Impending numismatic bonanza as South African Reserve Bank prepares to release new series of Banknotes featuring Nelson Mandela

Earlier this year the South African Reserve Bank announced that the President, Jacob Zuma, would be making an announcement on the 11th of February. No further details were released about the annoucement. Since the date fell on a Saturday there was considerable speculation about the nature of the event which resulted in some panic by investors which in turn led to the Rand devalueing by 2%.

There was some relief when it was announced that the Reserve Bank would be introducing an entirely new series of banknotes which would all feature Nelson Mandela on the obverse. This new series will not stray away from the existing “big five” theme as the reverse of the banknotes will all keep their respective wild animal portraits as currently found on the current series in circulation.

The South African Reserve Bank has set the date of release as Tuesday, the 6th of November 2012. The release date also co-incides with the US general election – an event which could possibly take some press exposure from the new series’ release.

The trade in South African banknotes has always been eclipsed by the trade in coins – especially circulation coins featuring Nelson Mandela. These very coins have seen stratospheric rises in value. Is the Reserve Bank trying to claw back some of this Madiba magic by the introduction of this new series? What is for certain is that every South African is guaranteed to get a piece of Mandela in their change and that the new series will be an instant hit amongst collectors and non-collectors alike.

Geely South Africa: When is a 5-star rating a bad thing?

Geely recently re-entered the South African car market. They currently have three models on offer: The Geely MK Hatch, Sedan and the LC Mini Hatch. Let’s focus on the LC Mini hatch or the Panda (as it’s called in other markets).

The common perception amongst most car buyers is that the large majority of Chinese imports in South Africa are poor copies of well known brands. The LC Mini hatch however, is being touted as the first Chinese car which has been wholly developed and designed in China – with a 5-star safety rating by C-NCAP.

The car’s design looks quite unique – apart of the rear end – which looks very similar to the Toyota Aygo/Peugeot 107/Citroen C1.

That safety rating – quite amazing don’t you think? Could this be the ground breaking vehicle that starts the turn around in Chinese build quality? Well, let’s take a look at the agency that awarded the Geely LC Mini hatch with this sought after 5-star rating.

It’s called C-NCAP – so surely the name implies that it is affiliated with the famous Euro NCAP agency? Not so. C-NCAP is an abbreviation for Chinese New Car Assessment Program. It was formed in 2006 and has tested over 100 cars to date. Then, why don’t other independent car reviewers carry more information regarding C-NCAP test results? The answer is simple: C-NCAP is controversial and untrustworthy.

Lets take a look at a recent report by China Auto Web:

(1) The program is non-authoritative due to insufficient recognition and participation. Although its organizer, CATARC, is a government-affiliated institute, C-NCAP is not based on, and does not represent, a wide consensus on vehicle safety issues between the government, industry and consumers. To a large degree, it is not operated in an open way. And as acknowledged below, the standards it puts forward are not “official or industry standards”–nor are they intended to be, but rules controlled by a business-like organization, that is, the CATARC.

Thus said Li Weijing, head of C-NCAP’s Administration Department:

“The standards [for vehicle safety] we formulate are not official standards (from the government) or industry standards. You can say they are standards from a company–that is, rules and procedures set by our center (CATARC), which can be regarded as a business. As we are the maker of the rules, we are the dominant and leading factor.”

(2) The program lacks neutrality and fairness due to its for-profit activities. Receiving no direct funding from the government, it has to come up with the money to smash cars through skillful means (it sells not only a car magazine but new cars itself). According to its supervisors, CATARC pays about 80% the program’s running cost, which reached millions of US dollars each year, while automakers cover the rest (they pay big to buy smashed models and data of the tests, among other things, from C-NCAP). For those automakers who choose to pay for the crash tests of their own models, the program routinely selects as test cars models of top trim levels, which come with more safety features, even if those models are rare on the market.

Can money buy more stars? The readers can judge for themselves from the following statement made in a highly frank–also puzzling–way by the chief of CATARC, Zhao Hang.

“In a market economy, there cannot be any “third party” in an absolute sense, or an enterprise that is not for-profit. We, in the auto industry, is to serve the members of that industry. And I feel it is totally normal to charge a little for our service. If this can be described as for-profit, if the served and serving can be described by such a relation of profit, then we are all in that relation. We do not charge for anything other than service, or favor any particular company we serve.”

(3) Compared with NCAP tests in other parts of the world, the tests C-NCAP carries out are often insufficient, less strict, and based on compromised requirements. C-NCAP administers three tests: frontal of 100% and 40% overlap and side impact, omitting pedestrian protection, rear impact, and side impact pole tests. And it usually crashes cars at a lower speed than other NCAPs, opting for 50km/h in the frontal test–compared with 64km/h in Europe, Australia and Latin America, and 56km/h in the US.

What’s more, a model can get credits for many extra-test factors, such as how many airbags it has, whether the seatbelt reminders are installed, and the way it gives out these extra credits often seems non-consistent and arbitrary.

(4) Currently most Chinese consumers, which the C-NCAP is supposed to serve, do not trust it. Even the state television, CCTV, made a special program casting doubts on its validity. According to a poll conducted by sina.com.cn, the most frequented Chinese internet portal, 72% of the over 4,000 people asked say they do not think the program’s crash tests are fair; only 6% think they are.

Low-key Starbucks entry into South Africa


The world famous Starbucks coffee chain has entered the South African market – a move which will please many South African fans of the famous brand.

It’s technically not an official entry into the market, since Emperica Marketing, a South African company, will only be offering Starbucks Coffee Foodservice – not licensed stores. This move is most likely due to the high licensing costs and capital requirements associated with licensed stores.

