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Riaan de Lange

Riaan de Lange


This economic and trade-focused column is prepared by Riaan de Lange – riaan@tariffandtrade.co.za. The views expressed in this column are the author's personal views

South Africa in junk or high on it?

By: Riaan de Lange     8th December 2017 Have you seen junk? Ever touched, used it or sailed on it? No, not in it, but on it? A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to sail on a junk while visiting Hong Kong. A junk, a Chinese flat-bottomed sailing ship, came into use in 220 BC and is still in use to this day. You can no longer sail... 

The Dunning Kruger effect

By: Riaan de Lange     1st December 2017 Ever heard of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr? You would, no doubt, have used them. You might well have used it, and continue to use it, on numerous occasion, for “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As I was contemplating what to write about this week, I came across yet another... 

Worse than useless, but who is listening?

By: Riaan de Lange     24th November 2017 The difficulty with the English language – and this is compounded by the fact that South Africa is a country of non-first-language English speakers – is that words tend to be used without their meaning being fully comprehended. As a result, many South Africans are quick to use a word like... 

The 2023 Rugby World Cup mistake

By: Riaan de Lange     17th November 2017 The 2023 Rugby World Cup Mistake “Impi! wo 'nans' impi iyeza, Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?” The opening lyrics of Johnny Clegg and Juluka’s ‘Impi’ resonates with me, as do the images of the Springboks storming past Zulu warriors, in traditional dress, with fireworks exploding all around them as... 

No future, no future, for . . . you!

By: Riaan de Lange     10th November 2017 No future, no future, for … you! It’s strange how these words, granted with the added impetus provided by an old Pioneer, cutting through the silence of a cold dark winter’s night, are not greatly appreciated at half past one on a Sunday morning. Then, uniting in less-than-silent accord, faceless... 

Bleeding Heart Yard

By: Riaan de Lange     3rd November 2017 It’s a cold, windy and generally a miserable day as I step off Greville street, in Farringdon, in the City of London, seeking shelter from the icy-cold wind. I unwittingly enter a cobbled courtyard, which featured in Charles Dickens’ novel, Little Dorrit. The courtyard is said to have been named... 

No matter what the experts say, customs is only about three things

By: Riaan de Lange     27th October 2017 Do you consider yourself an ‘expert’ or a ‘specialist’ in your chosen profession? If you answered ‘expert’, I would raise a weary smile, for a wise person once told me of an unwittingly (maybe not) self-professing ‘donkey’ that offered to provide him with invaluable insights in his area of... 

Neopatrimonialism is merely ‘a huge embarrassment’

By: Riaan de Lange     20th October 2017 The dramatic decline to which a select few ‘South Africans’ are subjecting so many of us no longer considered a ‘crisis’. In essence, neopatrimonialism is not considered a crisis’ – it is merely a huge embarrassment. As I account for the latest narration, attributable to a senior politician, my... 

South Africa falling down a rabbit hole

By: Riaan de Lange     13th October 2017 The use of graphs to illustrate the South African economy’s trajectory is a superfluous endeavour in the nth degree. The appeal of graphs, your general line graph, is to emphasise the tendency of the measure to ascend. Not to descend. But then South Africa wants to also transcend. To avoid... 

I can’t explain – you would not understand

By: Riaan de Lange     6th October 2017 If anything, I have, in the words of Pink Floyd, “become comfortably numb”. My thoughts are miles away as I wonder through the Victoria & Albert, or the V&A. No, not the V&A Waterfront, in Cape Town. Come to think of it, how does that colonial designation endure? I am at the Pink Floyd: Their... 

Customs inaction – 4 661 days, and still counting

By: Riaan de Lange     29th September 2017 It is a fateful Saturday. It is September 16. If you cannot recall the day, I have three digits to remind 57-0. Enough said – numbers are clinical when conveying a message. A total of 4 661 days have passed since the South African Revenue Service (Sars) begun to 'rewrite' South Africa's customs... 

I am unable to replicate your thinking

By: Riaan de Lange     22nd September 2017 In a country famed for its politeness, you have to take care not of offend, or to be perceived to offend, when expressing an opinion that may differ from those held by people about whom you are expressing the opinion. An expression might well be perceived as a prejudicial. Hint: the country is... 

