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On a lighter note:- Five things you should never say to a South African

We’ve all been there – you meet someone for the first time and that moment they realise you’re South African, they suddenly start spouting random comments on your ethnicity, childhood, experiences or just ask the most annoying questions ever.

Here are a few of the most common things people say that annoy South Africans.

“Where is South Africa?”

Seriously people. We come from a country where the geographical location is pretty much spelled out for you. It’s the SOUTH part of AFRICA. SOUTH AFRICA. Get it??

“You can’t be South African – you’re white.”

Apparently many, many people truly believe that only black people can be African. Never mind the fact that migration these days mean anyone of any race can be born and live pretty much anywhere.

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Yes, we have white South Africans, Indian South Africans, coloured South Africans, black South Africans, Asian South Africans, Latino South Africans – we’re a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities and if you don’t know at least that about our awesome country by now, there’s no helping you!

“Say something in South African.”

Yes sure bru, because we speak Souf Efrican. No. Just no. We have 11 official languages but South African is not one of them.

“Did you have a pet lion?”

Of course! We all live in the bush, have pet lions and warthogs and we ride our zebras to school. Only rich people get to ride elephants to school because they cost so much money to maintain. We also have never heard of cars and clearly rode our zebras all the way to London/New York/Sydney dreaming of a life with electricity and running water and wifi!

“Do you know my friend John? He’s from South Africa too.”

“Oh John! Yeah he and I grew up on the same street! How do you know John?”

Come on people, we have a population of over 50 million people, you really think we’re going to know every other South African in the world? Bonus points if they add ‘he’s from Africa’!

So please spread the word, spread this list, and don’t, just don’t annoy a South African with these silly questions.

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2018 set to bring new (official) emigration record for South Africans leaving SA

Whilst the unofficial amount is undoubtedly far higher, a new official emigration record is being predicted for 2018. The experts say more South Africans are leaving than ever before. Why?

Need they still ask? With so much going on in South Africa practically every day, South Africans are set to break their own emigration record next year. Previously, 2015 had seen the highest emigration from South Africa since 2000.

BizNews spoke to LCR Capital Partners Managing Director Marc J. Sharpe. He looked to paint the picture as to “why” South Africans are wanting to leave.

“We’re expecting this increase because of the unprecedented interest we’ve had from South Africans wanting to emigrate to the U.S. since 2016,” said Mr Sharpe.

“Given that it usually takes around two years to go from making arrangements to leave, to actually leaving the country, we will probably only see the full emigration impact in 2018 or 2019.”

South Africans are wanting out for the usual reasons: Pursuit of better financial opportunities, escaping crime and chasing better education for their children. Sharpe says they have also noticed “an increase in deep-seated pessimism about the future in South Africa”.

“South Africans already know what an electricity crisis is like, and residents of the Western Cape are currently living with a severe water crisis. As people lose confidence in government’s ability to provide even the most basic services, they start to look for other options, particularly for their children.”

“They are opting for emigration as a safety net. They can move to the U.S. relatively quickly with a fairly high degree of certainty. Once they have their green cards, they can re-assess. If things are looking better, they can move back to South Africa. If not, they’ll be relieved they left when they did. For those who can afford it, it’s a very attractive option.”

So, you want to head to the US next year too? Well, you better have almost R8 million to invest in order to get in. To make things even worse, the costs are set to go up even more as the US makes changes in December.

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UK tax breaks for staff Christmas parties and other social events

In general, the cost of a staff party or other annual entertainment is allowed as a deduction for tax purposes. However, there are some important criteria that must be followed to ensure that there will be no taxable benefit charged to employees.

An annual Christmas party or other annual event offered to staff generally is not taxable on those attending provided that the average cost per head of the function does not exceed £150.

The event must be open to all employees. If a business has multiple locations then a party open to all staff at one of the locations is allowable. You can also have separate parties for separate departments but employees must be able to attend one of the events.

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There can be more than one annual event. If the total cost of these parties is under £150 per head then there is no chargeable benefit. However, if the total cost per head goes over £150 then whichever functions best utilise the £150 are exempt and the others taxable. Note, the £150 is not an allowance and any costs over £150 per head are taxable on the full cost per head.

All costs including VAT must be taken into account. This includes the costs of transport to and from the event, food and drink and any accommodation provided.

Planning note
Any VAT incurred on Christmas parties for staff can be recovered subject to the usual rules. If staff partners/spouses or clients are also invited to the event the input tax has to be apportioned, as the VAT applicable to non-staff is not recoverable. However, if non-staff attendees make a contribution to the event, all the VAT can be reclaimed and of course output tax should be accounted for on the amount of the contribution.

