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The devil and the deep, blue sea

That's the choice facing South Africans, if UCT academic Anthony Butler's assessment of the political environment in SA is to be believed (read article below this one.) And it sounds pretty solid to me.

According to him SA will sit with either a Mbeki-like government headed by Zuma, or a socialist-like government, headed by a Cosatu-nominated figurehead next March.

Your first reaction will be to say: So, what's so bad about that? I'll take a Mbeki-like government for another four years, anytime. It went OK under Mbeki the past 8 years. Why not another four?

That's the point. It didn't work under Mbeki. Under his leadership politics got radicalised and destabilised to the point where ANC member stabs ANC member, mobs kill refugees and (very importantly) the choice of political leadership is between two radical outfits.

South Africa won't be a happy, stable place for long after March 2009, if a Mbeki-like government got another four-year run. Problem is: It also won't be a happy place, if a Cosatu-like government took over.

That's why I say: South Africans are left with a choice between two troubled futures.

Read the Butler article and then decide for yourself who is the devil and who the deep, blue sea.
17.6.08 14:32


The Far South?

The Financial Times Deutschland (since the beginning of this year not connected to the Financial Times published in the UK any longer) had an interesting statistic this morning.

It quoted Robert Kappel, president of the GIGA Institute in Hamburg, as saying "more than 1 million Chinese are today working in Africa south of the Sahara".

"They are there with 2- to 3-year labour contracts and many start small businesses afterwards, and don't go back," he said.

To bring this number into perspective: The first Europeans came to Southern Africa about 350 years ago; over the centuries their number grew to between 4 and 5 million (at the end of the 20th century) and today roughly 3 million live in South Africa (add about 70,000 for Zim and 100,000 for Namibia).
19.6.08 09:50

Naspers' German excursion threatens to derail

In January the consortium Mobile 3.0 (of which Naspers is a member) was allocated the sole rights to launch and operate mobile TV in Germany, but bureaucratic red tape and market developments have prevented the venture from getting off the ground as planned. Now there is talk the consortium might hand its licence back to the German government and walk away.

This was reported in the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) this morning. Mobile 3.0 ( is a joint venture between MFD Mobiles Fernsehen Deutschland ( and NEVA Media. Naspers is the majority owner of MFD.

Here is a (quick) translation of the article as it appeared:

Time runs out for Mobile 3.0

By Volker Müller in Düsseldorf

No frequencies, no sales channel and no business model – the second attempt to introduce mobile phone TV in Germany is facing failure.

Four of the sixteen provinces in Germany have still not allocated sending frequencies and the licence holder Mobile 3.0 is making no progress in its negotiations with local TV stations. In addition, no sales channel has been found yet. Inside sources say the chances that mobile TV will be launched by the first quarter of 2009 have dropped below 50%.

Originally, it was planned to have mobile TV (based on DVB-H technology) up and running in Germany by the time the European Football Championships started (early in June this year). To enable that, the provincial media association allocated the mobile TV licence to Mobile 3.0 already in January this year.

The consortium consists of German media houses Burda and Georg von Holtzbrinck and the South African media group Naspers. The allocation of frequencies by the provinces has, however, been delayed and until today Bremen, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia have not allocated anything. Due to the continuing delays, it is possible that the licence might be handed back.

With every further delay, the chances for commercial success get smaller, say experts. Especially the free reception of the normal TV signals (DVB-T) by ever-stronger mobile phones, holds serious dangers for Mobile 3.0. Due to the fast-rising power of mobile phone chips at ever lower energy-use, mobile TV on the basis of DVB-H faces redundancy. The first phones are already in operation, which can receive the DVB-T signal.

“For almost all technology there is a window of three to seven years for market success,” said Philipp Humm, German head of the network operator T-Mobile. The first attempt to get mobile TV going in Germany was already made two years ago. That means the critical border for the technology has almost been reached.