Those were the days . . .

By: Riaan de Lange     15th September 2017 It's Sunday afternoon. It’s hot and humid. You can smell the sea in a faint breeze that barely manages to rattle the leaves of the trees, which have been scorched and hardened by the sun. It is one of those vegetating Sunday afternoons, when you silently salute the inventor of the television... 

Don’t make an impact – consciously limit it

By: Riaan de Lange     8th September 2017 Sometimes I wonder about the costs that I personally impose on the planet. This usually happens when I hear of people being held up, by others, as having made a positive contribution. Is it not interesting that society is seemingly constantly being deprived of its best people? In the main, these... 

South Africa is at war with itself – but why?

By: Riaan de Lange     1st September 2017 Why, indeed? Why worry? My grandfather used to offer an answer that you might be quite familiar with: “If you worry, you die; if you don’t worry. you also die. So, why worry?” If I were asked this question before, I would most likely have offered a similar response to my grandfather's – if it... 

Count them one by one

By: Riaan de Lange     25th August 2017 It’s summer. It’s raining. It’s cold. In a word, it’s miserable. The Underground is wet, damp and humid. Forget about minding the gap – it is fellow travellers that you have to mind, for they do not mind you. The hustle and bustle of lemming like proportion comes to an abrupt halt, with fellow... 

The real conflict is between truth and lies

By: Riaan de Lange     18th August 2017 The Real Conflict is between Truth and Lies It is 21 hours since the unthinkable has happened, an event which has divided, and is expected to continue to divide, the athletics world for the foreseeable future. It will take the athletics world a considerable time to recover from the effects of the... 

Preparing to sell off the family silver?

By: Riaan de Lange     11th August 2017 The expression to sell or sell off the family silver might not be as well known in South Africa as it is elsewhere in the world. Consequently, the cautionary wisdom to which it alludes to is seemingly lost. The ‘silver’ referenced is actually silverware. It is the silverware of a family, handed... 

It’s not about improving

By: Riaan de Lange     4th August 2017 'Out of the mouths of babes' is a well-known phrase in the Bible that implies that there is truth and wisdom in the comments and observations of children, who are honest and innocent. I am on the bus with my young son, having just collected him from summer camp. We are travelling through... 

Here we are . . .

By: Riaan de Lange     28th July 2017 Born to be kings. We're the princes of the universe. These are the opening lyrics of British rock band Queen’s 1986 song, Princes of the Universe, and they resonate with me as my car grinds to a halt and I step outside to appreciate the most glorious view I have ever beheld. As to where I am . .... 

By failing to plan, we are planning to fail

By: Riaan de Lange     21st July 2017 South Africa is stuck in economic and political rut, and “there is no two ways about it" and "there can be no doubt about that”, as one of my bosses of many years past was famed for saying. South Africa is in a rut; a rut of multiple levels. According to https://www.psychologytoday.com, citing... 

A 50-year-old hole in the wall transformation

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu     14th July 2017 Without question, the word that currently ranks, and undisputedly so, as the most overused word is ‘transformation’. Everything today has to be transformed; that is the fashion. As to what needs to be transformed, and then to what . . . well, that is quite a different matter. The risk of its... 

A genie granting grants is wishful thinking

By: Riaan de Lange     7th July 2017 It is said that there are three wishes that a genie cannot grant. It’s still on my bucket list to find one, which I fear would only be possible through divine intervention, But, I cannot wish for that. Oops, I should have said spoiler alert. So, just in case you ever stumble across a genie,... 

Brexit – it has started

By: Riaan de Lange     30th June 2017 It is a balmy Monday evening in London. Oh, how I wish it was. It is, in fact, a blistering hot evening. For London, that is. It is 22:30. The sun has set an hour earlier and the temperature is 24 °C, with a humidity at 58%, and there is barely a breeze to speak of. It Monday June 19. Come to... 

You must be choking all over again

By: Riaan de Lange     23rd June 2017 It is a balmy London Sunday afternoon. It is June 11. It is Groundhog Day. Well, for me it is. Just a few hours ago, an unwelcome event recurred. You might even say that it was “It's deja vu all over again”, to quote Yogi Berra. Yes, Yogi Berra, and not Yogi Bear. (Yogi Berra was an American... 

