HALF-YEAR 30 JUNE 2019

Hard to believe half the year has flown by!

It has been loaded with politics including a national election and the finalisation of parliament, economic data for the first quarter that sucks at -3.2% GDP growth, SOEs’ revelations every day that boggle the mind, defamation claims that seem to have become lawfare, and emigration statistics that leave you reeling. Never a dull moment in SA Inc.

That said, we have survived and even Donald and China seem to be reaching some agreement. Hauwei or Meiwei is Donald’s Wei but I Mustsei, he currently has the best stock exchange performance in the world – often in excess of 15% with the Nasdaq flying. And then there is the Brexit “Deal or No Deal” show which, with the weakest Bachelor I have ever seen, has had us glued to the screen more than Netflix. I never knew I would binge on Theresa May – flicking from her to Deputy Chief Justice Zondo more times than a fly escapes its swatter. Never a dull moment in world politics either.

Our property market has moved sideways and getting a positive article out of anyone that I didn’t think was simply “talking it up” has been really hard. But out there, hard-working men and women have made ends meet and sold and sold despite the push-back of the market. That it is a buyers’ market, there is no doubt but even getting a buyer to bite has been tricky. You can’t do deals with people walking through your show-house; you actually need an offer to make a negotiation possible. My friend who has had 25 couples come through his house in two months feels exactly what I’m talking about. But I must say, both from a rate and an approval point of view, the banks have remained really good. No shut down from them and truly, they hold the key to continued sales and borrowing. If we can just hold Eskom solvent, we have a good chance of emerging from the mess we are in. Heaven help us, please!

Getting technical for a moment, I received a good article in Businesstech, 29 June 2019, quoting Tobie Fourie, National Rentals manager, Chas Everitt and entitled, New South African rental laws may be implemented soon – these are the changes you need to know about, that gave some good insight for those of us owning buy-to-lets or in the rental business. Some extracts:

Top of FormBottom of Form

The Rental Housing Amendment Act will be implemented soon. The ‘new’ Act – which was actually passed in 2014 – contains the most recent amendments to the Rental Housing Act of 1999, which is still in force.

 

The act currently governs the overall relationship between tenant and landlord and sets out their statutory rights and obligations and aims to clarify certain aspects of the older Act that have given rise to many differences of interpretation.

 

The main provisions that landlords and tenants need to be aware of include:

  • It will become compulsory for lease agreements between the landlord and the tenant to be in writing and legally enforceable.
  • All sections of the lease and any explanations and definitions it contains will need to be explained to the tenants and understood before the document is signed.
  • It will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the rental property is in a habitable state, which is in line with the existing Rental Housing Act.
  • The landlord will be responsible for maintaining the rental property and will have to ensure that it has access to basic services such as water and electricity.
  • Only the local authority will be permitted to cut off services to non-paying tenants.
  • No tenant may be prevented from entering the rental property or denied access to the rental property without a court order.
  • A joint inspection by the landlord and tenant has to be done on the commencement of the lease period, and if the landlord does not participate in this inspection, no part of the tenant’s deposit for repairs or damages may be withheld when the tenant leaves.
  • A defect list will have to form part of the lease agreement as an annexure.
  • When the deposit is paid back to the tenants, the interest earned on that deposit must also be paid to the tenant within seven days of the expiration of the lease, subject to any deductions for damages.

 

Landlords who fail comply with these and other requirements within six months of the new legislation coming into force could be liable to pay a fine or even face a jail sentence for non-compliance.

 

“And these legal complexities will make it all the more important for landlords to appoint reputable, reliable, knowledgeable, qualified and legally registered rental management agents to assist them and ensure they remain compliant”, said Fourie.

 

Let’s face it, if you are letting a premises that is not habitable, without a written lease and for which you do not have an inspection list at the beginning and the willingness to fix problems that arise, you should not be a landlord. On the other hand, good landlords have always paid some interest on deposits as they have earned [read: saved] interest if they took the money and put it in their bond on the property. But, there is the nagging feeling that letting is carrying more and more onus on the landlord to be proven right and the tenant to be proven wrong. Having said this, I can honestly say I have never had a bad tenant. Those of you who have will tell me to be very grateful, I know.

 

We enter the second half. Hopefully our politics settles down and the Zondo Commission provides an interim report on glaring state capture and we have a rate decrease. Then if we can hold onto our investment grade from Moody’s and fund enough of Eskom to keep the lights on, we may be through the first part of the drift. It’s knife edge to be honest but failure is also not an option.

 

Neither is pessimism. I understand how you feel believe me but one thing I know from personal experience is that all the worry in the world does not move you forward. Worry is like sitting on a rocking chair thinking you’re moving. You’re not; you’re just standing still and getting weaker every day, physically and emotionally. Cut it out and remind me to do the same if I lapse back. Homeloan Junction is in the same boat as you, nothing more and nothing less. We are here to support you to the best of our ability and are onside to help you succeed. Success to you in the second half!! – the same success we wish ourselves.

 

Yours in Property.

 

FORGIVE AND FORGET

It would be worth my while to write two blogs on this subject, but I didn’t think that was necessary for my readers. Fact is, we all have experienced that unless these two things hang together, it is very difficult to actually fulfil either.

