The travails of travel


I’m writing this in Terminal 2F at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport at Roissy, near Paris, France. I’m in limbo here after missing my connecting flight from Johannesburg to Nice due to zealous and – hopefully – efficient security. I’m headed for Cannes where I’m attending the annual meeting of the Airline Information Technology Society, SITA. They are not to be confused with either the South African State IT Agency or with a club of IT enthusiasts.

The airline SITA is in fact one of the world`s largest IT companies and operates one of the world`s largest secure IT network. Now also used by the multinationals, the network was created to facilitate international airline ticket bookings and lately to facilitate pre-embarkation immigration clearing, something invented by the United States after “911”, the September 11, 2001 suicide attacks on the Pentagon in Washington and World Trade Centre in New York using commercial airliners as cruise missiles. A fourth plane, headed for the White House, was downed by while passengers were staging a counter-hijacking. Hence obsessive airport security ever since.

Thorough screening takes time and security personnel are not overly concerned with passenger schedules. This worries International Air Transport Association CE Giovanni Bisignani who, on more than one occasion, has bluntly put it that passengers being bumped to later flights is inefficient and hurting the airline industry bottom line at a time it cannot afford it. The industry is expected to lose $9 billion this year by Bisignani` latest calculation and needs every bit of good organisation to cut costs, including those inflicted by security.

My travail should be useful at the conference as airline security is on the agenda.

A word or two

I noticed on arrival here that the French for ‘flu” is grippe”, similar to the Dutch and Afrikaans, “griep.” Is it also the origin of the English word “gripe”? May you have a “gripe” is someone gives you “griep”?


Cleanliness is next to Godliness only in very thin dictionaries. I have travelled extensively in the last few years and I must say OR Tambo International Airport is one of the best by any definition I have had the pleasure to travel through – even before the recent upgrades. CDG does not come close.


There is a quaint belief in many circles that Parliament “makes” laws. In a certain literal way it does: it votes on Bills tabled by government departments and – sometimes – amends them for better or worse before doing so.

It is a mistake to think that it drafts the legislation it passes. About the only Bill lawmakers have drafted and succeeded in passing in recent years was one allowing them to amend money Bills, such as the Appropriation Bill, in an attempt to curb the power of the Treasury. The state fiscus, at the time under the stewardship of Trevor Manuel, declined to help the drafters. It remains to be seen if it will be assented to by the President, and if promulgated will be used. It is, in theory, a powerful weapon.

But we digress.

Legislation, whether the apartheid Immorality Act or the post-apartheid black empowerment edifice, originates in party manifestos. The party elected by the majority of voters to form a government gets the chance to turn promises into programmes. Programmes lead to policy and that often requires legislation to become reality.

The line department tasked with that mission drafts the legislation. If their draft Bill meets the minister`s approval, it goes to Cabinet, first to the cluster committee of directors general concerned, the to the cluster committee of ministers concerned, then to the committee of directors general headed by the Cabinet Secretary (Vusi Mavimbela, also Director-General in The Presidency) and then to the full Cabinet.

Once they approve, the Bill may be tabled in Parliament, where it will usually first go to the relevant Portfolio Committee for hearings, debate and, perhaps amendment, and then to the plenary National Assembly (NA). Most Bills then go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for the same treatment. If the NCOP makes changes to the Bill passed by the NA, it has to go back to the portfolio committee and the NA for a revote. The version then passed by the NA is final and goes to the President for signature and proclamation.              



It was George Orwell who said sport is war without the guns. The South African national soccer team, the Bafana Bafana (“the boys, the boys) did very well in the Confederations Cup that ended Sunday, finishing fourth after holding their own against Brazil and Spain. After years of woeful scores, the boys deserve a moment of glory and may do us proud in next years` World Cup. Applause also for the organisers: The two-week event went of with only minor hitches, including some hotel room theft. Next July`s event has the makings of a spectacular.