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27 April – public holiday

The 27th April is one of those public holidays I will never forget.  I do know that I did not vote on 27 April 1994, but waited until the next day (there were 2 days of voting) when I thought it would be a little bit quieter, but it was not, to vote in South Africa’s first free democratic elections.  At that time, I very happily put my cross next to the name of the ANC and the photograph of Nelson Mandela.  I was determined that I was not going to live in a country where I felt there was us and them and that I was part of some unhappy minority.  I think that the ANC also came out with all the correct policies – for example they got rid of the death penalty and they said of course you did not need Afrikaans to be an attorney – and why for that matter did you need Latin – all things that were insisted upon by the apartheid National Party government, whose real goal was of course to stop more black people studying law.  Imagine that you had to have as your home language Xhosa or Zulu and for you to become an attorney you had to pass an English University course in English as well as Afrikaans which is now your third language as well as one year in Latin!  Can you see how much more difficult they made it for black people to become attorneys in that particular time?  Obviously, you don’t want many attorneys, especially from people you are oppressing, because they will raise too many questions and so it really was a very manipulative, cleverly thought out disgusting system in every way and I was quite happy to vote for the ANC to bring an end to that rather than other parties.  I am surprised that more children don’t ask their parents why they voted for the National Party during all those years and supported the apartheid regime or why the Law Society, for example, struck Nelson Mandela off as an attorney.  All these things seem to have been conveniently and politely forgotten.

In any event, it is now 24 years since we voted and it is one of those public holidays I hope we never forget and how much has changed during that time – from the hope of Nelson Mandela to the absolute despair of living under Jacob Zuma.  Things are looking good again and it is reflected in the Rand and I sincerely believe that South Africa is in a much better place now than it was at any time in the last 7 or 8 years.  It is not quite the euphoria and amazement of 1994, but it is a damn sight better than anything we’ve had since 2010!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 26-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  32 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Roger Federer

I recently had the special opportunity of a front row seat to watch the greatest tennis player who has ever played the game win a 2 set match.  Roger Federer is not only an amazing tennis player, but I think he is an extremely good marketer.  He knows how to play the crowd, he knows how to acknowledge people in the audience, such as André Agassi, who very rarely attends tennis matches, but did attend the tournament which was played relatively close to where he and his wife, Steffi Graf, live in Palm Springs.  He is wildly popular, the stadium fills before his game and by the time the next game is to be played, even though it is on the centre court, half of the people have deserted their seats, if not more than half.  Watching him, you just realise that he knows how to say the right things at the right time, to be charming and to ensure that he is very marketable.  There are sports stars, and I can think of a number of South African golfers, who would make a lot more money if they were better at media interviews, at getting the crowd excited, etc and instead of being rather boring personalities who don’t say much, and probably as a result earn a lot less than they could.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 23-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  25 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Naspers

Many years ago I started playing golf with financial journalist, Alec Hogg, and one of his friends, Flippie Meyer.  Flippie was a retired Naspers journalist and after every round of golf Alec used to tease him because Flippie kept telling him that Naspers was going to make an absolute fortune based on a company that the CEO had invested in, in China, called TenCent.  Alec would assure him that TenCent was not going to be the winner that Flippie thought it was and that he was gambling a bit by having all his shares in one company.  

Flippie subsequently died, after contracting, as I understand it, a strain of flu, on a golf tour, but I sometimes wish I listened to him rather than Alec, when he was talking about Naspers.  The price must have multiplied more than 30 times since then and Flippie, if he were alive today, would be a very rich man in terms of his shares.  TenCent has gone on to be, when I last looked, the 7th biggest company in the entire world and approximately a third of it is owned by a South African media company!  Koos Bekker of Naspers really has done incredibly well for his company and buyers of the share.  Many in South Africa say that the share price now is overpriced, but the international coverage of TenCent is also more optimistic – saying that TenCent has a lot more profits coming – meaning potentially of course that Naspers share price can still run quite a lot, despite its substantial increases already.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 19-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  19 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
A party place like no other - Las Vegas

For those of you who have not been to Las Vegas yet, the home of casinos and so much more, you will never understand how much of a party it is.  Firstly, let’s not forget that this one city has 140,000 hotel rooms in it.  What should we compare that to?  Well, let’s compare it to the whole of Europe – there are more hotel rooms to stay in, in Las Vegas, than there are in all of Europe added together!