Before I go, there a few unrelated things:

  • So good that the SARB held the rate last month. They are as desperate as the rest of us for solid growth and are nurturing the prospect like a sole mandate. Great news!
  • Wasn’t Tiger Woods amazing in the “The Masters?” The 12th hole proved telling for his opposition and then to win was off the charts. “The Masters” is a test of golf for the whole person, but when you consider what he’s put his family through and then that he has a replaced knee and a multi-fused back, and that he’s now “come back” it is probably the most historic recovery in the game of golf and possibly in the world of sport. Why I mention him [and again later], is that “coming back” is what we all do every day of our lives to a greater or lesser degree.
  • Did you see Xolani Luvuno on Carte Blanche? You can Google him for a real shot in the arm but shortly, he ran the Two Oceans and then set his sights on the Iron Man. He did the former on crutches with a steel leg and he did the latter despite the fact that he could not swim about 9 months before. They were worried that he would fail the swim cut-off but he made it and then he failed on the 108kms cycle but went on to complete the Iron Man 2019 despite not qualifying. Man, I love it – got goosebumps over me and both of us shed tears on Sunday night [14 April 2019]. His mentor and boss, Hein Venter, rescued him off the streets. He had this to say:

“One day I was feeding a beggar, next day I was standing in the shadow of a Superstar.”


We continue with the last “F” of our LIFE acronym…

The word “fore” is shouted by golfers when a stray ball is heading for a crowd. Just before you get this egg on your head and a blinding headache, a golfer will shout “Fore!” It means “in front of” and it’s best-known use is part of the word “before” which we all know means “in front of”, or simply, “before”. Easy, hey? But then why is it so hard to fore-give and fore-get?

There’s so much to say about these two little words to do them justice, but let’s try:

Fore-give means “to give before”. That’s where the problem lies for us. We want to get and then give. Or, if we’re modern in our ways, we want 50/50. That’s how we live so many of our relationships. You give a little and I’ll give a little, or, maybe I’ll give a little more than you – all according to opinions though. Then there’s the gross hurt that rocks our lives from time to time. Hurt that cut deep and feel irreparable at the time and at best, leave wounds and voids in our heart. Painful and deep; really unforgivable. We carry those pains in us even though we know they form the basis of psychosomatic illnesses that gouge away at us over time – stress, blood pressure, depression and many think, even cancer. The little things are hard to forgive, the big, well-nigh impossible.

Why is this so? Why would we allow so much hurt to rack us even while we know it’s not good for us? In fact, clichés like “suck it up”, “let it go”, and “live and let live”, “it’s not your responsibility” and many other terms of good counsel roll off our lips as common-sense for others. But, let us be the ones to forgive, and we’d rather die inside than tell the other person they’re forgiven. Of course, the hurt is at the root of our problem and it feels indescribably insurmountable. Perhaps pride sets in and “I’ll forgive when they say they’re sorry” becomes our mantra. Mantra, or justification? Justification for not saying sorry unconditionally and being able to move on as best as possible. Please my friend, be the first. It’s good for you. Please!

“Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, and the waste of energy.”
– shares Nicky Gumble, of Alpha renown.

We’re reminded of Nelson Mandela’s quote about resentment [the close cousin of un-forgiveness] being like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Looking back on Tiger Woods, you wonder at the forgiveness that was required in that relationship; millions of people were exposed to his infidelity and Nike withdrew his Ambassador status along with many other sponsors. And what about the need to fore-give himself at the depths of his despair so as to recover his total emotional loss. Surely, some fore-giveness was also at the heart of his come-back? Let’s hope so because fame cannot replace the hollow that no doubt existed in his heart. Release yourself from the wounds and voids of a broken heart.

Perhaps even more difficult for us is to forget. “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget”, we hear so often. The release of forgetfulness seems so difficult to achieve even if we’ve gone the route of fore-giving. We’ve humbled ourselves, got off our high horse, eaten humble pie and done all the rituals and norms to say sorry but we cannot forget; a syndrome of the human heart and mind. From too much chocolate over Easter to the serious breakdowns of relationships to crippling accidents that were not our fault. We carry the pain and remember the memories of the past. How do we erase those memories and “move on”?

I think that we need to treat nasty memories like we treat any thoughts. Imagine activating every thought that crossed your mind. “Buy that Cadburys marshmallow-filled Easter egg” you head says. But you know you must resist because resistance to chocolate is futile [so the saying goes ☺]. So you bury the thought and move to the fresh meat counter to buy yourself some low-fat rump mince. What did you do with the chocolate thought? You had it, you re-directed yourself, changed the thought to something healthy, and moved on. Surely, the same thing applies to the serious as to the trivial? You have the thought about a serious incident with its pain but before you allow yourself to dwell on the thought, the Good Book says, “You bring every thought into captivity” [2 Corinthians 10:5]. So you arrest the thought, think on something different [more positive, healthy, fruitful] and act towards it.

