By Nova Mentis
Join main host Philasande Shongwe and guests in unwrapping truths about business, entrepreneurship and the economy at night. Nocturnal Unwrap is part of the Nova Mentis youth think tank, where we shut the chaos of the world, identity politics and cancel culture out to frankly and candidly discuss critical and practical solutions for real issues.
#14: Gwen Ngwenya on the Covid-19 Pandemic, South Africa's Economy and Local Government Elections
I am joined today (albeit virtually) by the Democratic Alliance's Head of Policy, Gwen Ngwenya. We talk about the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and the response to it, which has compounded, and now threatens to push over the edge, South Africa's fragile economy. We zoom in on the unemployment crisis described by some economists as a "bloodbath". Further, we talk about what can be done in the meantime to ameliorate this bleak outlook. Moreover, we briefly talk about the pending local government elections and what they mean (and do not mean). Gwen clarifies and distinguishes local government elections from national government elections and gives pointers about what to look out for. She further responds to questions posed about the DA and its governance record
October 13, 2021
#13: Nick Hudson (PANDA) on Mandate Mayhem
If you have been following the news over the past few months, you will - in all likelihood - have heard about, or witnessed your own organisation enforce, mandatory vaccinations. Joining me to discuss this is Nick Hudson. Nick is an actuary, investor, as well as the co-founder of PANDA. We talk about the distinction (or the lack thereof) between vaccine passports and vaccine mandates as well as whether these are commensurate with liberty. We moreover talk about the consequences of lockdowns and mask mandates, as well as the "lives vs profit" foundation upon which they find fertile tinder. Nick offers his thoughts on this.
September 23, 2021
#12: Unathi Kamlana (Commissioner, Financial Sector Conduct Authority) on the Twin Peaks Regulatory Model
Joining me for today's conversation is the Commissioner of the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), Unathi Kamlana. We talk about the twin peaks regulatory model, what gave rise to it, as well as the purpose that it serves. We first zoom in on the Prudential Authority - in which Unathi did some time - and then later, the FSCA. Unathi explains the necessity of banking requirements - which are both qualitative and quantitative in nature - and why they are necessary "barriers to entry". "Banks are systemically important", he argues. Barriers to entry in a sector as fragile as banking is necessary. Unathi further expands on the FSCA's mandate that is centred around the protection of consumers. He explains the FSCA's decision to fine Viceroy, citing market integrity as one of the main reasons. Moreover, he talks about the funding model of the FSCA. Furthermore, we talk about the FSCA's drive for financial education. South Africans generally have a bad relationship with money. This, in part, can be laid at the lack of education on the subject matter. Unathi argues that this leaves people susceptible to scams. It was at this point that the subject of Bitcoin came up.
September 17, 2021
#11: Russell Lamberti on Austrian Economics
I am joined today by Russell Lamberti. Russell is the founder and managing director of ETM Macro Advisors, as well as one of the authors of, "When Money Destroys Nations". We discuss, among other things, the methodology that distinguishes the Austrian school of economics from other, more mainstream economic schools. We then briefly look at the economists that built and popularized the school i.e., Carl Menger, Eugen Bohm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard. We further talk about the Great Depression, the Subprime Derivative Crisis, the Mediterranean Sovereign Debt Crisis and Zimbabwe's hyperinflation. Moreover, we talk about the global financial system and its fragilities, and why sound money alternatives are gaining greater acceptance, especially in developing economies. More info on Mises and his methods: https://mises.org/wire/mises-and-his-methods
August 19, 2021
#10: John Steenhuisen on South African unrest
After being in KZN for three weeks, unable to return to Stellenbosch when I had intended to, I am finally back in Stellenbosch podcasting again. My time at home sadly coincided with a very unfortunate set of events that laid bare - for the whole world to see - our fragilities as a country. Joining me to discuss these events is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen. We discuss the causes, response, and consequences of the civil unrest that broke out in parts of the country. We then look at what this means for South Africa going forward. How will it affect our international image, fiscus, and political stability? The lives lost, the racial tensions, and the impact on the economy are discussed. John then proposes alternative solutions.