Are South African companies dying or perishing?

By: Riaan de Lange     16th June 2017 This is a simple enough question, but is the answer as simple? Well, that depends on the distinction you make between dying and perishing. According to the Oxford Dictionary perishing is defined as dying, especially in a violent way, dying is defined simply as being on the point (verge) of death.... 

Uber, chumocracy and a corrupt culture of entitlement

By: Riaan de Lange     9th June 2017 Is this an apt summation of present-day South Africa? Quite possibly so. But the headline of this column was appropriated from a British newspaper published in the days prior to David Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister of the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum result, but not after... 

Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies, but no Chevrolet

By: Riaan de Lange     2nd June 2017 “South Africa, what is your favourite meal? Braaivleis! Sport? Rugby! Weather? Sunshine! And what’s your greatest car, South Africa? Chevrolet. Let’s see: it’s braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet, uhh? Well, you sure sound like South Africa to me . . .” Well, maybe not quite so much... 

Preferred-trader numbers all very confusing

By: Riaan de Lange     26th May 2017 On May 8, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) announced that, on that day, it would officially launch its Customs Preferred Trader Programme, which, it said, marked the culmination of an extensive process aimed at introducing one of the most significant trade facilitation initiatives in its... 

The haves, the have-nots and the wants

By: Riaan de Lange     19th May 2017 The first words of wisdom – which I clearly recall – that my father imparted to me as a youngster were these: "There are three sides to every story – your side, my side and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.” This assessment is attributed to American film... 

Wealth taxation in the spotlight

By: Riaan de Lange     12th May 2017 Have you read it yet? All 700-page, that is. Well, if you have not, acquired a copy, for the book is multipurpose. It has, for instance, been described as “a doorstop in punishing, heavy hardcover”. The book in question was an Amazon number one bestseller and also selling out in major bookstores... 

SA world’s 53rd most competitive travel and tourism destination

By: Riaan de Lange     5th May 2017 South Africa is the fifty-third most competitive travel and tourism destination in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF's) 'Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017', released on April 5. The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index, or TTCI, which consists of four... 

Statistically, nothing is ever quite what it seems

By: Riaan de Lange     28th April 2017 ‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It is what you know for sure that just ain’t so.’, this according to Mark Twain. Love it or hate it, you simply cannot deny that mathematics (and statistics, for that matter) evokes polarised emotions. Arguably, no subject scars and scares... 

The South African Revolution

By: Riaan de Lange     21st April 2017 Just over 100 years ago, a definitive event took place in a country with which South Africa has had an indifferent history. Since March 30, you can visit this country without a visa for a duration of up to 90 days. The visa-free travel arrangement is understood to mark the twenty-fifth... 

Will the South African economy catch a crab?

By: Riaan de Lange     14th April 2017 It is mid-afternoon on Sunday, April 2. I am enjoying glorious weather, reminiscent of South Africa, with soaring temperatures, which is not the usual rainy, gloomy and cold London. I find myself in Putney, where the River Thymes is aligned by an estimated 300 000 people who have made their way... 

When the going gets tough, the tough go skiing

By: Riaan de Lange     7th April 2017 In a mere ten days, the men of the next generation of two internationally renowned (you can also read infamous) families on both sides of the pond made the same decision when their presence was required at home at two very important events. Both men attained their privilege by birth (well, one of... 

Freely dropping the antiprotectionist pledge

By: Riaan de Lange     31st March 2017 A favourite adage of mine is: with free advice, you get what you pay for. I heard it early in my working career, when Ken Warren, an elderly but world- and street-wise legal director of the South African Chamber of Business (Sacob), who also headed its Parliamentary team in Cape Town, mentioned... 

Opportunities from the Indian Ocean Rim

By: Riaan de Lange     24th March 2017 Indian Ocean Rim Association Well, this certainly is a blast from the past. It was a long time ago. I had just joined the then South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) – on March 1, 1995 – and, within a few days, I was jetting off to Mauritius. I thought that I had hit the big time, and yes, the... 

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