Thanks this website
Thanks this website

First off, I don’t mind a bit of government regulation.

I just don’t believe that the free market functions as well as we would like it to. It would be great to say “Hey – leave it alone. It’ll all work out. Really.” But whenever I’m presented with that particular line of argument (hope?), I raise a skeptical eyebrow. Because of power: some people have more than others, some people want more than others, some people get more than others. When you throw natural power imbalances into free markets, then you get…exactly what we have already, I reckon.

And while we’re here, I don’t think that “unregulated may be bad, but some regulation will be worse.” Nah. I think you can get some reasonable regulation that works quite well. Like, say, driver’s licences. They almost certainly work better than just leaving it completely to everyone’s discretion (where the free market argument would be, I guess, that eventually the bad drivers would kill themselves off and you’d only be left with good drivers on the roads).


Being okay with good regulation does not mean that you have to be okay with all regulation.

And it looks like some of South Africa’s ministers have lost their minds.

Two new culprits (and one old one):

South Africa has many Big Issues that need addressing. But instead, we’re worrying about:

  • Tourists travelling with children
  • Speed limits of 60km/h being set too high
  • Terrorist activities funded by laundered money

And worse, this is all useless legislation.

All those regulations seem designed to do NOTHING other than frustrate the people that are already law-abiding.

The New SA Visa Regulations

In an attempt to address child-trafficking, anyone entering or leaving South Africa with children under the age of 18 will have to present full and unabridged birth certificates, as well as affidavits if they’re not with both their listed parents. And death certificates if one or both parents is deceased (head to page 13/14 of the immigration act amendments, and read s12). These regulations were debated for a while, then re-approved last week, and will be enforced from next week. A quote from the Minister:

South Africa should not accept that they are children who arrive in this country without being properly identified if they are travelling with anyone but their parents. There is a lot of crime and South Africa should never relent in protecting children.

*struggles not to roll eyes*

Observation: Home Affairs already requires the child to travel with its own passport (or an endorsement in a parent’s passport). So the child is already identified.

Next observation: if a child is being trafficked, it’s going to look hella obvious if it arrives without a passport. So an efficient child-trafficker is going to make sure that there is a passport, right? I mean – if you’re already trafficking in children, I doubt that your scruples are going to get all hot and bothered about organising a forged passport.

Final observation: if a trafficker can forge a passport, then they can forge an unabridged birth certificate, an affidavit, death certificates, anything that the immigration officer wants really.

So how this plays out:

  1. Successful child-traffickers will continue as they did before, albeit with a bit more time spent with photoshop.
  2. Unprepared tourists will be treated with suspicion and sent home for travelling with abridged birth certificates, or whatever.
  3. Useless child-traffickers might get caught for travelling without a birth certificate. But then, who’s to tell the difference between a confused tourist and an inept criminal? So they’ll just be sent back as well.

And we’ve accomplished….Nothing. At. All. Except frustrated the tourists.

I mean, we won’t even catch a child-trafficker. We’ll just send them home for failing to arrive with the right forged documents!

My question: where was the cost-benefit analysis in this decision?

Road Safety Speed Limits

Because of all the road deaths, the Department of Transport wants to drop speed limits almost everywhere (the main one being the drop from 60km/h to 40 km/h in urban areas).

Now I know Speed Kills. I’ve read the signs. But that is not the only thing that kills. And more importantly, all the speed limits have not helped up to this point, have they?

I went onto Arrive Alive, and found a study that they did back in 2011, and here are some graphs:

When road factors cause crashes
When road factors cause crashes
When bad cars cause crashes
When bad cars cause crashes
When people cause crashes
When people cause crashes

So clearly, breaking the speed limit increases the likelihood of crashes. Although I’m not sure how changing the speed limit will stop people breaking the speed limit.

But what of:

  • Jay-walking (and I’ve seen those guys racing across the N1, the N2, the M2 and the N3 – pure madness); and
  • Repairing bad roads (which must be partially responsible for the bursting tyres, I’d say).

Let’s be honest here – you can’t stop speeding by changing the definition of speeding. And if you do lower the speed limit, you’re just going to catch the people that weren’t breaking the speed limit before, but will break it now, because 40km/h is unconscionably slow and it might almost be quicker to run there over short distances (especially if one were Usain Bolt).

But you could prosecute jay-walkers. And you could fix the roads.

And are those not lower-hanging fruit?



WHY is South Africa worrying about terrorist activities and money laundering?

Or more importantly: why is South Africa more worried about those things and not worried about how many South Africans are unbanked, or about how imposing higher compliance costs cuts the majority of the population out of the formal financial sector on the basis of non-affordability alone?

But that aside, let’s accept that perhaps we should care about it.

So FICA/RICA/etc arrive and insist that the banks and the cellphone operators and the investment product providers and the medical aid schemes and <other types of companies that are completely incapable of laundering your money even they wanted to> all keep Know-Your-Client documentation on file, and pester everyone continually for proofs-of-residence and justifications-of-wealth and explanations-of-sources-of-income and so on down the list that is apparently endless.

Even though we live in the age of the Internet and the Indefinite Postal Strike, where recent utility bills are tough to come by. And even though it’s especially annoying when you have to keep updating your Proof-of-Residence because the bill is now too many months old. Or when you have to constantly re-explain the source of income because someone forgot to ask, or did ask and forgot to note, or has new questions about the note, and WILL YOU PLEASE JUST LET ME GET ON WITH MY JOB THANK YOU.

The logic here is beyond me.

As with the child-trafficking situation above:

  1. Successful money-launderers are not going to be deterred by documentation. They will have their documentation in order. Believe it. That’s why they’re successful.
  2. Normal people will be continually frustrated by the system, and will need to keep updating documentation and so on to stay compliant (even though they’re not doing anything wrong).
  3. The only people that might be a problem are the amateurish money-launderers. But because there will be so many normal people struggling along with them, compliance officers will struggle to tell the difference.
  4. Unless they’re really bad at it. In which case, they were almost certainly going to get caught anyway.

And my question in all this: “To what end?”

There is a cynic deep inside my soul that says “The real intention behind these pieces of legislation is to increase the overall government budget allocation to the Departments responsible for their implementation. Because these are all high-cost policies. And why might high cost be a good thing from a Departmental perspective? Because the power of a particular ministry is tied into the size of that ministry’s budget and the size of that ministry’s staffing contingent. And how else is the department to keep score of its own importance?”

I hope I’m wrong.

I’d rather that this was all just lack of foresight.

But either way, I just would like it to stop.

PS: I’m also confused as to why we’re suddenly trying to license drones?

Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and the corporate life in general. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at