August 13, 2021
#9: Nick Hudson (PANDA) on the COVID-19 pandemic
Joining me for today's conversation is Nick Hudson. Nick is an actuary, investor, private equity specialist, and - more importantly for this conversation - one of the cofounders of "Pandemics - data and Analytics", or PANDA. Nick's name has surged to prominence since March 2020 through his efforts to balance the prevailing Covid-19 narrative. I begin by asking him how he's doing, and how he has not yet suffered the kind of career implosion that many vocal, contrarian professionals have suffered. Further, we discuss the origins of PANDA and the relative international success that the organisation has enjoyed. We then explore what it is that caused this success. Nick dismembers the factual (or afactual) basis upon which the prevailing narrative is predicated. He further, and more convincingly, argues against the logic (or lack thereof) and efficacy of lockdowns. We also talk about the vaccines, and the concerns that Nick has about them. Finally, we talk briefly about The Great Barrington Declaration and PANDA’s simpler version of the document which contains solutions, including how we can open up society, following a focused protection approach.
June 11, 2021
#8: Professor Stan du Plessis on monetary policy and money printing
Joining me for today's conversation is Professor Stan du Plessis. Prof du Plessis attained his master of philosophy in economics from the University of Cambridge and his PhD in economics from the University of Stellenbosch, where he currently serves as the chief operating officer and professor of macroeconomics. We explore the role played by monetary policy and central banks in stabilising (or destabilising) financial markets. "I am what some would call a 'hard money' guy. That is, I do not think that we should use the central banks to solve all of society's problems, but there are some instances where it is necessary for central banks to step in", says Prof du Plessis. He goes on to support why he thinks this, drawing references from the Great Depression of the 1930's and the Financial Crisis of 2008. What role do prices play in an economy and what are the economic and social costs of price distortions? Why do central banks have the sole right to issue currencies? Should central banks be in the business of setting lending rates, at all? Should we be worried about money printing? These are some of the questions that we explore. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put monetary policy under the microscope. Many central banks around the world have followed expansionary monetary trajectories with the hopes of stimulating the economies over which they preside. Yet, at the same time people have lost their jobs and production has slowed down (and for certain periods grinded to a complete halt), food prices and asset prices have risen concurrently. In other words, the rich have gotten richer, while the food that poorer people rely on for subsistence, has been becoming increasingly unaffordable. What may have caused this? Is it as simple as putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of monetary policy, or are there other, more nuanced explanations? I have a few more questions for Prof du Plessis. Questions to which he has some very insightful and thought-provoking responses.
June 2, 2021
#7: Financial education (or the lack thereof) with Elze-Mari Thorne
Joining me for today's conversation is Elze-Mari Thorne. Elze-Mari is a lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, a Certified Financial Planner, and a member of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa. She holds a postgraduate diploma in Financial Planning and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). In addition, she has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, both local and abroad. We are talking today about the crucially important issue of financial education (or the dire lack thereof). Financial planning seems to be one of the few issues about which everybody is expected to be knowledgeable once they step into the working world, but an issue nonetheless that very few people ever get taught about. The lack of financial education in schools is a recipe for disaster. What it means is that the responsibility of educating young people about finance is delegated to their parents and other members of society (who themselves have no deep knowledge about finances) - thereby prolonging the cycle of financial illiteracy. The conversation with Elze-Mari is to be seen as a discussion, rather than an interview. We touch on family responsibility, budgets, debt, emergency funds, investments and wealth creation, taxation, insurance, and even, marriage. Further, we talk about the role of psychology and how we may need to learn to tame our instincts, if we are to be financially successful. Indeed, few conversation - if any - are more important. We identify and talk very briefly about the available assistance, in the form of financial planners. And crucially, how working with one is not only for those with a lot of money. One cannot overstate the need for greater financial education in schools.
