Neighbourly Notes – 21 January 2021

SHARP ON QUALITY: Barry Hartley presents some of his finely crafted knives at the popular Bathurst Farmers Market. Picture: BRYAN SMITH

IT’S day 301 of the lockdown that, when first announced, was just a 21-day precaution. Now, ten months later, and with SA in a second wave of infections, it seems the national lockdown is unlikely to end anytime soon. The mutated variant, designated 501Y.V2, is apparently 50% more contagious than previous variants but no more fatal. SA has seen an increase in fatalities, but also a proportionally greater increase in recoveries. The issue of SA having missed the boat when it placed its orders for vaccines will mean lockdown will not be lifted until vaccines are generally available to the public and have been rolled out to a sufficient number of people. SA can only claim delivery of 1.5 million vaccine doses by the end of February, with 1 million doses delivered in January. The Covax facility (EU/France and WHO-driven initiative to get vaccines to all parts of the world) will only begin delivery of vaccines by the second quarter of this year. SA, unlike other countries in the world, decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach and missed out on ordering any vaccine directly from manufacturers and only began negotiations once its error was realised. Yet, while the lockdown continues, businesses and livelihoods are being lost daily. It could be well into the last half of the year before enough people are vaccinated to create “herd immunity”.

ANOTHER disturbing facet of this year is the government’s inability to control power generation at Eskom. Perhaps we are expected to applaud when Stage 2 loadshedding is cancelled for the rest of the week? Yet the threat of up to Stage 8 remains at the back of people’s minds. Loadshedding will collapse SA’s economy far faster than Covid-19. Once one of the five largest electrical utility companies in the world, over the last 20 years Eskom has seen a continuous change in its board members, with no positive results being produced. The board at Eskom is made up of political appointees where there is a need for technically competent engineers to be in charge, as it was pre-1994. The government seems completely clueless and are not experts in power generation. Are they prepared to bring the country to its knees because they might upset some by bringing in renewable energy? If Eskom fails completely, the country will be plunged into darkness, our investors will pull out (some already have) and then there will be no jobs for anyone.

SA must invest in renewables, train our youth and become world leaders in the field as, without doubt, the world needs renewables. Even if Eskom performed a miracle and had everything back in order by the end of the week (which it obviously is unable to do), would we want to put all our eggs into that particular basket once again?

AT the time of going to press, the US inauguration of President Joe Biden is taking place. This is a presidential inauguration unlike any other, with combat-ready soldiers patrolling Pennsylvania Avenue and most people only able to view proceedings remotely via social media and TV broadcasts. An interesting fact is that though Biden will be the 46th president, he will not be the 46th person assuming the role. There have been a further 44 individuals who have acted in that position over the years though not inaugurated. Yet, Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms and is therefore regarded as the 22nd and 24th US president. So Biden is the 45th inaugurated individual, even if he is the 46th president.

HAPPY birthday and all the best for the year ahead to everyone celebrating a birthday this week, especially Pat Clough, Pieter Ehlers, Twiggs Britz, Chulumanco Siyolo, Brendan Bessinger, Claudia Blumrick, Sylvia Avery, Cheryl Cock, Robin Collett, Anthony de Bruin, Daphne Stott, Raymond Pearson, Shirley Oliver, Derek Blair, James Pote, Lorraine Mitchell, Adrian Mouton, Daniel Hilpert, Logan Strydom, Ros Clayton, Nerissa von Pletzen, Warrick Beetge, Eric Garner, Anthony Katz, Gary du Randt, Bruce Coates, Mike Brown, Louise Wiggett, Helene Taylor, Karen Elliott, Belinda Botha, Lindy Heny, Tracy Painting, Clair Wepener, Sas Pringle, Leon du Plessis, Beryl Goddard, Candice Larkin, Cecil Jones-Phillipson, Peter Keeton, Warwick Strachan, Sia Pieterse, David Krige and Steven van Rooyen.

FURTHER success and good luck for the future to all businesses and organisations celebrating an anniversary – congratulations to Salon Florence, Hi-Tec (Coastal) Security, Gary Grapentin’s East Cape Shotokan-Ryu Karate, First PA Sea Scouts/Cubs and Albany Vintage Car Museum.

INTERNATIONAL markets are still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, while stability and a return to some form of normality looks to be in the far distance. Today, currencies shift based on the efficiency and efficacy of a country’s vaccine roll-out plans, which is an indication of a country’s readiness and preparedness to resume participation in the global financial market. SA’s lack of vaccines means our rollout plans are more a wish list than a reality, and this has investors nervous. SAB has already removed a large portion of its business overseas and curtailed its R2.5bn expansion plans in SA; other companies are also planning or are in the process of doing the same. This will destabilise the local markets and does not bode well for future prosperity. With last year’s figures in brackets to compare against, the Rand was trading at R15.01 (R14.48) to the dollar, R20.42 (R18.90) to the Pound and R18.90 (R16.05) to the Euro. Gold was trading at $1,842.80 ($1,557.26), Platinum at $1,102.00 ($932.42) and Brent Crude was $55.10 ($64.23).

SPECIAL thoughts and prayers are with all who are not well, having or have already had tests, operations and treatments. Sterkte Roy Potter, Andrew de Vries, Jenny Groenewald, Jan Haig and Lesley Stevenson.

SINCERE condolences to the family and friends of John Kenny who passed away peacefully at home in Bathurst on Tuesday January 12. May joyful memories of times spent together carry you through this sad time.

WE extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Anthony David Lawson Mann, who passed away on Tuesday January 12 at home in Port Alfred. A formal wake and scattering of ashes will be announced in due course.

SO sorry to hear of the passing of Willem Karel Smuts who unexpectedly died over the weekend. Our thoughts are with his wife Izel, as well his family and friends.

BRAVO and best wishes for many more happy years ahead to everyone celebrating an anniversary, especially Warwick and Lindy Heny, Brian and Megan Wright, Gavin and Delene Deenik, Rob and Ann McKay, and Gerrie and Pat Bosch.

THOUGHT for the week: “The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

BEST regards as always,
The Team

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