THERE is no doubting the fact that enfant terrible Julius Malema is an opportunist, looking for any chance to remain relevant in SA and, more importantly, influence who becomes the next president of the African National Congress (ANC) and, in turn, the country.
So his call for a nationwide strike until National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni and the rest of the union’s leadership step down with immediate effect should be seen in this light.
The irresponsible comments are meant to increase tensions in the mining sector and put more pressure on the country’s leaders, and, importantly, keep his name in the papers. The point is that Malema matters and, as an expelled member of the ANC, is untouchable.
While the president and his allies look at ways to silence the noise surrounding the country’s bread basket, a considerable amount of damage continues to be done to SA Incorporated. The damage caused by dirty and dangerous politics in the platinum fields across the country, which seems to be spreading to other minerals sectors, may last much longer than the political careers of the entire ANC leadership and Malema himself.
Lonmin yesterday warned of a "significant" threat of job losses due to the month-long illegal strike. A conservative estimate is that the company, which has had funding problems since 2008, is losing $4m a day because of the unplanned closure of operations.
While the country looks for a breakthrough in the dispute — as labour, the government and the company seek a solution to the problem in the sector — there cannot be any encouragement from the Congress of South African Trade Union’s (Cosatu’s) statement in response to Malema’s taunts.
The trade union federation urges "workers not to allow themselves to be used as a political football, to remain united and strong and to focus their anger on their real enemy, the mining bosses".
There’s no winning here is there? Both Malema and Cosatu are looking to keep emotions high — when emotions actually need to be removed from this crisis.
MARKET sentiment has swung from hopes the US Federal Reserve (Fed) will embark on another round of stimulus, to the absolute misery that in the end the central bank may not embark on a third round of quantitative easing.
Economic data from the US has been bad enough to warrant intervention and has not impressed enough to take the possibility off the table.
The Fed first used quantitative easing as a means of encouraging growth in late 2008.
But for some, last week’s employment data from the world’s biggest economy may just be the push the US Federal Open Market Committee needs to look at the measure to improve the country’s job market ahead of presidential elections in November.
One of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s main tasks is to ensure the economy is creating jobs.
The most recent economic data confirmed that it is still an unhealthy job market. The US created just 96,000 jobs last month — below expectations and less than that which is needed to keep up with population growth, according to a government report.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from 8.3% — but only as a result of many job seekers abandoning the labour market.
Markets have been rallying on the view that central banks have the capacity and will to promote a better environment for growth.
The JSE has maintained its upward trajectory, emerging market currencies such as the rand have strengthened considerably over the past few weeks. Gold has moved past the $1,700/oz mark and held firmly above it.
On the assumption that the Fed announces more quantitative easing tomorrow, and assures the market that rates will remain low for an extended period, the question has to be asked: just how much further can risk appetite go?
That’s especially true for the rand due to lower commodity prices and yesterday’s shock second quarter current account deficit, equivalent to 6,4% of gross domestic product. The market was expecting a deficit of 4,8%.
"Without sufficient capital inflows, the rand will come under increasing pressure," said Stanlib economist Kevin Lings. "The deterioration in the current account is certainly not conducive to a cut in interest rates next week."
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