require ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ while civil claims require the less strenuous test of ‘on a balance of probabilities’ (as we are seeing with some of the VBS accused being both sequestrated and now also charged criminally).

To speed up civil litigation by the SIU, President Ramaphosa created a Special Tribunal to adjudicate in the civil proceedings the SIU brings against alleged wrongdoers. It became operational on 1 October 2019 and consists of eight judges under the chairmanship of Judge Thami Makhanya. Currently, 22 cases are before the tribunal. They include, among others, luxury car purchases, dodgy scholar transport claims and inflated government contracts.

In two cases the tribunal ruled that the pension of suspects be frozen, giving the SIU the opportunity to seize the money. (Resigning and running with one’s pension has just become more difficult.)

Over the weekend it became known that the Special Tribunal has seized the assets of a suspended Transnet executive, including a luxury home in Dairnfern, 2 farms and… 35 motor cars! Transnet was also prohibited from paying out any pension benefit to the executive. The SIU has R14,7 billion in cases ready that it wishes to submit to the tribunal.

Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU)

The AFU is an old division of the NPA and was established in President Mandela’s time. It is an old workhorse that was deliberately restrained in the Zuma era. It now seems to have a new lease of life. In the last reported year, it recovered nearly R2 billion from economic crimes against a mere R180 million the previous year. Over the five years to 2019, the AFU has recovered R11,8 billion in 2 707 cases. The AFU focuses on 10 specific crimes, including fraud, cash smuggling, human trafficking, counterfeit fraud and drug-related offences.

An example: in the current Covid-19 corruption saga the AFU seized a bank account two weeks ago with R700 000 siphoned off UIF money meant for underemployed workers.

So What?

  • As the timeline clearly shows, getting rid of people, replacing them with better ones, and building up institutions take time. 
  • A lot of action is being taken through civil proceedings (sequestration, asset seizure, and civil claims). This does not have the drama of orange overalls, but there are still consequences for the perpetrators and public money is being recovered. 
  • Progress has been made with some state-owned enterprises (certainly most of the big ones); however, most of the current Covid-19 corruption seems to take place at a provincial and local government level. 
  • One must distinguish between what the state is doing and what the ANC is doing or not doing. President Ramaphosa has clearly put the state on a new trajectory. It is important that the ANC now follows suit.


The above article, once again, attributed entirely to JP Landman

JP Landman
Political & Trend Analyst
jp landman


Many people are experts in property. I am not one of them. Real experts are multimillionaires with property portfolios that dazzle the eye. They have built them with seed capital, geared the investments to multiply the number of units and they have built sufficient equity in their portfolio of cash flows from their portfolio in order to withstand even pandemics.

I am not, nor have I been, at that level but I have owned buy-to-let and/or bought, built and sold enough properties to position some guidelines for investors. I will focus on residential but many of the aspects of investment transfer to commercial properties. I hope the following, in no precise order, adds some value for Homeloan Junction’s readers…



Buy-to-Let was novel as a concept in 2002 when I introduced it into Nedbank. I had been to the UK to research the investment with local lenders. The numbers were compelling and, coming off the back of low returns in retirement savings, many people were supplementing their income by buying “the house next door” for let. It was not small but rather a multi-billion UKP industry.

When you invest in property, you are tied to a fixed asset. Key to such investments are personal circumstances. You need to understand, and I believe write down for future reference, the reasons for investing this way. Where you live and want to live, what money you have for a deposit and for a rainy day, your affordability of what for most people would be a second mortgage, where you see the market for people who’d want to rent, and the time you have to manage the investment.

All of these questions plus some, need to be carefully understood and answered realistically.Bottom line to this is that you’re buying a fixed asset. Forget the notion that “if you get into trouble you’ll just sell the flat.” Property is not a unit trust or savings account; you cannot just sell it because you need to do so one morning. With the knowledge of your circumstances, you could think about approaching a bank for a bond once you have found a property.



Obviously, if you have cash, you can buy the property, find a tenant and be on your way. For the less fortunate, you need a deposit. My recommendation, against many pundits, advice, is 30%. It is good for bank approval to have some “skin in the game” or equity in the property but the main reason I see is that your bond will have a smaller payment in times of vacancy. As regards the bond, the banks like no more than 30% of your gross income payable on bonds.