If you want to sample the world famous taste, your in for a bit of a trek: Starbucks Coffee will initially only be offered at 7 locations throughout South Africa. Various Southern Sun Hotels and Tsogo Sun Gaming venues have been selected as part of the initial rollout.

South African Post Office website suffers from an extreme case of downtime, lack of effective management

I can report that the South African Post Office website, http://www.postoffice.co.za, has been suffering from an intermittent hosting and connection issues since January 2010.

Many customers who use the website to track parcels and letters have been left stranded since mid January, with no other option other than to call the call centre or visit a branch in person.

The popular consumer complaint website, HelloPeter.com, has received more than 600 complaints about the Post Office in the last 12 months. Many complaints relate to the failure of the Post Office website.

Closer investigation reveals that the website has an expired security certificate. The website issues are especially unfortunate for the Post Office, since it has been attempting to rid itself of the common perception amongst South Africans that it is inept, inefficient and corrupt.

Numerous attempts to establish the exact reason for the failure have been met with the “we are investigating” response.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has been contacted for comment but no response has been received to-date.

South African Competition Commission launches enquiry into SAA and BA after price fixing allegations ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup

The South African Competition Commission has launched an enquiry into allegations of price fixing by South African Airways, British Airways/Comair, 1Time, SA Airlink, SA Express and Mango. The enquiry comes after a barrage of complaints to the Presidential Hotline from consumers.
It has also been reported that SAA has approached the commission with information that implicates other airlines – in exchange for leniency. SAA has been previously found guilty of price fixing in 2006.
An industry insider has revealed that, although this is a step in the right direction, the Commission will most likely not have any effect until after the World Cup.
During the run up to the FIFA Final draw in December 2009, domestic and international airfares increased dramatically.
It was widely reported that this was due to the “block-booking” or reservation of seats by the respective football teams – since the exact locations of their matches were not known.
The public initially expressed concern about the increases, but were led to believe that the prices would normalise after the final draw – since the various teams would be able to plan their accommodation accordingly.
Well, roll on the January 2010. The draw has come and gone and the cost of domestic and international flights has remained at the high levels. A flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town (2 hour flight) has increased by up to 80 per cent.
Sue Botes, British Airways commercial manager in South Africa, says that their flights are not overpriced and that travellers wishing to travel to South Africa during the World Cup will not be charged more than their peak season prices. A quick search on various price comparison websites reveals that an economy return flight from London to Cape Town during July will set you back up to £1500 – therefore representing a increase of more than 50 per cent on the average peak season fare.
The general perception amongst South Africans is that the World Cup will somewhat offset the effects of the recessionary economy, but many sectors have already expressed concern about the high cost of travelling to South Africa. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, remarked recently during a radio interview that the price hikes were a barrier for foreign fans wanting to visit South Africa during the World Cup.

South African Competition Commission launches enquiry into SAA and BA after price fixing allegations ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
The South African Competition Commission has launched an enquiry into allegations of price fixing by South African Airways, British Airways/Comair, 1Time, SA Airlink, SA Express and Mango. The enquiry comes after a barrage of complaints to the Presidential Hotline from consumers.It has also been reported that SAA has approached the commission with information that implicates other airlines – in exchange for leniency. SAA has been previously found guilty of price fixing in 2006.
An industry insider has revealed that, although this is a step in the right direction, the Commission will most likely not have any effect until after the World Cup.
During the run up to the FIFA Final draw in December 2009, domestic and international airfares increased dramatically.It was widely reported that this was due to the “block-booking” or reservation of seats by the respective football teams – since the exact locations of their matches were not known.The public initially expressed concern about the increases, but were led to believe that the prices would normalise after the final draw – since the various teams would be able to plan their accommodation accordingly.
Well, roll on the January 2010. The draw has come and gone and the cost of domestic and international flights has remained at the high levels. A flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town (2 hour flight) has increased by up to 80 per cent.
Sue Botes, British Airways commercial manager in South Africa, says that their flights are not overpriced and that travellers wishing to travel to South Africa during the World Cup will not be charged more than their peak season prices. A quick search on various price comparison websites reveals that an economy return flight from London to Cape Town during July will set you back up to £1500 – therefore representing a increase of more than 50 per cent on the average peak season fare.
The general perception amongst South Africans is that the World Cup will somewhat offset the effects of the recessionary economy, but many sectors have already expressed concern about the high cost of travelling to South Africa. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, remarked recently during a radio interview that the price hikes were a barrier for foreign fans wanting to visit South Africa during the World Cup.

“If the fish is in oil, fry it”

This wonderful expression has it’s roots in South Asia – possibly Bangladesh but I’m not entirely sure of it’s exact origins. It’s similar to the expression, “Make hay while the sun shines”.
It refers to a situation whereby somebody wilfully exploits a captive audience or person.
A: “My customer is desperate for my product – and I’m the only supplier in the region.
B: “Well, why don’t you increase your prices? –  if the fish is in oil, fry it”

“Paint me black and call me Sophie”

“Paint me black and call me Sophie” is a phrase commonly used in popular culture in South Africa. It can be interpreted as derogatory, but its use is usually in jest. The origins of this phase are unknown.

It would usually be used by a Caucasian as an expression of disgust after being assigned with a menial task usually associated with a casual labourer. Since a large percentage of casual labourers in South Africa are non-white (due to legacy and social reasons), the term “paint me black” refers to directly to this. Sophie is also a common name amongst the population but this can be substituted for another name without loosing the meaning.