So, as the holiday season approaches, it’s fun to plan a party, but worthwhile to pay attention to the tax rules to ensure that your party does not create hidden tax costs for your employees.

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My affair with the Countess from Sweden – Pieter de Lange

I have always had this boundless enthusiasm for exciting and interesting automobiles. I blame it on my Van der Vyver genes from my mother’s side. My dear granddad, Oupa Benjamin, had to look after a second-hand car dealership in Badplaas all these years ago when I was still a young boy and I was allowed to play in the dusty old Fords and Chevrolets with their lovely smelling leather hide interiors for hours.

I would go from one car to the next one, pull the steering wheels around for a bit, change gears constantly, and dream of racing in the famous races like the Miglia Millia, or just imagine myself on the open road aiming at the endless South African horizon.

Later on, I heard of Syd van der Vyver’s achievements in Grand Prix motor racing. He was my mother’s cousin and although I never met him, I was seriously impressed with his achievements, he twice won the South African Drivers Championship, in 1960 and 1961, and he was runner up in 1962. I only saw him race once at The First Natal Grand Prix at Westmead in 1961 in the inaugural Springbok Series.

Syd managed 5th position behind international legends like Jim Clark and Stirling Moss. I later read that Syd was “invited to England in mid-1961 by Stirling Moss, who was impressed with the South African’s technical ability and there he worked on the handling of the Maestro’s car”.

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Later on, I heard and read about Henry van der Vyver’s E Type Jaguar, but living out in the sticks in Kroonstad, far away from Johannesburg, I never even got to see the car. Henry and Thelma visited me years later when I was practising in London and it was a pleasure to get to know them better. By now, I have developed my own preferences and it was the Italian stallion of Ferrari that took my fancy. Maybe it was all those Saturday evenings listening to the Afrikaans classic music program “U Eie Keuse”. We had so many records of the famous voices of that era, like Benjamino Gigli, Mario Lanza and Maria Callas. Well, Enzo Ferrari often referred to the song of 12, when he discussed his favourite engine layout of 12 cylinders.

Ironically though, my first serious sports car was a Lamboghini Jarama that I acquired in the seventies, which is now a rare, almost extinct beast. The Managing Director of Lamborghini in the UK was a patient of ours at the time and he arranged a good deal.

But it was the prancing horse that I was really after, and after saving and working like crazy, I managed to buy a brand new Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer in 1975, which I eventually took back to Pretoria. One Sunday evening, I got stuck on the Ben Schoeman highway without petrol and a very nice guy gave me a tow to my flat in Pretoria. When he saw my very basic living quarters in Hatfield, he could not put the two things together and he politely asked me if it was really my car.

Zorba the Greek famously stated in the movie that “A man must have a little madness”. Well this is mine. If you skip 40 years, during which I bought and sold numerous Ferraris, a few Porsches and a Lamborghini Countach, the worst car of the lot that appreciated the most, to earlier this year, when that little irresistible buzz in the back of my head started to go off again. But it was not just me, the classic car madness that hits the world every 25 years or so, was in full swing again, and everyone is on the lookout for “sleepers”, that is underrated cars that might still appreciate.

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I have always felt that a certain Ferrari, namely the 456GT, was underrated and undervalued, and was very surprised to see sports cars with less pedigree like the ugly duckling 308 Dinos, the much more common Mercedes Pagoda SL’s, and even Ford Escort Twincams rise in price before any real movement for the 456. This is a beautiful elegant car with a hundred more horsepower than a Daytona (a classic from the seventies), at a fraction of the price, with two extra seats thrown in as a bonus! And then all of a sudden the values of the 456GTs started to shoot up. Now that the market has finally woken up to this fact and my predictions are coming true, and I have not done anything about it, I told myself.

My first encounter with the 456GT was at the Kyalami race track, between Pretoria and Johannesburg, when it was officially launched in South Africa in the mid-nineties. I was in the back of the demonstration model when we sailed past a Ferrari Testa Rossa down the straight, and I clearly remember the smooth relentless surge of the V12. The poster of that day’s Ferrari line up is still on my wall. Since then, I have bought and sold quite a few Ferraris and Porsches, but no 456GT, somehow.

Time for action then; I scoured the internet late that Monday night and a beautiful, blue, single owner, low mileage, 456GT Modificato almost leaped out. This car was a manual and in Sweden. I decided to rather go for a manual in left hand drive, than an auto in the UK, as I had a 400I auto years ago, and the overriding memory of that car was that of a missed opportunity, as the three speed slush box was so out of character with the high revving twelve cylinder engine. I also prefer the Modificato, as it must be an improved version and it just sounds special.