They will permit a percentage of the expected rent to be included in your income but the old rule of 50% of that monthly payment is no longer simply applied. In addition to the bond, there are services and maintenance costs to add to your budget. [Talking about budgets, any businessman needs one for any investment].

These costs include:

  • Rates, Water and Refuse: I estimate that municipal costs are increasing by about 7% per annum compounded.
  • Levies: This cost, budgeted and apportioned by the Body Corporate, are rising at least 8% per year.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance responsibility is determined in your Lease agreement with the tenant, but you will have maintenance costs as the landlord.
  • Tenant Costs: The costs of entering and exiting a tenant should be considered.
  • Capital: You don’t need a global pandemic to tell you that you need some spare cash. Vacancies occur. My rule of thumb is 6 months’ rent in ready cash. You can sail much closer to the wind financially but getting bank approval for a bond on a second property is not that easy. 



Gearing is possible in property. It simply means putting in as little as possible in order to obtain a maximum return. Say you spend R1000000 on a property and you deposit R300000 and bond for R700000. Your rent per month is R10000.

In this case:

  1. Your loan-to-value ratio is 70% [R700000/R1000000].
  2. Your investment is R300000.
  3. Your return on investment is 40% [R10000x12/R300000].

Some investors see Gearing this way, but I never have been able to. Rather, I prefer the acid test calculation. If you don’t think you’ve signed up to invest R1000000, just skip a payment with the bank. You will quickly know that you owe them R700000 and, if you need to sell urgently, you risk some of your deposit as well.

So, if you agree, then the more conservative calculation for return on investment is: R10000x12/R1000000 = 12%.

In this thinking, you have also invested the R700000 but just decided to use the bank’s money to do so. But remember, whichever way you wish to see the investment, the 40% or the 12% is gross return and your costs, including vacancies, come off the return.

What I have done in these regards is requested the highest bond possible; in some cases, 100%. But I insist that it is an access bond. Then, I store the deposit and the rainy-day money in the bond for easy access if I need it. In this way, I hold a reserve and save interest equal to the bond’s interest and over time, that is a big saving.

You get tax relief on property investments. In general, costs are deductible from rental income. Some would, therefore, say my use of the access bond is conservative. But for all the years, I have had no overdraft and simply used the bond as such. Finally, a word on interest rates. Now, the rate is at historic, 40-year lows.

My old rule was to do the bond payment calculation at your rate + 2%. Right now, I would push that to +4%. The reason being that the SARB will increase rates to protect the economy against inflation and the Rand. The normal rules have been discarded within the crisis we have, but the minute we as consumers begin to buy again and inflation looms, the rates will go up. When, you may ask? My sense.. from this time next year slowly but surely.



So many rules apply to this. We have discussed the “fixedness” of the asset class. Right now, investment or primary property, prices are down 20 – 25% off 2019’s valuations. You cannot easily sell your property without a deep price discount. In fact, allied to this if you’re a Buyer, you should only deal with serious Sellers. If the price is too high in comparison to last year, walk away – you could be overpaying.

Then the Golden Rule [he who has the gold, sets the rule ] but not that one. Rather, Location, Location, Location. Where you buy the investment property depends on the kind of tenant you envisage. If normal working-class people, then proximity to schools, transport, shops etc become the driver of the decision. If, as many are doing, you’re investing for your retirement and want to let long-term while you work, make the decision of where you want to retire and buy in that location.

Two extremes of the same investment principle, but the essence is that you determine the target market of your tenants and then work back to the location of your investment property. The building itself is very important. If the sectional title, [which I see as a rule ie no standalone investment properties], then ensure the financial management of the complex is sound. The bank will ask for Body Corporate financials to confirm this but if you’re paying cash, do the investigation yourself.

Maintenance is a killer-cost so reserves, recency of painting, state of the gardens, etc need to be considered. “Needs a little TLC” is great but who is going to do it and at what cost to your return on investment?

