ONE wonders how many billions are blown away every year on conferences where leaders gather to debate issues, many of which are self-evidently important but not susceptible to resolution at conferences.
There are, for example, meetings of the climate crazies at exotic locations around the world where a great deal of hot air is produced with no tangible result.
Now 2,500 of the glitterati are dispersing to their home countries after a five-day bash organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF), at the expensive Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Our own singing, dancing and philandering Jacob Zuma was in attendance, along with the usual suspects such as Pravin Gordhan, Trevor Manuel, Rob Davies, Edna Molewa, Ebrahim Patel, Susan Shabangu, Dipuo Peters and Mildred Oliphant, as well as assorted hangers-on.
Good grief, I’d hate to see the hotel bill for that lot. And then there would be the limos, slap-up meals, security and booze — not to mention the fancy private jet gleaming in the sky as it wings its way back over the smoking remains of Zamdela township, scene of our most recent riots, with its pitiful shacks and rutted pathways.
Madam Shabangu, our mining minister, no doubt had a fun time in Davos talking up investment in our country, having just threatened Anglo American Platinum with commercial injury because it has been forced by circumstances beyond its control, the slumping demand for platinum, to mothball some of its shafts and lay off workers.
And as my esteemed colleague David Gleason correctly points out in Business Day, the hysterical Shabangu had nothing to say about Denel, a state entity, laying off 500 engineers, a direct result of the cancellation of a contract by the South African National Defence Force.
But then again, logic is not a strong point among our ANC elite, as is reflected in this Zuma comment as he left for Davos: “I think there is policy (sic), particularly as the ruling party has just come out of a conference. There has (sic) been some activities in the mining sector but even that has been contained ... we are conveying a message that South Africa still stands as a country with more certainty if you want to invest.”
Also in attendance at Davos was our own Oscar winner, the lovely Charlize Theron, to be honoured for her work in the struggle against HIV/Aids. Perhaps she and our president might have discussed his post-coital quick-shower approach to assist in avoiding that dreaded virus. Perhaps not.
Zuma represented the African Union at the WEF to push, probably in vain, for help with the continent’s ailing infrastructure. And, as he and his team depart Davos, his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will launch the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
One could build a career attending conferences.
Klaus Schwab, founder of the WEF, based his forum on the notion that business must be about more than just making profits. Those running businesses, he averred, must also consider stakeholders such as the community. This is also known as feeling good about doing good with other people’s money.
This is what happens when executives make charitable donations with company money. This is not normally what executives are employed to do, but the lure is irresistible.
Better perhaps to build shareholder wealth and then leave it to the shareholders to give it away if they see fit.
The themes of Schwab’s forums are instructive. Last year it was: “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models”. What?
And this year’s was even worse: “Resilient Dynamism”. Ugh!
And for this delegates pay fat attendance fees. Of course, rubbing shoulders with Zuma might be worth something although not as much, of course, as rubbing shoulders with Charlize.
* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times
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