TIMES SELECT TODAY | Govt agency's pricey but empty offices | Drought's horrifying wildlife cost | Tom Eaton

11 September 2018 - 05:00

The Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems) has admitted to blowing hundreds of thousands of its members’ contributions to pay for an empty building for a year.

Gems has been forking out more than R60,000 a month to Mowana Properties for its North West regional office on the Borekelong House ground floor in Mahikeng since September last year without occupying it.

The rental expenditure has resulted in Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo calling for an investigation into the matter.

This is the same office space that was vacated by the office of the premier in 2014.

Instead, Gems opted to rent out office space from the Kobo Segole Guest House, which has allocated them the conference room at 29 Jan Smuts Avenue in Mahikeng at a cost of R31,000 a month.

The recent drought that gripped SA will be remembered in the big cities as one of the worst in living memory – but what happened out in the bush and remote communal lands while attention was fixed mainly on the “Day Zero” water shortages?

In the Kruger National Park it killed off more than 25% of the park’s buffalo population, about 45% of the hippos and up to 40% of trees and shrubs in some parts of the park.

At least one heavily stocked private game reserve lost 75% of its herbivores, while some communal farmers in the Giyani district of Limpopo lost up to 33% of their cattle.

In the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal the losses were even more severe, with communal farmers losing 43% of their cattle and nearly 30% of the goats.

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The words of Nike’s new print advertisement are sombrely inspiring, unless you imagine them being murmured by a cult leader, in which case they’re slightly less impressive. But it is the background that has lit fires, both literal and figurative: the face of Colin Kaepernick, American footballer, political activist and tormentor of Donald Trump.

Unsurprisingly, Nike’s decision to use Kaepernick to sell its products has been wildly divisive. Conservatives have roared. Liberals have cheered.

Both camps, however, are united by one alarming trait: both are behaving as if Nike is a person.

The people burning their running shoes are reacting as if an old friend has betrayed them. Liberal fans are describing Nike with words usually reserved for close friends or even lovers: I have read more than one pundit say that they “love the brand”, an admission of a total failure of critical faculties.