While there may well be arguments to be had as to whether the empowerment movement has gone far enough or has been broad-based enough, there’s no doubt that it has had some notable successes in opening up the commanding heights of the economy to the formerly excluded.
What is particularly appealing about a structure like African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI), apart from the formidable quantity of box-ticking in its very name, is that in a gloriously new SA fashion it is open to everybody who wants a slice. You could be a ginger Celt with a face full of freckles and a warning from your dermatologist not to venture out in the midday sun, but you could still roll up and buy shares and benefit from the access to deal flow that comes from AEEI’s empowerment status.
Of course it is a subsidiary of the Sekunjalo group, so you would run the risk of having your eight hours of tired nature’s sweet restorer interrupted by visions of Dr Iqbal Survé approaching you with a cheesy grin and a lightly-oiled speculum — but it may still be worth a dabble.
AEEI has fired on all cylinders in the year to end-August, reporting strong contributions from all its underlying operations and investments.
It’s an interesting grab bag of interests ranging from fishing and food to technology, events and tourism, and the portfolio appears to have been put together opportunistically rather than with an underlying focus. But in the current economic climate it’s no mean feat to have gathered a disparate group of interests that are all making progress.
Woe is the rand, the scorecard for the vim and vigour of the beloved country’s economy. If you take a ruler to its performance against the US dollar and ignore a particularly vicious spike at the end of 2015, it’s been on a fairly straight line of decline since 2011, a period in which it has halved in value.
This is excellent news for tourists, who are more prone than ever to burst out laughing when presented with the bill for an excellent meal, and for miners, for whom it acts as a cushion against tumbling commodity prices.
Conspiracy theorists might suggest that the volatility was excellent news for any canny traders with advanced warning of when one of our great political overlords was going to do something particularly idiotic. If you got the shorts on at the right time you could make yourself a considerable fortune faster than you could say "Des van Rooyen for finance minister."
But the real problem is that once the notion of inevitable decline gets into the national psyche, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Anybody with a bit of spare loot shovels it offshore as fast as possible, businesses are reluctant to commit to investment, and youngsters start to look to more stable environments in which to commit to their working lives.
With rumblings of discontent becoming ever more apparent across all areas of society, this is a time when real leadership is needed — preferably from somebody who is able to make it through an entire budget speech without succumbing to the need for 40 winks.
It’s time for a change.
If you got the shorts on at the right time you could make yourself a fortune faster than you could say "Des van Rooyen for finance minister"