Driving Miss Penny(less)

27 04 2008


By Danielle Brock (Dangirl)



“Could you fill up my tank please?”

“Sure. Unleaded?”
“Yes, please.”


Sitting in my little car, with a 35 litre tank, I watch the numbers on the ‘Rand’ screen on the petrol pump go up and up.


“That’s R324.11 please.”

“Um, ok do you accept debit cards?”


These are my last words before I swipe away a big chunk out of my monthly allowance. R1000 used to last me a month’s worth of food, petrol and ‘entertainment’. Now I have to resort to the dreaded phone call back home to mom: “Do you think you could deposit an extra R300 this month?”


It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only car-owner with this problem. Nationwide motorists are feeling the pinch in their wallets when filling up their tanks after the increase in petrol and diesel prices that has occurred this year alone. After spending some time on the South African Petroleum Industry Association’s (SAPIA) website, I began to think. It’s scary to think that since the start of 2008 South Africans have had to fork out an extra R1.50 a litre of petrol and R2.16 for diesel. These prices are, however, dependent on the grade of fuel and region. This may not sound like much but, in retrospect, if one looks back at what they were paying this time last year, a mere R6.54 per litre of petrol (April 2007) and R5.51 per litre of diesel (January 2007). According to Statistics South Africa, this adds up to approximately 68% and 58% increase in petrol and diesel prices respectively.


This is not the end of the uphill climb of inflation. The Times has warned of a further increase set for 7 May of 35c for petrol and 50c for diesel. This means motorists will now be paying close to R10 a litre to run their cars. So for anyone who is reading this before that date, best you fill up soon to avoid the usual queues at your local service station.


But these have further implications for those who don’t even have their own forms of transport. After the 5 March increase many taxi owners put up their fares by R1. Currently, many Joza residents have to pay R6 one way to get to Grahamstown CBD. In a city where other forms of public transport such as trains and busses are unavailable (who, according to an article published on IOL, have not increased their prices since 2003), this leaves students with little option but to pay the R240 a month to get to their lectures on campus.


For those of us who don’t actually know the ins and outs of how these prices are calculated, an interview with Avhapfani Tshifularo, the Controlled Products Pricing and Fuels Taxation advisor at (SAPIA) on News24 revealed some necessary information useful to the layman.


The price of fuel is dependent on the international markets and supply and demand because if more fuel is demanded than can be supplied, the prices will have to be increased. The exchange rate also affects these prices as a weakening rand against the dollar will also increase the fuel price. This affected all of the increases in 2007.


South Africa regulates their fuel prices, meaning that all fuelling stations have fixed prices including Sasol, our local fuel producing company. The regulation of fuel prices has been blamed for this price hike but Tshifularo argues that deregulation will not decrease prices but rather fuel (ha ha) competition. Sasol has to follow the prices of imported fuel because petrol and diesel are international products based on other prices such as crude oil. However, the basic fuel price only constitutes about 68% of the total price while the rest is made up of levies, dealer’s margin and transportation of the fuel. By quick calculation, this means that the basic fuel price of a litre of petrol is currently only about R5, 90. The price of fuel used to transport the fuel is creating the price of the fuel. That was confusing, but true.


So we’re all a little more clearer on how the South African economy may just not be ripping us off, but there is a serious issue that hasn’t been addressed. Energy products do not only include petrol and diesel but also paraffin – the staple source of ‘power’ for many South Africans. In areas that electricity does not reach (ok, so that could be the whole country), dwellers rely on paraffin to cook food and power light sources. This paraffin, however, will cost a family R7, 60 a litre, just less than R2 more than they would’ve paid last year. I do suppose this is not much of an incline in comparison to Eskom’s proposed 60% increase on electricity prices – but that is a whole other issue I don’t want to get involved in.


I have no intentions of this having any affect on the petrol price (if it did I could drop out of university as the Superwoman) but have really learnt a thing or two. We can’t blame this damage solely on SA and we can’t expect this problem to be rectified anytime soon. I guess it’s back to the good ol’ foot action for a while, at least until I can refill my tank.  