There was a lively exchange of e-mails over the next two days, as I got to know the interesting dealer. Kjell Lind runs a one man show near Gothenburg and is a serious Rolls Royce collector himself. I spoke to one of his satisfied UK customers in Scotland and decided to fly over to view the car. We struggled a bit to agree on a date, as Kjell was due to fly out to Rome for a family holiday and it transpired that unfortunately Easter Friday was the only suitable day. So I was on my way to City Airport early on a chilly grey morning when serious doubts started to set in. “Why are you not at home on this special Christian holiday, why are you borrowing all this extra money when you have already got a Ferrari?” I asked myself.

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The Gothenburg Airport was small and Kjell picked me up as arranged and we got to know each other during the hours’ drive to his hometown. Kjell told me about the 1932 Rolls Royce he is restoring, and how he still enjoys working on cars himself. He also described how the Swedes tend to put their special cars away before the harsh winters set in, and that their climate with all the snow is much colder than England but also much drier, which is better for corrosion. The 456GT was as he described it, original, unmolested, interior perfect except for two small holes in the dashboard leather where some kind of phone connection used to be.

Over lunch, Kjell told me about the previous owner, a countess, with two castles in the south of Sweden and a summer residence in Monaco. She is or was connected to the Swedish Royal family as the Lady of the Robe, he said. I do not quite know what that means, sounds fancy though. Things were really beginning to look up after the miserable early morning start when Kjell showed me his private collection of Rolls Royce’s, Bentleys, Jaguars and a precious Bugatti at his house. We then took the Ferrari out for a scenic test drive along a winding road next to some lovely Swedish lakes.

The first impression was how solid the car felt and the lovely orchestrated song of the 12 cylinders, then it became more responsive, lively, and urgent the faster we went. It was difficult to heed the speed limits and I just wanted to keep on driving. Needless to say, we came to an amicable agreement about the price, and I returned home to tell the exiting story to my anxiously waiting family. It was more than just a purchase; it was a memorable day in every way.

To my surprise and delight, Mariaan, my wife has also succumbed to the subtle charms of this Italian thoroughbred. The Countess as we call her, now shares my garage with the Rumbling Rocket, a much more modern Ferrari 599, I often sneak in just to take a peak. The UK registration was completed and our first journey was to an Afrikaans church service in a lovely small chapel in a nearby village. Now, for the rest of the hopefully long summer, I can carry on with my love affair with the exciting Swedish Countess.

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Europe – in or out?

The hectic Brexit debate
All over the country, in restaurants, pubs, offices and trains, the in or out question is openly, eagerly and often anxiously discussed. There has been endless speculation about how a European exit would influence house prices, interest rates, the banking sector, security, immigration, the NHS, scientific research, the arts and even the future of Gibraltar.

It is quite different to normal elections, where people are usually quite reticent about which party they support. It’s also a once in a lifetime type of decision; the last one was in the seventies. The other unusual factor is that the big political parties are openly divided internally, with Conservative giants David Cameron and Boris Johnson sniping at each other. On the other hand you find that traditional ideological opponents George Osborne, Ed Balls and Vince Cable are effortlessly sharing the same platform.

Most people don’t quite know what to make of the seemingly convincing arguments presented by both sides. I have spoken to many people who admitted that they are uncertain or are changing their minds constantly. The fact that over 20% of the electorate are still uncertain which way they are going to vote at this late stage of the campaign is also unusual. This filters through to the campaign spokespersons on both sides who are responding by exaggerating their respective cases to try and net these precious floating votes.

South African Chamber of Commerce in London
An important debate on the Brexit issue was also held at the South African Chamber’s monthly Connect meeting in the heart of the City of London last week.
Ryan Coetzee, a political strategist who has been an MP in South Africa and is still active as an advisor to the DA and who has also served as special adviser to Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, took the “Britain Stronger In” stance, whilst Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Romford and a member of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Overseas Territories, advocated for the UK to leave the European Union in order to have a better relationship with the Commonwealth and South Africa.

The two excellent speakers presented their respective cases with conviction and passion and things became quite heated at one stage. Andrew Rosindell presented his case first and he wasted no time in asserting how important it is for the British to reclaim their sovereignty and to be free to trade with the world at large instead of being hampered by the top-heavy Brussels bureaucrats all the way.

Andrew also emphasised the immigration issue, which is a big concern for many people, and he made a valid point in asking why the common market should be accompanied by the free movement of people internally. Other common markets in the world still keep their respective borders, he pointed out. The fact that over a million Syrians might have German passports in a few years’ time and will be free to come to the UK and elsewhere in Europe was also touched on.

