Podcasts from the Edge

TIMESLIVE PODCASTS  |  Podcast , ±35 min episodes every 1 week, 2 days  | 
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.

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The day the TV went black

Arguably the most storied foreign correspondent still working in newspapers, the UK Sunday Times' chief foreign correspondent, Christina Lamb, talks to Peter Bruce in this exclusive interview from Kabul. Journalist and author, Lamb knows Afghanistan intimately, having covered the story for 33 years, from back when the Soviets occupied it. She describes how eerie the country she knows so well has suddenly become. There are no women on the streets and the Taliban are everywhere, long-haired and some even wearing make-up. For her friends in Kabul it is another story. She knows a rapper who changes houses now all the time. One friend describes the arrival of the Taliban as being "like the television suddenly switching off in the middle of a show". The pair also talk about what Lamb is sure is an increasing use my militaries around the world of the rape of woman as a weapon of war. It it in fact a war crime, Lamb reminds us, but the people who negotiate the ends of wars are almost always men.

Why Duferco is just walking away

Ludovico Sanges is MD of Duferco, one of the biggest producers of galvanised and coated steel products in South Africa. The corrugated iron on your roof could easily have been milled at its plant in Saldanha. Durferco is also easily one of the biggest employers on the West Coast. But the company and its MD have been caught sup in the government increasingly erratic attempts to protect the single primary steelmaker, Arcelor Mittal, from steel imports and one of the biggest users of scrap, Scaw Metals, from a shortage of scrap. So exports of scrap are to all intents and purposes impossible now. Two years ago they earned the country R6bn. Duferco’s response to the inevitable price increases that accompany import duties has been to opt out of the local market altogether. It means it can import duty free from wherever it wants (there’s plenty of steel around) and then export it. Sanges says it has saved his business, which one way or another feeds 1000 souls. Listen to him talk to Peter Bruce in this edition of Podcasts from the Edge. At the end he reveals he asked ITAC the department of trade, industry and competition’s trade regulator, a year ago if it would consider giving Duferco a rebate on the 10% duty it would have to pay to import and sell its product in the SA market — where it is highly rated and where it would introduce more price competition. He still has not had an answer. If he was allowed the rebate it would lower domestic prices and he could hire back the 50 people he let go last year and put 100 truck drivers back on the road. (The sound quality is not the best; apologies)

Does “intervention” work?

Peter Bruce talks to former UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Nicholas ‘Fink’ Haysom in this edition of Podcasts From the Edge. Is it worth the effort trying to build democracy in countries that have never experienced it?Haysom reminds us that for the Taliban, the power to govern comes from above, not below, but he remains convinced the effort is worthwhile. Now UN Special Representative in South Sudan, Haysom learns that failed states aren’t always the poorest. The poorer you are, the less there is to go wrong. The most complex your economy and your structures the more vulnerable you might be to state failure.He doesn’t say so but a nod, perhaps, to South Africa?

How to tame a bad spy

With South Africa’s intelligence services found grotesquely wanting before and during the looting and destruction of July President Cyril Ramaphosa has removed the minister of intelligence and not replaced her at all. Instead, the agencies, domestic and foreign, will report into the presidency itself. That’s led some people to argue this is Cyril Ramaphosa empowering himself. But that may not be the case. In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge former spy, diplomat and head of the South African Secret Service, Moe Shaik, tells Peter Bruce that Ramaphosa has returned to the original intent in 1994 when the intelligence services were run by a co-ordinator, Joe Nhlanhla. The idea was always that they reported to the presidency. Ramaphosa, reckons Shaik, is doing absolutely the right thing.

Why is clean energy just so, well, exhausting

If you’re about to buy a new car do you stay with petrol or do the environmentally right thing and go electric? On the face of it not the most complex of decisions, except that the electric car you’re buying now might be obsolete sooner than you think if proponents of hydrogen fuel cell power get their way. Hydrogen is so cool and the only by-product of of a 100 km drag race in a hydrogen powered car might be a litre of water — what comes out of the exhaust is H2O. Listen in to this edition of Podcasts from the Edge as Peter Bruce gets an education from auto industry writer and consultant Alexander Parker on with to do with his Toyota Hilux.

What eye? What needle?