Living the (not so much) high life…

14 04 2008

By Danielle Brock (Dangirl)

Alright now I know I’ve already ranted on about my future but I now have a new issue that I’d like other peoples’ points of view on. So, here’s the thing. 

When you’re a little kid you have all these dreams of what you want to be when you’re big. I went from doctor to school teacher to astro-physicist back to doctor then to politician and now pretty much have my heart set on journalism, which is what I’m currently studying for. As you grow up your plans obviously change but this is not only because your previous plan wasn’t cool enough but because you realise that being something like a school teacher is not going to put a BMW in the garage and caviar on the table. And we all know that deep down inside everybody has dreams of such luxuries when picturing their futures.

But here’s the thing. I do have dreams of travelling the world, living in my dream mansion and sending my children to the best private schools but I know that as a journalist I will probably never be able to afford such a lavish lifestyle. Yes, there is the possibility once you’ve reached the top, but that could take years. However, even though I hope to be financially secure, I could never dream of giving up something I love so much for a profession that simply pays well. A very good friend of mine has done this, giving up her love for Drama to pursue a career in Law, simply because it’s a professional degree that will guarantee her a job at the end, and a good salary. But she hates it! She still has a dream of opening a Drama school but, as she says, ‘one day’. She is not the only one. I have another friend who has a passion for English and a love for writing but is about to complete her BCom degree because it’s a more promising degree.

Now, I don’t know about you but I do not know how someone can spend three to four years studying something they hate, with a clear understanding that they will spend the next 20 to 30 years doing this job everyday, just because they will be financially secure. Maybe I’ve just lost the plot but I’d rather wake up in the morning and WANT to go to work. I’d rather have a passion for my career choice because it is a love for the job that will push you up the corporate ladder and push you to do things that will get you somewhere within that field.

I am in no way questioning my friends’ choices and, who knows, 10 years from now I could be kicking myself for registering for a degree in Medicine. But I just want to know if I’m the only one with this mindset or am I living in the dream world and should plan a career change? What is better, a future you love or a future that pays?

mansionexpensive carhomeless-coderhobo

Back to good ‘ol tuna

9 04 2008

By Danielle Brock (dangirl)


So, I just got off the phone with my mother after one of those ‘so what’s happening in your life’ conversations. Nothing new. But then that question popped up: ‘You’ve got your degree at the end of this year, what are you going to do next year?’ Woah! Wait a sec. I’m comfy in this little bubble they called Rhodes student life, I don’t want to have to think about stuff like that! However, I do.

The last three years here seemed to have frozen time. Yes, I am now three years older but I don’t really feel that I’m now an adult ready for the big ocean. I’m still the sponge at the bottom of the sea, absorbing any information and knowledge provided to me. I would have no idea what to do if I encountered a shark or which anemone I could safely house myself in. Now, there’s always the option of staying here, becoming a Gtown local and, as my dad likes to call it, ‘professional student’. But that’s not my plan, I need to get out of here, but where do I begin?

You see, we’ve all been in this position before, I don’t know what the fuss is about. Going to ‘big’ school, then on to high school and finally university we all experience that transition from big fish to little fish but moving into the working world, I think, is very different. Now you’re just a tuna fish. One of millions. Ordinary. And perhaps good with mayo. You spend your matric year slaving over exams to achieve marks that won’t even be looked at by future employers, and the same goes for university marks. All they wish to see is your race and gender and, if they’re really desperate, your degree. It’s sad really. And to think all these years of hard work and money to be told ‘sorry, you’re not previously disadvantaged, we don’t want you’. It is this factor that worries me a bit. Call me proudly South African if you wish but I have hope in this country, even if we can’t see it (ha ha), but I too will become a part of the brain drain just to secure a job position. Or will I? I’ve watched friend after friend, of all ages, scuttle off to the UK to do the usual two year stint. Earn pounds waitering, spend it at the pub and clubbing, then head back to SA broke and looking for a job. So, back to square one.

Still, I’m left pondering, where to next? Ever since I was a little girl I used to make plans for my future and by the time i’m ‘big’ I hope to have squeezed all these dreams in. But for now, I’ll stick to complaining about essays and tests because life is easier that way, believe it or not.

university stresstuna