Avoid lifts [their maintenance is very expensive] and ensure back-up power generators are in place or that the “special levy” has been collected and invested for the move to backup power. Finally, I have never found a “bargain”. You may, and I encourage you to keep your ears close to the ground. But for me, a good property in the right location at the right price is the foundation for a long-term investment.



My late friend used to say: “Trouble equals distance squared.” In other words, buy a property close enough to you to be able to respond quickly and easily. Living in Joburg with a burst geyser in Cape Town sets the scene for what he meant. However, I wish I’d invested more offshore. Nevermind the Rand depreciation, property in hard currency has provided very good returns over the last two decades.

At this stage, you are able to buy good management as well in places like Mauritius, England and Australia. This is taking care of administration, tenancy, rent collection, and maintenance. Once you’re in the position to do so, consider offshore. Some of the student rental complexes seem to offer affordable properties at a good return, for instance.



I appreciate estate agents. To begin with, they are professionally qualified to practice. They have access to sound legal advice from conveyancers when required and often know the complexes in which they sell very well. They understand property and how to buy it. Make them part of your network especially in the area in which you intend to invest. Their time is free, and a well-structured appointment will give you stacks of information as you research your investment. But you have to take personal responsibility; it’s your money!

Think carefully through your investment – how much, where, which tenants, what values, what rentals, what capital appreciation, comparative pricing, facilities, state of the body corporate, special levies etc? This information can be simply obtained but you need to ask for it. Your estate agent is not investing your money, You are. So, it’s up to you. A primary consideration, if you require the service, is rental collection and insurance – you may wish to only deal with an estate agency that facilitates this important function of your buy-to-let investment.

Investment in property is not for the gung-ho or light-hearted. Many an investor will tell you of poor or peaked returns after costs or bad tenants. If you don’t have the determination to manage your investment, rather buy a unit trust. In fact, for sad economic reasons, right now Property unit trusts are at very low prices and may have upside as the economy improves. At least there, your money is easily accessible and the properties are managed professionally for the best returns available.

HLJ provides Bond Calculators on their website Our staff can point you in the right direction probably with many an anecdote of their own property investments, though never as advice.

When it comes to your bond application specifically, our service is free to you and loaded with professionalism. Like any saving, the cost of delay is very high. So, start now, even if it’s just for the deposit on your new home.

Yours in Property.


Sometimes it’s good to look further than your borders to gain a completely different view. 

EstateAgentTODAY is a leading site in Britain jam-packed with up-to-date news, articles and trends. I tribute this article to them entirely. Published late last year, it was sent to me by a friend. It is quite direct but also immensely challenging to those of us who may be “caught up” in this time. Bearing in mind, times have changed dramatically and, as it was written in good times, it seemed all the more compelling a read for us.

But there’s another reason why I’m writing about Britain’s property market; a sample of One, in fact. My friend moved about 3 months ago and had the idea, in terms of his Visa requirements and in order to supplement their income, to buy a guesthouse. They have investigated possibilities for a year and a half now and set off on 7 July 2020, as permitted by lockdown relaxations, to view 9 guesthouses in the south of England.

The problem, we might say, is who invests in a guesthouse in a time when no one is going on holiday or travelling for business? Well, my friend has, and he saved himself UKP55000 on the price and UKP15000 on Stamp Duty [UK’s transfer duty], making a total of R1500000 saving. The latter boon is a gift to UK Property from the government which uplifted Stamp Duty until March 2021, to encourage sales. He and his wife take occupation of their 5-star guesthouse in Torquay, Devon in September.

The point for me is this:

  • 9 guesthouses were viewed
  • 3 estate agents were involved in the viewings
  • 1 won and she had 3 viewings lined up in total.

So, in the midst of a crisis just like ours, 3 estate agents had a one-in-9 shot at a sale. The price was correctly discounted, and with all the risks and strangeness of a new country, a sale was made. Indeed, as the article says, “You eat what you kill.”

We trust you enjoy the challenging read…

The problem with estate agents is: Whinge. Moan. Lead quality. Crap market. Decision procrastination. Fee pressure. Bloody competitors. Especially Purplebricks. Brexit, of course, Brexit.

