Maluleke is doing what he can to steady the billy can, Newsline

By Pali Lehohla

JOHANNESBURG – Van Rooyen’s is one of the many border gates between South Africa and Lesotho. It is a centre of activity. People move between Wepener in South Africa and Mafeteng in Lesotho.

My older brother tells how the elders of Hermon in Lesotho once asked him to carry a billy can and buy tripe for them nearby after indulging in umqombothi.

Expectations went into overdrive as they saw him coming back. But the expectations soon turned into huge disappointment when he told them that he could not find their delicacy.

Nothing beats tripe after taking umqombothi.

What made the dissappointment worse was that he had carried the billy can in a way that suggested it had tripe inside.

Carrying an empty billy can is probably how Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke feels when he has to tell an expectant nation that the country’s GDP has shrunk 51 percent quarter on quarter on an annualised seasonally adjusted basis.

Naturally, academics and commentators have gone into overdrive to express how misleading the data is, with some questioning how Maluleke carried the billy can.

While they make important points, they go on to say that the second quarter was the worst and that to annualise it makes no sense.

But Maluleke knows only one way of carrying a billy can: that is to use its handle and holding it steadily whether it is empty or full.

The negative growth in the first quarter was seasonally adjusted and annualised and so were the 40 or so quarter-on-quarter gross domestic product growth rates before it.

To pick on one point and argue that the billy can was badly carried is like indulging in umqombothi and tripe.

Maluleke has no taste buds and cannot be lured by the imagined scent of tripe under the haze of umqombothi.

The only buds he possesses are good and bad methods. The magnitude of numbers he has are like the disappointment of the Hermon elders.

Only this time the elders are the rest of South Africans.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa.