Peter Bruce, veteran South African newspaper editor and commentator, interviews the country's social and political leaders and experts in a weekly effort to explain what is actually going on in this complicated country. Bruce's interviews are about making events easy to understand for people with little time to listen.
Scrapping for Steel
Doron Barnes has been fighting for steel for as long as he can remember. When he and his dad were running Barnes Fencing two decades ago he was fighting Arcelor Mittal for steel rod to make wire from. Now he’s the owner and boss of Scaw Metals, one of South Africa’s biggest steel suppliers, and he’s still fighting his corner. This time he’s taken on the scrap metals industry and, as he did with Mittal back then, he’s won again as the government puts a raft of regulations in place to keep quality scrap in the country and to clamp down on exports. Some might argue state regulation distorts the market but Barnes isn’t phased. He melts his own steel in arc furnaces and as far as the scrap industry is concerned, he’s just doing what he has to do.
Paper Cuts from the Pink ‘Un
Podcasts from the Edge this week sees Peter Bruce talk to former Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber about his new book “The Powerful and the Damned — Private Diaries in Turbulent Times” now widely available in South Africa. The two talk about life in a newsprint newsroom, going full speed for digital subscriptions, the prospect of Donald Trump returning in four year’s time and what it feels like to talk to Vladimir Putin (its creepy). Barber was FT editor for 14 years and, always, only one thing matters. “I want to win,” he says of his everyday driving passion. “I’m more competitive than the Springboks.”
Speaking truth on power
The government may be looking at procuring nuclear power and the electricity regulator may just have stopped Eskom from buying in power from eight private sector generators. But that’s just life in South African power generation. UCT’s Prof Anton Eberhard tells Peter Bruce in this fascinating episode of Podcasts From the Edge that he remains quietly confident that the government, distracted and stretched though it might be, will indeed meet the independent power targets it has set itself in it Integrated Resource Plan. With Australia now installing 1 000MW-plus batteries, Eberhard also flags rapidly developing battery technology as a potential game changer in the South African power sector. Until then, gas-filled ships feeding onshore turbines could also help and when they’re no longer needed why, they could just float off somewhere else.
The IMF can’t help SA. We don’t need dollars!
In this episode of Podcasts from the Edge, Former National Treasury Budget Officer director Prof Michael Sachs tells Peter Bruce he doesn’t expect Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to announce tax increases in the budget later this month. Not in the middle of a crisis and not with a resumption in private sector investment the last hope for growth still standing. And because our debt is rand denominated ours is not going to be a classic developing country fiscal crisis. We are not Argentina and we don’t need dollars and the IMF can’t really help. “It is going to be messy,” says Sachs, if we end up having to have crisis negotiations amongst ourselves.
Are we crazy enough to think we can change South Africa?
Listen to author, former newspaper editor and thinker Songezo Zibi talk to Peter Bruce about how to find the political space in South Africa to get us thinking constructively about the future. “Everybody I know is having the same conversation about change,” Zibi says. But how does it start? When? And who starts it and what does it end up looking like? A fascinating exchange with with one of South Africa’s most entertaining public intellectuals.
Heavy Metal Blues
Why would trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel slip through a massive 15% import duty on aluminium sheet products in the very last government gazette of 2020? Is it because the state is the biggest shareholder in Hulamin, our only producer of aluminium sheet products and can’t compete? Why is industrial policy happening behind closed doors? It seems inevitable that if you take price pressure off local producers by protecting them from imports, then prices in South Africa will rise. Peter Bruce asks international metals trader and Hulamin shareholder Volke Shütter and the answers are brilliant….