According to lobbyists the German government is very annoyed by the delays in the four provinces. The national minister for the economy Michael Glos, is said to be especially disappointed. In March 2007 he publicly called mobile TV Germany's “new market and growth engine” and appealed to companies to utilise the opportunities offered. In January this year all was still on course for licences and frequencies to be allocated in time for the European Football Championship.

There is also no clarity about the business model of Mobile 3.0, the sales channel and the additional services to be deployed. “We are still developing our products and sales strategy,” a spokesman of the consortium said.

The search for a suitable model is, however, complicated. “All studies show the willingness of clients to pay for such a service to be low, especially for the simple reproduction of normal TV. Five euro is probably the most that can be charged,” said Arndt Rautenberg of the consulting firm OC&C Strategy. Profits are only to be made when paid-for extras can be found.

Only 17% of mobile clients would use mobile TV, according to a study of the consulting firm Accenture. “Mobile TV will come, but it will only be a niche product,” said Accenture head Nikolaus Mohr. That was also the experience of other countries. In Italy the Hutchison subsidiary “3” only managed to sign up half a million users for its mobile TV service in the first 18 months. In the UK the company BT Movio took its product off the market after a year.

The sales channel question also gives Mobile 3.0 a massive headache. It has not had discussions with the local mobile network operations yet and without the sales support of T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 no success can be expected, said sector experts. These four net operators bring the majority of all new phones on the market. They would, however, not subsidise TV phones without a cut of the income.

A consortium insider fears the worse: "If no clear business plan is on the desk by the third quarter of this year, there will be huge pressure from Berlin on Mobile 3.0 and the four provinces.” The licence might then even be handed back.
20.6.08 10:58

Coronation to manage unique African equity fund launched in Germany

South Africa's Coronation Fund Managers got big coverage in the Financial Times Deutschland today, with a 600-word article about its involvement in the new Wallberg African All Stars equity fund, launched in Germany recently as the first "daily liquid" equity fund investing in all African countries.

Here the first part of the article as it appeared. I'll translate the rest of the article upon request. (Drop me an e-mail at address: manager(at)

Africa in a single fund

By Martin Diekmann

The Austrian multi-manager investment house Wallberg Kapital launched the first "daily liquid" equity fund investing in all countries on the African continent on the German market.

The fund, called Wallberg African All Stars, is managed by Peter Leger of Coronation Fund Managers, a 15-year old South African asset management firm with 150 employees in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and the UK and $19 billion under management.

The force behind Wallberg Kapital is Thorsten Schrieber, ex-operations chief of Jens Ehrhardt. Schrieber established Wallberg Kapital at the beginning of this year and only issue multi-manager funds, ie. funds supervised by external managers. The fund African All Stars is Wallberg Kapital’s 12th product.

end of quote.
23.6.08 09:47

The madness of two seats of power

How much longer can South Africa stay calm with two seats of power? That's the big question now...

The situation in Zim has the potential to bring the Mbeki/Zuma "Machtkampf" to a head. Just look at this:

This morning the German national business newspaper Handelsblatt carried a big story on how South Africa, Russia and China (..."Zimbabwe's biggest trading parters...") prevented the UN Security Council from officially condemning Robert Mugabe and making him personally and directly responsible for the political chaos in Zimbabwe.

According to the Handelsblatt, pressure "from especially South Africa yesterday brought the Security Council to revise a first draft of an official statement" (removing the references to Mugabe), and to opt for still more Mbeki-style soft diplomacy.

And then one reads this on the Reuters website (published almost at the same time):

"South African ruling party leader Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday the situation in Zimbabwe was out of control and called for urgent intervention by the United Nations and the regional SADC grouping.

"The situation in Zimbabwe has gone out of hand, out of control... We cannot agree with what (the ruling) ZANU-PF is doing at this point in time," Zuma said at an investment conference."

So, where does SA stand on the issue? Should it do what Zuma suggests, or what Mbeki suggests? How much longer can this "two-seats-of-power" situation go on, before the supporters of the two camps start to "kill for their respective leaders", as a young leader suggested last week.

How irresponsible can two political leaders be towards their country?
24.6.08 11:45

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