In fact, the clubs are so packed and the people stay out so late, that one new company called Revive, is making a living, and had a queue most of the day and night, by simply giving a drip filled with vitamins, energy boosters and all sorts of things to help them overcome hangovers and give people more energy to party.  They put you in a massage chair, they put an intravenous drip into your arm, and they then give you whichever drips and boosters you have chosen based on flushing out toxins, recovering from a hangover, an energy boost or all of them combined if that is what you would like!   I think you will know that you are in a serious party place when a business like that is doing so well!  Interestingly enough, I see from the Shiller Index that Las Vegas had the second fastest rising property prices in 2017 – with the average property up 10%.  Only one city in America beats that, namely the home of Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft – Seattle.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 16-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  36 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Addiction to buying junk

I think one of the problems many of us have – and I am certainly one who does have it from time to time – is to buy all sorts of things that you don’t end up using.  It does not necessarily mean expensive things, but it is often rubbish.  I don’t mind buying rubbish books, because I feel that even if they cost me R130 or R250, as long as I got one idea out of the book that I can use in my business or somewhere else, then it was worth the money.  It is very seldom that you get no ideas out of a book, so that type of purchase I can justify.  Not every book will be as good as The Four or as beautifully written as most of the books by Nassin Nicholas Taleb.  His latest book, which I am reading is his follow-up to The Black Swan and is called Skin In The Game.  

In any event, I digress.  I am talking more about the items when you open your drawer that you wonder why on earth you ever bought that fridge magnet that does not actually work or the pair of shoes that look so good in the shops, but now does not go with anything you own.  My wife in particular gives me a hard time about all of these types of purchases, because she is very sensitive about the way we damage the environment with plastic, plastic wrapping, bubble wrapping, cardboard, boxes and all of that that go around all the things we buy.  I think it is important if we are sensitive to that – we need to leave this world a better place than we come into it and part of that is by not contributing, in any negative way, to pollution and destruction of the environment.  

Half these materials don’t seem to break down at all and one gets horrified when one reads about some packaging and chemicals that end up flowing through our toilet systems into the ocean and before you know it are now being ingested by dolphins and tuna.  I mention the tuna, because we end up eating fish that are eating all the things we are polluting the environment with – I guess you could say that is karma or payback!  The point is we hurt ourselves when we abuse our environment and it is not just coming back at us in climate change, it is coming back at us in the various foodstuffs we eat, etc.  Try and reduce the packaging that you use, try and ensure that you recycle things and when you discard things they do go into the correct trashcan – so that they don’t just all end up on a smelly dump just off Turffontein racecourse.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 12-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Fitbit continues to plunge

I have written about Fitbit before, and its share price continues to go down.  The problem for Fitbit is that the devices themselves, tracking one’s walking and activities, compete with so many other devices.  At the exact same time that Fitbit sales are going down, predictably the sales of the Apple watch are going up.  More and more phones, devices, etc all include these features and as a result companies that compete with the phones end up getting hammered.  We have seen it with companies producing cameras that have largely been hit hard by the increased power of our phones and we have seen it in heart rate monitors and activity trackers.  Personally, I think all of these companies are fairly easy to have bet against – in other words, to have predicted that their shares would go down and take a bet on that basis – just as it was obvious that there are not that many people that don’t have a GoPro already, or two as in my case, both of which struggle to work.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 09-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  29 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Jan Smuts Avenue to be widened

It was interesting to read that, after many years of speculation, Jan Smuts Avenue is finally to be widened.  They are going to take the strip, between Rosebank and the Zoo, which is currently one lane in either direction, and they are going to turn it into two lanes in both directions.  

To do that, they will have to reduce the width of the pavements and the project is expected to last 12 to 18 months.  

I do believe that most projects in South Africa, when it involves work on the roads, take far too long. I cannot imagine why something like this cannot be done in 3 to 6 months and why it will need 12 to 18 months, and then probably run late on that anyway.  It will undoubtedly cause chaos at our offices for some time and for everybody who uses what is a very busy road into the city centre.  Hopefully, a lot of traffic will be diverted towards Oxford Avenue, but as pavements get chewed up, the road widened and construction takes place, it is going to be a difficult 12 to 18 months of driving in and out of our offices.  

It sounds like this project is going to begin either late in 2018 or in 2019, but I guess the inconvenience will not be for the full 12 to 18 month period – it will be while they are directly outside our particular offices and busy with our pavement – reducing its size. The long-term benefit will be that traffic does not have to suddenly merge from two lanes to one and will flow far faster along Jan Smuts Avenue.  Whether that is really such a big problem that it requires this to be done is another question.  I can think of many roads in the Fourways area that need widening, long ahead of a small little stretch of Jan Smuts Avenue where I never really notice any major issues anyway – and however much they widen it, it is not going to reduce the problems that you find, as you head north in the afternoon along William Nicol to Fourways – that is where the real disasters begin.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 05-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  40 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Self-driving cars

The home of self-driving cars at the moment appears to be California which of course is also the home of Tesla and Elon Musk.  Everybody is obviously nervous about what is going to happen when the computers get it wrong, as inevitably they must do a little bit at the beginning.  People will sensationalise any deaths from autonomous driving cars, and already have, and no mention will be given to all the accidents that may have been avoided.  Getting officials and departments for testing is obviously extremely difficult with people being nervous about how these things will go and so it is with some interest that I read that California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is giving out permits to companies that will allow them to test autonomous cars from yesterday, 2 April.  The future is coming much quicker than we all think!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 03-Apr-18   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

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Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
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