These are just some of the ‘reasons’ that UK estate agents give as explanations for their lack of listing performance. In morning meetings all across the country, an army of ‘LAOs’ (Listing Avoidance Officers) sing in unison: “The leads are rubbish. And no-one is making decisions.” The Royal Wedding, holidays, Christmas – the opportunities for side-stepping success are plentiful. And not forgetting the weather. Too hot. Too cold. Snow. Storms. The wrong kind of rain? Blah blah.

In my 35 years in sales, most of it in estate agency, these excuses have been nothing but consistent across multiple salespeople in numerous businesses and several sectors. Sound familiar? It’s as if mediocrity and apathy are somehow excused by such lamenting. If the excuse is good enough, you’ll slip off the hook and survive another month. And if your other sales team colleagues can be persuaded to employ similar abdication, too, then that helps a lot. Safety in numbers and all that.

Yet, every time I picked up the phone or saw a potential customer face-to-face, each opportunity to do business seemed rather more proper. And when I dug into the sales team’s call stats and pulled a few recordings and listened in, more often than not I noted the following issues:

  • No customer qualification
  • No USPs mentioned
  • No questions asked
  • No close attempted
  • No contact details taken for follow up

So-called weak leads dismissed as ‘not a real lead’ in order to not dilute conversion rates. No wonder. No wonder ‘the leads are crap’ when salespeople, very often, don’t treat leads as, well, leads. And in a business where millions are spent on marketing and portal costs, with the resulting CPL (cost per lead) up there in the hundreds of pounds, that’s sacrilege. Around a third of portal, leads aren’t even opened or responded to by agencies. Yet about half of buyer enquiries have a property to sell. Madness. And yet we moan that the portals are ‘too expensive’. Think about that again for a second. Yes, way too expensive if you don’t capitalise on them properly.

In other markets such as the US, agents don’t squander leads. Hell, they don’t really rely on ad-derived inbound leads much at all. In Australia, an agent there told me that two-thirds of his leads were self-generated. Indeed, every person they know and every person *they* know is a potential customer. Every home on the market in their area is a lead. Every past valuation appraisal is a lead. Every Facebook friend. Every LinkedIn contact. Every neighbour. Every viewer. Referrals and recommendations. And so on. And the fact is, all of these opportunities are free. CPA zero.

UK estate agents are lazy. There, I said it. In the main, they take orders but rarely prospect. They’re not salespeople they’re passive recipients – sat under big, expensive trees waiting for the fruit to drop, nicely ripened, directly into their soft, comfortable, complacent laps. I’ve written and spoken much about the unsustainable cost to an industry of big branch-based networks. The evidence is there for all to see. But our culture of goal-hanging for easy-win leads, waiting for those customers that offer themselves up with a pen in hand desperate to sign your sole agency agreement – that’s not a viable acquisition strategy either.

‘You eat what you kill’ is the mantra of the world’s hungriest, fittest salespeople. Go out, find it and drag it back to feast on. Rather than waiting for an elderly specimen to wander into camp and die of natural causes right in front of you. That’s a sure way for your family to starve. But that’s what UK agents do. Estate agency is changing. The unit economics dictate such. But not only will the fittest and the most pro-active survive, they’ll prosper too whilst the weak and the apathetic die out.

Great White or Dodo? Choose one. But if you continue to choose the latter, remember it was your choice. It is simply left to say, What about the Originators and Conveyancers? I guess exactly the same sales and relationship principles apply.


Yours in Property.


Hi Everyone!

It’s probably 5 weeks since my last blog. It was titled Resilience and, as is so often the case, writing about something we all have but also something that we need to be reminded of from time to time, left me at a loss. Indeed, I found that a difficult blog to research and write and it took some doing for me. The next few weeks flew by and we experienced why they call this place the Cape of Storms. We’ve had two storms of a ferocity that we have not seen or felt in almost 6 years of being here. Eucalyptus trees uprooted, houses demolished, near misses of cars and homes as trees crushed into them and 270mm of rain this year thus far compared with 320mm in total last year.