April 23, 2021
#6: Dr. Leon Schreiber on multilingualism and SU Language Policy
Stellenbosch University is once again in the spotlight. Once again, it's for its language policy. With "Open Stellenbosch" still fresh in the minds of many, the recent language issues in Stellenbosch have struck a chord with some students. On the backdrop of several complaints from Afrikaans-speaking students who have been allegedly denied the right to speak Afrikaans, even privately, the Democratic Alliance launched an investigation on the matter. On the 10th of March, DA leader John Steenhuisen and Stellenbosch Constituency Chair, Dr. Leon Schreiber visited Stellenbosch University to "see for themselves". More students came forth to voice their alleged discrimination. The accuracy of the testimonies and experiences of these students, however, have not been met with warm hands by the broader Stellenbosch University student community: with some even referring to it as "sensationalism". Joining me today to unpack this, is Dr. Leon Schreiber. Dr. Schreiber is a DA Member of Parliament, serving as the DA's shadow minister of Public Service and Administration. Dr. Schreiber is in charge of the DA's campaign for the protection of mother tongue education. Dr. Schreiber goes further to talk about the general concept of multilingualism and why he believes that it is a crucial tenet of the operations of a functional and open society.
April 9, 2021
#5: Breaking down the biggest monopoly of all with Eswee Bothma
Joining me today is a good friend, former academic mentor, and equity analyst at a Johannesburg-based investment firm. Eswee Bothma holds an honours degree in Investment Management from the University of Stellenbosch. We discuss the structure of the contemporary economy, with particular focus on the banking system and the role of money within it. What is money, exactly? And how does its value accrue? Eswee has an interesting answer to these questions, which help lead him onto some of the different interpretations from different economic schools of thought. He then calls to question the monopoly on the supply of money that governments currently enjoy. He argues that the reason monopolies are so dangerous is because - due to lack of competition - we are at their absolute mercy. The biggest, and perhaps most dangerous monopoly of all, Eswee argues, being that of the government's stronghold on the money supply. "It has the defects of all other monopolies", he says. Inflating and deflating currency supply at will, has wreaked havoc around the world. Why then have we put up with it for so long? Eswee goes on to suggest that the increased demand for cryptocurrencies is a revolt against this monopoly. A silent revolution, if you will. The markets have headed the call and come up with a ubiquitous money system, uncontrollable by any central authority, and threatening to the power currently enjoyed by governments around the world. Eswee's Austrian economic influences are evident, frequently citing Hayek, Mises and Rothbard to help support his points. He juxtaposes the Austrian economic views with the more famous (or infamous) Keynesian and Monetarist ones, arguing that the crucial difference with the Austrian school of thought, is that it arrogates no role at all - in the setting of lending and borrowing rates - to central banks! So, according to Eswee, it is not that the central banks are setting the wrong interest rates, but that they shouldn't be in the business of setting interest rates at all! A mind-boggling idea indeed. We explore what a world without such a monopoly would look like, and why, imperfect though the alternatives may be, the world would be a better place without it.
April 1, 2021
#4: John Steenhuisen: A candid conversation on South Africa's outlook
Joining me for today's conversation is John Steenhuisen. John is the leader of South Africa's official opposition party - the Democratic Alliance - as well as (more importantly) a KZN compatriot of mine! I begin by asking him why he ventured into politics. Was it he who chose politics or was it the other way around? Having been elected as a city councillor at the tender age of 22, it is hardly surprising that John looks with excitement at the increasing involvement of young people in politics today. "The decisions that are being made now in the country are going to affect young people the most," he says. "It is their future that is being decided upon... People who say that they are not interested in politics, well, that might be the case, but politics is very interested in them." John further asserts that we must direct our efforts towards relieving the plight of students who have had to take to the streets in defiance of a terribly inefficient system put in place by the ruling party. The resentment that has built up in students at the behest of unkept promises by the ruling party, is an ordeal to which John is sympathetic. However, sympathy alone will not solve the problem. John briefly outlines the DA's "workable alternative" to the system currently in place. We go on to discuss affirmative action (because how could we not), land reform, multilingualism, as well as - more generally - why a growing economy, more than anything else, is the solution to many of our national woes. John insists on providing clarity - where clarity is due - and dispelling some lingering myths. Is the DA colour-blind? Does the DA recognise the injustices of the past, and is it set on alleviating them? Is the DA opposed to land reform? Is the DA hiding behind the fanciful cloak of "multilingualism" when all it wants is to protect the interests of Afrikaans-speaking South Africans? Finally, is the DA just a reactionary organisation existing only to criticize the ruling party? To help ground the aforementioned questions in reality, I read out some context-specific questions that had been submitted by a few friends of mine.