Andrew also pointed out that the UK buys much more from Europe than it exports and that the European Union cannot afford to lose such a huge market. Andrew referred to the Commonwealth as English speaking in contrast to Europe, which seems a bit strange, as English has been accepted as the European Union’s lingua franca and is the preferred foreign language for students right across Europe by a huge margin. I could not help but wonder why the inherent economic weakness of having a common monetary policy for European countries as diverse as Finland and Greece did not crop up.

Ryan Coetzee immediately kicked off with an impressive list of international and national financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which made no bones of the fact that leaving the European Union would be detrimental to the UK’s economy. He emphasised that the UK would actually have much more clout as a member of the biggest economic block in the world and that it would be madness to forsake the direct access to 400 million Europeans.

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After all more than 50% of UK exports go to Europe. Ryan warned of an economic slump if the Brexits prevail. This seems a real possibility, since the banking and financial institutions generate about a quarter of the domestic income and services, in contrast to factories, can virtually pack up and leave overnight. I spoke to several South Africans who are employed in this sector and they all seem to share this fear. The existing trade agreements will also come to an end if the UK chooses to leave and, according to Ryan, everyone would have to be renegotiated, which can take years.

Ryan could not resist a bit of posturing by painting the pro-Europeans as the tolerant, cool world citizens in contrast to the slightly narrow-minded leavers.

The Common Market
I worked in London in the seventies. In the summer of ʼ75 we drove all the way through France right down to Marbella and then up to Northern Italy and back to England in a camper. One of the overriding memories of that trip was of how poor some parts of Spain were. We saw lots of TV aerials sticking out of the ground on hills where people were living in cave homes. Peasant women, dressed in black and covered in dust, would bring back flocks of sheep to the villages late in the afternoon.

We entered a shop in a village in the hills outside Barcelona one afternoon to buy food and snacks and the shelves were almost empty. We could only pick up a few olives and some stale bread. The main road from Madrid down south to Marbella was narrow and poorly surfaced. It could not even begin to compare with the wide tar road that connected Johannesburg to Cape Town at that time.

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Turn the clock forward by 25 years and Spain is absolutely transformed to a modern industrial, prosperous country with a road network second to none. This was due to political changes and the enormous benefits brought on by the European Common Market. All the countries still policed their own borders and had their respective currencies.

It was often inconvenient and sometimes very confusing, but the Common Market took Europe into a new era of economic cooperation and prosperity. We were delighted by the progress afforded by the Schengen visas in 1990 and later in ʼ99 the Euro currency, but the top-heavy European Union is somehow more difficult to love and admire. There is more than a whiff of arrogance emanating from these faceless bureaucrats, who were not elected and as a result are not accountable to anyone.

The big decision
In the end most people will vote according to their personal circumstances, for example the British expats living in Europe will want to stay in. Young couples I spoke to told me they are going to vote for an exit in order for house prices to come down. Others who are working in firms doing business with Europe say they do not want to rock the boat. The fishermen feel that the UK’s waters have been overfished by other European nations such as Iceland and Norway and they will want out. The polls show older people are more inclined to want to leave the Union, whilst younger voters, especially students, prefer to stay in Europe.

If you are wondering which way the celebrities are voting, actress Keira Knightley, Arsène Wenger of Arsenal, the Top Gear guy Jeremy Clarkson and famous chef Raymond Blanc are for staying in whilst cricket legend Sir Ian Botham wants out and is supported by actor Sir Michael Caine and rock legend Roger Daltrey of The Who.

Even in our family we are divided – three for staying in, two for going out. However, we all agree that the lack of analyses by independent experts, who are not connected to either camp, is what is really lacking in this campaign. This election can be seriously influenced by external events right up to voting day. It is going to be a tense three weeks.

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The Eng Valley in Austria – Alana Bailey

The Eng Valley in Austria is an unspoilt, secluded piece of paradise, surrounded by the Alps. It can be reached via a toll road from Bavaria.

To drive there is an experience in itself, with beautiful bridges, waterfalls and trees everywhere. A small community farms in the valley. There are signs of people migrating there since the Bronze Age, but the current settlement’s documented history dates back to 1523. The chapel, dating back to about 1700, is popular for weddings.

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In winter, dangerous avalanches block the village from the rest of the world. It is then evacuated. Visitors to the valley may enjoy the farmers’ delicious products, including large glasses of ice-cold buttermilk, cheese and sausages reminiscent of salami.

Cyclists and hikers will have lots to do here, but one can also just sit somewhere, deciding which way offers the best photo opportunities. The only audible sounds are the wind rustling through the trees and the tinkling of the cow bells. The scenery and tranquillity of the valley is refreshing for the soul!

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