No wonder the Cape of Storms has another name, the Cape of Good Hope. Life’s like that sometimes, hey? On the one hand, its storms and on the other like sitting here this morning in glorious, quiet sunlight [getting my vitamin D like the doctor said], its cause for hope and positivity. If you’ve seen the recent videos of Seapoint’s promenade battered by 10m waves and rivers of foam, you can imagine the early sailors arriving here terrified by the storms they had endured and then filled with hope as they moored in Table Bay in the lee of the Mountain. Little did they know it would become a landmark and one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World. We get to have it as part of our beautiful, tortured country.

In recent times, we have experienced a reduction in rates akin to the 1970’s and an inflation below the bottom of the SARB’s target range at 2%. In addition, and may I say unlike the sub-Prime crisis, the banks have stayed open for business. They are saying “Yes” to loan applications and that is adding to the “time to buy” that many people are experiencing.

If you have more than 10 years’ experience in the property industry, you have never lived through a time like this. I’m over-60 and been in financial services just about all of my working life, and I have never experienced anything like this. Despite global growth projected to reverse to -3% this year from +3% last year, our own growth from +0.5% to -6% this year and our unemployment increasing from 10 to 13m, we seem to have a buoyancy in our sales. I’m thrilled for every worker in this great industry who may, even tentatively, agree.

I have a few thoughts to offer some insight into this phenomenon:

  1. It could be as simple as a rebound from a long period of inactivity.
  2. It could be that people have done the sums at a 7.25% Prime and found bonds affordable for them.
  3. It could be that house prices have reduced significantly for two reasons. Firstly, there are desperate sales taking place in a scramble for cashflow. Secondly, realism over some time has resulted in house prices dropping in favour of buyers. There is a last niche issue and that is that people have finally decided to emigrate and they’re selling at their best price.

If I’m right on the first point, little did we expect that and grateful we are. No doubt. As regards the second, the SARB’s decision to drop the rate as a monetary tool was out of realisation that they must do so. One of the great learnings from sub-Prime was that the financial institutions must act early and decisively. Worldwide they did, and it worked; even to the seeming delight of the markets that have recovered on a whim of economic revival and any rumour of a vaccine. The last point above is probably correct because any reduction in price over time has been met with an increase in sales. What has really impressed me though is the speed with which a heightened level of confidence has returned. I look forward to banks’ research as to why this has happened.

All the above is based on solid feedback that the mortgage business, the real estate business and conveyancing has become busy again. The middle sector is still active in the lower end of market prices but compared to some of the negative press a while ago, we’ll take any good level of activity. I hear in Hermanus [read: along the coast] there has been a renewed interest in buying, however, the issue is that people still have to sell their current homes and that’s where the reality stalemates. Nevertheless, people want to buy, and others want to sell so we’ll take that!

A last point is that the Deeds offices are backlogged. There are millions of Rands of reggies locked up in their inability to fully staff and then stay open. I hope the floodgates open for so many cash-strapped businesses.

Homeloan Junction has been operating virtually but practically at full capacity throughout. In its belief that clients come first, service may have been difficult at times but nonetheless, it has been as good as it gets. Like you, we have endured and survived; grateful that the damage has been contained. We are faithful that it will continue and now just need the banks to regain their confidence and improve approval ratios. That may sound cheap talk, but their confidence means jobs are returning into the economy and everyone is a net-gainer.

How we appreciate you and your support! We depend on it for success and never underestimate all the effort you have put into our business. We trust you feel the same about us and what we have been able to deliver in these trying times.

So, to our title for this blog…

Our role? Twofold:

  • To continue to be the best estate agent, originator and conveyancer in your area. Trusted, competent and enthusiastic.
  • And, to encourage anyone who has allowed these times to dent their emotions. Be there, lift them and trade in hope for them.

Finally, I have not mentioned covid, corona, pandemic, etc in this blog. You could say I have avoided them like the plague but that may sound a bit corny ☺. How we hope that we quickly peak and begin the process to normality, however “new” that may be.

Yours in Property.


We have many Factors.