If there is a rational centre to South African politics, DA leader John Steenhuisen want his party to be in the middle of it. He sees our politics changing inevitably, as the ANC’s loss of coherence and unity becomes more clear. What he can’t be sure of, he tells Peter Bruce in this latest edition of Podcasts from the Edge, is what the end looks like, perhaps especially after the violence and insurrections of the past few weeks. Steenhusisen has lost his Chief Whip voice and, in the process, found his leader voice. It may be beginning to suit him. With the DAs normally accurate polling showing the ANC losing its national and metropolitan majorities, listen as he and Bruce walk through the possibilities opened up by a future of coalitions, pacts and deals.

When the Lions go, where does SA rugby go?

In many ways, UK Sunday Times rugby writer Stuart Barnes tells Peter Bruce in this latest edition of his Podcasts from the Edge, “professional rugby is going to break apart the greatest rivalry in rugby history — South Africa and New Zealand.” Listen as Barnes, a former Bath, England and British & Irish Lions fly-half describes how four local franchises — the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions — walk away from Super Rugby to join the United Rugby Championship, where they will play team for Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy. Not from England! Not from France.! What on earth is going on? Will the Munster faithful fill a stadium to watch their team play the visiting Stormers? Unlikely, says Barnes. But there’s a bigger goal here perhaps. once you have the European Six Nations joined by South Africa, how long is it before New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Japan join them for a continuous globals season of test rugby?

Flying lessons with Minister Pravin Gordhan

From South African Airways to Eskom’s transition from coal and private investment in South African harbours, the political noise surrounding any meaningful movement or reform in South Africa’s political economy can often drown out the facts, or at least that facts the reformers say they see. Listen in as Peter Bruce talks to Public Enterprises Minister and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan about his satisfaction with the process underway to effectively privatise SAA, big hints around the introduction of private capital into South African harbours, where it has never been allowed, and political support, says, the minister, “at the highest level” for Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter despite regular publics attacks on his person. Sure, Eskom will make some future investments in gas and maybe even a little nuclear. But the leap into renewables and battery storage will be “phenomenal”.

Big job — saving Johannesburg

There’s no denying Johannesburg has seen better days. It is dirty and broken and now the centre of a Covid-19 firestorm as the Delta variant runs through South Africa’s financial hub. But don’t underestimate Johannesburg’s resilience and deep love for it that much of its population has. Listen here to Peter Bruce talking to Shawn Theunissen, freshly-appointed President of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He’s the face of business that the local government, such as it is, talks to. Almost everything about Johannesburg is up in the air ahead of local government elections later this year and while the new JCCI boss is careful to call even the most daunting problems “challenges” he has a clear sense of community and purpose that may make a real difference. Maybe.

Who’s been a bad boy then?

How come China gets to be vastly corrupt and grow so strong at the same time? Why can’t we do that in South Africa? Is their corruption better than ours? Actually, it may be. Peter Bruce talks to leading economic historian Keith Breckenridge about a new book that studies the nature of corruption across 15 economies in an attempt to explain why corruption in China has not damaged growth the way it has here. The answer in the book, says Breckenridge, is that Chinese officials are incentivised to be corrupt and to cut corners that make things happen. It’s just bizarre….

Will we ever cotton on?

As Ebrahim Patel ploughs on, recasting South African industry in his own image, good news stories on the ground are hard to find and one of the minister of trade, industry and competition’s frequently used weapons in his drive to promote localisation and import substitution, the Industrial Development Corporation, reported losses of R3.8bn last year. That’s a big number and testament to the quality of companies that its political masters (Patel) is driving it to invest in. In this edition of Podcasts from the Edge Peter Bruce talks to Nick Steen, a rock- hard former CEO with long, bittersweet experience in the local textiles industry that Patel is determined to protect. Do we have a future in textiles? Steen says we do, but not the way Patel imagines it…

Can SA keep up with the Joneses?

Can South Africa compete in the global automotive industry as our economy stutters and stalls while our main car export destinations — Britain and the European Union — set their own markets tough new targets in emissions and carbon foot print (they’ll want to know how the electricity powering SA car manufacturing is generated).? There is no room here for being second best. We are either at the top of our game or we can pack it in. There are, of course, bright spots and reasons to be cheerful. Australia lost its car industry but we have kept our and it is doing well. In this edition of Podcasts From the Edge, Peter Bruce talks to Justin Barnes, Executive Director of the Toyota-Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies. Barnes, the lead consultant in the creation of the SA Automotive Industry MasterPlan, is no starry-eyed optimist but he tells Bruce there’s good reason to believe we can continue to hold our own small but perfectly formed place in the automotive firmament.

33 episodes

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