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Or, simply watch e-tv and SABC3 and notice the difference, count the paid-for ads to see how they’re really doing in the market place.

If the failures exist, and reform is necessary, how should it be accomplished?

And a group of experts to meet, chat, research, meet again, disagree, chat, make peace, fight it out all over again and then, at some future stage, make recommendations. The pity is that someone has gone to a lot of trouble to work out how this review will work. It’s a bit like our land, no one really knows how much of South Africa is owned by government.

The problem is, we all know that that’s all they can do. Normally, if you know that, and who will run it, then you should be able to guess the outcome. Now, here's the horror question: Did you know that at present, according to presidency minister Collins Chabane, there are “an estimated 300 SOEs”. It’s incredible, and it shows you just how big the problem really is.

Our state-owned enterprises (SOEs, or for the purposes of this article, parastatals) are in a complete mess. And when we talk about mess we mean a wasting-billions, holding-back-the-country, putting-a-handbrake-on-the-economy mess. It affects everything; from how much power we have at the moment, to why the N3 after Pietermaritzburg is such a disaster and why are we still a decade behind the world in telecommunications.

You know the type, with someone worthy, from the law, to head it. Well, technically speaking, that would be the case; it will actually be made by the ANC NEC, the Esselen Park people. Or if they do, they’re too busy, er, lazy, to put it in the documents.

We would suggest you take the politics out of the equation.

We realise that’s a little controversial, but think of what happens if you don’t get it right.

Don’t muck around with objectives, tell each parastatal to do one thing properly (like keep the lights on, deliver clean water, produce good programming, manage our signal spectrum properly, pick up the rubbish) and leave it at that. What is the role of SOEs in the developmental state?

Think very carefully about Eskom, but bring in private money, commercial thinking; there’s money to be made in running power companies and train lines and providing services, let people come in and find a way. There may be the odd centre of excellence, but you’ll have to look hard for it. If you try to reform them from within you will have huge battles all over the place within each one.

Hell, they’ll probably even pay you for the privilege. They will make recent events at the SABC look like a picnic.

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