Factors that contribute to things both good and bad, mathematical factors, a Factor Market in economics and the X-factor, that “extra” in extraordinary that help make people like Simon Cowell more famous along with his panellists and participants. But now we have the R-factor. To the best of my knowledge, it was coined in the British escapade against corona. It may also be an epidemiological [another word I have learnt to spell during lockdown] term. However, it has been used to represent the rate of growth of infections. Thus, >1, we are adding infections to yesterday’s number. At 1, we are remaining equal in the number of infections. At <1, we are reducing the number of infections daily.

So, if I look at #EskomSePush at 2 June 2020, I can see at 34,357 cases, an increase of 1,674 overnight, our R-factor is >1. By the way, it was amazingly clever to me that this little voluntary App, when it knew Eskom would be able to supply electricity when no big users were requiring it, switched over to the covid statistics in graphical form, so that we would continue to use the site as a GoTo while loadshedding was postponed.

But I want to use the “R” for something else. Last time I wrote about Contentment in lockdown. This time I want to explore Resilience, and its  Resilience-Factor which we’ll term, the R2-factorMy curiosity with this force is that I have observed and experienced many peoples’ ebb and flow with their own resilience in recent times.  I want to encourage us as I write.

Resilience is defined as: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It comes from the Latin word resiliens which translates: “to rebound, recoil.

In turn, Capacity is defined as: The ability or power to do or understand something.

In other words, Resilience could be expressed as: The ability or power to recover quickly from difficulties.

Amit Sood, MD, puts it in a way I really like: “Resilience is the core strength you use to lift the load of life.

The initial definition seems to represent a capacity to and a speed of, recovery. My experience is that the R2-factor is a process and not a jump. It is a learned process which becomes a capacity at different levels for each of us in different situations. My sense as I watch it work out in peoples’ lives is that for some it is so mature and empowering that it has become a natural part of their character and, as a trait, becomes their ability to recover as quickly as possible from adversity of many kinds… in focus right now is Lockdown, and perhaps covid itself for some of us.

I believe it is what Nelson Mandela was talking about when he writes:

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Let’s peel an onion as we explore the R2-factor. The layers are:

Physical: All those years ago, watching Bruce Fordyce in the early morning winning the Comrades Marathon many times is imprinted on my memory. I tried my own marathon, the inaugural Nashua Marathon, in 1984. Still, with an occasional ache in my right thigh, my estimation of Bruce took on tangible admiration! Over and over, the commentator spoke about Bruce’s determination, his focus, his guts and his strategic competitiveness to win. If we just stopped here, you’d get the picture of the R2-factor in physical form.

Emotional: I have recently watched a family suffer the grief of losing a son and brother to a heart attack. I have watched them descend into grief and mourning with all the emotion that goes with it occasion by occasion. The emotion is often as visible as Physical resilience as it cuts etches in the faces of the grieving. I know, I was one of them. But I have also watched the R2-factor come into play and the same people come to grips with their pain felt for a loved one. Slowly but surely, they have each “lifted the load of life” to full capacity; pained but not broken.

Mental: If you’ve ever written an exam, accepted criticism from your boss, absorbed correction gracefully when you were wrongfully accused, or borne the pain of depression and rallied only to lapse back again – some normal life occurrences for many of us – then you have experienced the R2-factor. Sometimes this is a very personal and even invisible [to others] journey and other times you “wear your heart on your sleeve” and others notice “you’re down.” Voices pulsate in your mind and we know the prefrontal cortex becomes hectic to the point of headaches as we slash away at one thought after another like Attenborough through a jungle. Then, for reasons we will consider below, the mist begins to lift, the rationalisations take root and we begin to rebound from our crazy thoughts. Resilience may be evident on our face and in our posture, but it occurred invisibly in our mind.

Spiritual: If you read about Resilience, few people enter this space. Religion is out of bounds for political correctness. However, I cannot ignore that many of us have beliefs beyond ourselves. Our R2-factor is inextricably tied to our belief in God. But let’s not fool ourselves, as we have been saturated by corona in overloaded news both true and fake and seasoned by conspiracies, we may have experienced a crisis of faith at times. Nicky Gumble of Alpha fame, has  messages on YouTube entitled: Coronavirus: Where are you God?/Is there any hope?/God can you hear us?/Faith not fear. Surely, he has prepared these messages because he saw the need in the questions people asked him and he resolved to encourage Resilience.