March 25, 2021
#3: The direction of civil discourse with Tian Alberts
I have the great pleasure today of talking to Tian Alberts. While still pursuing his master's in law through the University of Stellenbosch, Tian is also the Chairperson of Nova Mentis. He joins me to unpack questions surrounding the necessity of a "youth platform". Why do we need a youth platform? What does a youth platform even mean? Tian believes that younger generations need to be having very specific conversations about plans for the future that are not less relevant to older generations but that require implementation by younger generations. We touch on the decline of the nation state, the revolt against legalised plunder (taxation), a loss of trust in centralised institutions, as well as an affinity to cryptocurrencies. In observing what he sees as an inevitable capitulation of the state, Tian argues that we need to hedge our losses by preparing for a "state-proof existence", which involves financial emigration and protection of assets. Further, he challenges the concept of there being a monopolistic entity that can hold people accountable, i.e. a government, and thus proposes a push back on this. Tian argues that we should start entertaining the idea of communities forming their own set of rules and self-governing. Finally, a conversation about values is certainly very important. What are the values that we choose for our organisations, schools, and universities? Do we think about them, or do we swallow and incorporate the "boiler plate" value system that the media and academics have created for us? Values like "diversity" and "inclusivity", Tian argues, are by-and-large not good values. He briefly explains why he thinks that, as well as why he thinks creativity and mutual respect are better values for societies to adopt.
March 24, 2021
#2: Freedom of speech and its various tenets
Many Constitutions around the world protect the right of its citizens to speak freely. Although the debate pertaining to the extent to which this freedom ought to be extended is still ongoing, there seems to be general consensus about the importance of free speech in democratic countries. But what exactly is freedom of speech and does it extend to one's right to offend other people and/or their beliefs? If so, where is it to be curtailed, by whom, on what grounds and with which ramifications? Joining me to attempt to answer these questions is Yanga Keva, who in addition to being a postgraduate LLB student and secretary of the Prim committee at the University of Stellenbosch, is a good friend of mine. We begin by recounting a poster campaign that sparked controversy at Stellenbosch University and then segue into a more extensive discussion about where we are as a country in this ongoing debate. From the Qwelane vs. South African Human Rights Commission court case, to the banning of the gratuitous display of the Apartheid flag, the First Ammendment, the murder of Samuel Paty, the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie, Donald Trump, the disinvitation of speakers from university campuses, self-sensorship, as well as how religion fits (or doesn't fit) into the ongoing discussion, Yanga and I get through a lot in a short space of time.
March 24, 2021
#1: Does “race diversity” matter in the asset management sector?
What are we to make of the lack of racial diversity in the corporate world? Is it to be interpreted as a failure of our post-apartheid government to empower previously marginalised groups, a deliberate attempt by heterosexual white males to hold onto power at the expense of everybody else, or a combination of both? Or should we look closer at what “racial diversity” even means? Organic growth through grassroots education and inorganic growth through industry quotas have been presented as substitute/complimentary solutions. Nevertheless, helping people build wealth remains a central conversation within the ranks of various Asset Management firms in South Africa. The development of financial products and accompanying pricing strategies catered to the African populace has been identified as one way of achieving the desired changes. Joining me to unpack this is a Business Development Manager from one of South Africa’s most established Asset Managers. Luthando Mzilikazi’s experience in the financial services industry has helped her shape her own opinions on the matter. She identifies what she perceives to be the problems and accordingly proposes solutions.
March 24, 2021