Don McLean’s 1971 rock and roll classic, American Pie, is one of those rare works of art that manages to transcend the precepts of genre, place and even time. The opening refrain of its chorus – “Bye, bye Miss American Pie” – is instantly recognisable (at least to those of a certain age) and is still a staple of karaoke nights the world over, almost half a century later. Within its layers of meaning, the song didn’t merely reference musical events and personalities of the time, it served as a sort of cultural signpost, a way of proclaiming “We were here and these things mattered to us.”
In the era of mass media, there have probably been only a handful of events that have influenced our collective consciousness to such an extent that we will remember them for the rest of our lives, and even remember where we were when they happened. Think the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, or the planes crashing into New York’s Twin Towers.
While not as earth-shaking as those events, the eventual resignation of Jacob Zuma on 14 February 2018 was a momentous occasion for South Africa, perhaps the biggest (and the greatest) news we’ve heard this century. As such, I remember clearly where I was when I heard: in an Uber, listening to the radio on the way to work the day after his announcement.
As I’m sure was the case for most of us, it was impossible to talk to anybody that day without the topic coming up, or without overhearing someone talking about it. The collective euphoria, the sense that maybe everything would end up being alright after all, has since given way to everyday reality, but the signs are positive that we could be at the start of an upward trajectory.
People used to joke that when Zuma opened his mouth, the Rand fell. Fittingly, after his last public announcement as head of state, it did the opposite – rallying to a 2% firmer trading level before settling at just below the R12 mark to the Dollar. It would be naïve to think of Cyril Ramaphosa’s accession to the presidency as a panacea for all the country’s ills, but when it comes to global market, perception is often reality, and right now perceptions are good.
In the political game of musical chairs that is the ministerial cabinet, not all of Ramaphosa’s new cabinet appointments have been welcomed with open arms, but the general feeling is that they should be good for business. We tested this sentiment by interviewing three local electronics contract manufacturers, who weigh in with their opinions on the prospects for their businesses, and for the industry as a whole, in the article on pages 14 and 15.
At the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) it will most likely be business as usual, with Rob Davies remaining at the helm. The latest news from the DTI is its recent hosting of a SADC (Southern African Development Community) meeting to iron out technical barriers to trade amongst its member states. The meeting was attended by officials from all 16 member states with expertise in the standards, accreditation, technical regulations, metrology and the legal metrology fraternity. The stated aim of the SADC protocol on trade is “to progressively eliminate unnecessary technical barriers to trade amongst the SADC members and other regional and international trading blocks, and promote an infrastructure for quality.”
Through its Trade Invest Africa programme, the DTI also partnered with the South African Electrotechnical Export Council (SAEEC) to host a high-level delegation from several African countries at the annual Africa Energy Indaba Conference. The delegation, comprising high ranking officials from state-owned enterprises such as energy regulators and commissioners, visited leading South African manufacturers and suppliers of energy-related products and services.
Brett van den Bosch