The onion peeled, I come back to the pervading thought in my Contentment blog: Resilience, like character, is often refined in a crucible. Adversity, like we’re experiencing in this unprecedented way, can be the yeast of our R2-factor. In an excellent article by Faisal Hoque, a contributor to HuffPost, he says, “Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like bamboo instead of breaking.” He continues, “I had to learn the art of resiliency to survive and then thrive.” Resilience is not like skipping – you’re up and down but always trying to avoid the sting of the rope. Rather, it’s like climbing a mountain one step at a time and at the top, enjoying the view.

I have often posed the question, Are you thriving or surviving? Or, it’s the latest version, Are you isolating or hibernating?

So, how do we develop the R2-factor?

Pages of theory abound but thank goodness, most of us have some resilience embedded in us to cope with what life throws our way. Shania Twain says, “Life unravels the way it does, and it has an effect on you, but you have to take responsibility for dealing with it.” Frankly, if you’ve coped with Subprime and got this far with covid, you’re already strong!

But here are some thoughts to increase our R2-factor:

Embrace Adversity

This always sounds so trite, so cliched. Our first response to adversity, which normally has an element of surprise anyway, is shock and horror. This can’t be happening…to me…this way…OhhMG! If I therefore have a point, and I’m implying that by making this the Number One builder of Resilience muscles, then you have to deal with the adversity with speed or, at least acknowledge it, as “here to stay”. I’d put to you that the speed with which you embrace adversity is a key indicator of your R2-factor. In fact, most of what I relate below is actually premised on the assumption that first and foremost, we have to embrace sudden change.

Control Everything and Nothing

To be more resilient:


Stop. Doing what you’re doing. Is this matter in or out of your control? Control is that little matter that we all have that makes us feel proudly powerful. Let’s say the Oil price went up from $30 to $80, could you control that? At the moment it is creeping back up, probably a function of reduced supplies and the sense that the pandemic is moving off the list of global threats; did I control that? Of course not!

Think. Get over your shock and patiently think. Face the disruption head-on.

Act. Take one step in the direction of your uncertainty. Let me put this one incredibly simply. Last week I heard the fuel price was going to rise. Before I knew how much and when, I took my car out to fill up; R270 for a ¼ tank but at the cheapest price at which I’ll see Diesel for years. One step… you don’t need to know the future to enter it with circumspection.

Allied to this matter is Julian Rotter’s concept of Locus of Control. Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience — i.e., they have an internal locus of control. This internal locus allows us to create options and scenarios based on experience, the situation, and foresight. It allows us to create alternative plans in anticipation of, or amid adversity. An external Locus of Control simply means we bend with the storm. Circumstances hold our fate and we are incapable of influencing the opposition or its consequences. We sadly may become victims of our fate.

Mary O’Neill reminds us, “Who has not first tried to get out of a tough situation before truly dealing with it?”

Remember Past Successes

Little beats good experience. Did you survive subprime? Then I have confidence in you to survive covid. Success in dealing life builds flexibility and confidence. “If I could do it then, I can do it now”, I hear you say quietly but with a sense of the competence and skills it will take. In you lies GOLD – the resourcefulness, perseverance and willpower that it takes to grit your teeth and be resilient. You lean into the wind spurred by the knowledge that you may not have all the information, but you do have the scars. Success has been defined as: The ability to endure pain. If you’ve watched the recent RMB-sponsored SA Olympic Rowing team, you will understand this is not an exaggeration. A story of courage…on YouTube.

Sensitize Your Expectations

“Perfect” is great. “Enough” often suffices. I think that one of the secrets of thriving is not striving. Per Ardua Ad Astra, my school motto, has a ring to it. After all, By hard work, to the stars is a wonderful expectation. But hard work and obsession with perfection, are two different things. I’m sure in the recent SpaceEx launch, Elon Musk must have had a sense of such achievement as the two astronauts took off, flew for 19 hours and then safely docked with the ISS.

Awesome! But so often unless we set those kind of expectations and then pull them off, we become despondent and incapacitated. Elon Musk has been trying for decades to do what he has just done and wants to inhabit Mars in his lifetime. He may still. But he has tried and failed and disappointed more shareholders repeatedly than many other global CEO’s. 

I’m not suggesting you give up or lower your standards. But I am saying that you need to be sensitive to the unrealistic. Instead of motivating, un-realism can cripple the enterprise that lies within you. Just be sensitive and be kind – to others and to yourself. Remember the saying, Laugh at yourself? Just have one on you; it’s okay.

Look True North

There is a space and a direction to which each of us aspire. Be Yourself and live your dreams is really cute, but it implies that in your journey to the place you decide, with the values you espouse, with the mistakes and successes you manage, you keep looking forward and up. True North is scientific, but it was used by Stephen Covey in his books to be the niche of time, direction and integrity you decide for yourself. It is not self-centred; it is self-generated. It incorporates others from the closest to the furthest of the reach and range of your life. But when you find your True North, no other direction makes long-term sense for you. For some, like Elon, it is space exploration and Tesla to boot. For others it is being a good mother to your children and husband to your wife.

Live with Destiny

What is it that pulses in your veins? What gets you up and going in the morning? What points you at and through a problem? What causes you to celebrate with humility on the other side? What has driven you to put in a hard day’s work this lockdown even though your boss cannot watch you? What makes you better today, even though you may feel you failed dismally yesterday? Then, what makes you confident that SA will survive this pandemic? What makes you be part of that solution? What news do you listen to that encourages you to believe and go on intentionally?

Destiny and it’s bedfellows, Meaning and Purpose, is what does that for you and I. They make the difference between “have to” and “want to”. They lift your eyes, your innate sense of wholeness, wellness, and hope to press on. You see, Resilience comes from within. Whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual resilience, the R2-factor always has its genesis within you. Others may support but ultimately the power of how you react, what language you use, what you choose to do and for what reason, lies within you. Nothing like a sense of Destiny, creating monuments you may never see, drives you to look at and look through adversity. My level of R2-factor will always and only be in proportion to my sense of meaning in and to the world.

Harness Support

No man is an island, the saying goes. You don’t need lots of friends and family to feel supported. You may know many people, but you only need a few to really know you so that you have support. After the inner spirit of the Destiny above, why this need for others’ support? Because, if we have lived, we know there are times we need a friend. I’m not going to say more than this…to my dear Family and Friends, how grateful I am that you are there and that in the busyness of your life you make the time to know me. Patiently you listen, kindly you often speak, and always you encourage and motivate me. You are a huge part of my R2-factor.

The R2-factor – in Conclusion

There is so much more to say about our new-found factor, the R2-factor of Resilience. Perhaps Arthur Lynch captures its simplicity in these words:

The future seems a little gloomy! Go to bed early, sleep well, eat moderately at breakfast; the future looks brighter. The world’s outlook may not have changed, but our capacity for dealing with it has. Happiness, or unhappiness, depends to some extent on external conditions, but also, and in most cases chiefly, on our own physical and mental powers. Some people would be discontented in Paradise, others… are cheerful in a graveyard.

In my research for this blog, I came across a questionnaire about Resilience. You may find it interesting to complete for yourself…

A survey conducted by Everyday Health, in partnership with The Ohio State University, found that 83 percent of Americans believe they have high levels of emotional and mental resilience. In reality, only 57 percent scored as resilient. – 

It feels to me like lockdown is making way for normality. There is a huge amount of opening up and then hard work to recover completely. Many pundits put “years” to that timeline. Subprime did take 2 years [2008-2009] to reach the bottom, then 2 years [2010-2011] to recover but, from 2012 to Q12020, the developed world enjoyed significant prosperity across many countries even though the scars of some were still apparent going into covid.

We must believe that we will find our R2-factor as a nation. We will recover.

I finish with two quotes:

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Haruki Murakami

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat.
Nelson Mandela

Yours in Property