I doubt we ever forget. We are not built to do so as we store memories so as to create templates for future behaviour whether that is a loss, a hurt or a pain. But we can arrest those thoughts that are not good for us, and we must for our own sake. Stop trying to erase the memory by letting it be, but don’t let it be you any longer. Once again, release yourself from the wounds and voids of a broken heart.

Imagine Xolani thinking that he could not succeed because he is a rehabilitated heroin addict. How many times did he hearken back to the streets, perhaps even to the times he had two legs? How he must have cursed himself for his stupidity at times and possibly think that he could have been a natural champion rather than an amputee superstar. What a waste his head would tell him as he panted unrelentingly and his shoulders hurt but, in his heart, beat the alternate dream to win and conquer despite his disability. No regret too strong to stop his will to win and compete, first with himself and then with others. In fact, the last time I saw such guts was when Oscar donned his blades and ran himself into the history books. Fore-get….never! But become a victim of memories…..never!. Surely the same goes for Tiger – how he could have spent his $100’s of millions in lulled reclusivity knowing he was a spent force. Never! He stood up, failed and came back against all odds. Thoughts captive rather than a captive of his thoughts.

This has been a heavy blog for me. We all know that forgiveness and forgetfulness are bedfellows, but so many people I meet are fixated by one or the other, or both. The outline above is certainly not the be-all of therapy and many books have no doubt been written on the subject. In the final analysis, the end result is ours and ours alone. If you need one or both, “gun dit vir jouself”. If you need to forget, redirect your thinking to the precious and grateful and allow yourself the space to move on to something higher and noble. You’re worth it.

Yours in Property.

SOUTH AFRICA’s EDGE

Below is an article sent to me by a dear friend. He knows me well in this area and lives through many of the battles of faith vs commonsense that I traverse regularly, in fact, more regularly these days.

I make this point right at the beginning so as to avoid any sense of hypocrisy in the area of staying in South Africa. I have been very negative of late in this area of what has become commonsensical to me. I find it very difficult to avoid the evidence as it piles up in favour of those who “pack for Perth.” Tonight I have a friend coming back from overseas who has had more than a good look in the country where he can obtain an ancestral visa. A week ago I had lunch with another friend who spent 6 weeks in Thailand looking and seeing. Let’s not fool ourselves; it was a coloured ex-South African man who had emigrated and who was wounded in the Christchurch massacre.

But one thing I am coming across in the current tragic polarisation that is taking place is broadly four kinds of people: One who goes because they just “can’t live here anymore”; One who stays here and broods because they “can’t go anywhere”; One who stays here and “doesn’t read those things” to remain level-headed; and One who stays and really “does something to help”, however small.

I know there are many permutations of these South African views and I have come to see that the reasons we think the way we do are as personal as the circumstances in which we each find ourselves. To leave is a very personal decision, almost unique to the individual or family. I’ve learned to accept the decision whatever the reason.

However, in copying the article below, an open letter from an incredible man, I trust I could just speak a small word to those of us who are negative and even afraid of the future. I can’t give assurances, but I know that if you fester inside your tortoise shell, you will become even more cynical, negative, bitter and useless than if you acknowledge your concerns, give them a name in your brain, and get on with something, just a little something, good. Again to the rescue, Nelson Mandela who had 27 years of reasons to hate within a self-constructed fortress of bitterness, but said: Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

Find that little something good to do in your daily life. We are not all OUTA CEO’s but we can all do something for someone or something. We have a lady in Hermanus who is a “swallow” from England. She noticed our cemetery was weed-ridden and poorly kept. She compared it to those she knows back home and wrote of her initiative in The Village News. With her own funds, she got a team together of workers and volunteers and cleaned up the cemetery. While the rest of use drove passed and complained about the municipality, she toiled. Eventually, they had cleaned the grounds and begun some very beautiful touches. Before I describe them, at this stage she opened up the opportunity for interested parties to pay a monthly donation of R250 maximum into a trust account for the work to proceed. Then, I think whether she got the donations or not, she put up little white painted crosses on the unmarked graves and began to get Calendulas from anywhere to plant in prepared gardens. For those who don’t know them, they’re waterwise and give a beautiful display of colourful, daisy-like flowers through Spring and Summer. Com’on you say, that’s extreme and she should have just enjoyed her summer holiday and gone back to admire her UK cemeteries. Well, that’s just the point – she decided to do something in one town in the whole of South Africa that everyone else thought was the responsibility of someone else, and for all we know, this may be the only recognition she’s had outside the town.

What about Hermanus Siyakha [Meaning: Building Together] which, if it catches flame, could be applied in every town in South Africa? Interest free micro-loans to micro-businesses supported by mentors [twenty aged, highly competent Hermanus men and women who have a progenerative passion], and community-funded on the internet. Have a look on: www.hermanussiyakha.co.za.

And what about the fact that the Hermanus Night Shelter, against multiple odds including “no money”, got its roof on last week. The project is passionately driven by a man in his mid-70’s. Flippen’ amazing, I can tell you!

Point is, South Africa never allows you to sit on the fence unless you’re a die-hard. Opportunities abound and when you’ve done something there’s always a “stretch something” beyond it. I know it gets difficult to look at what’s going on and not be lost in the sea of it, but there is something You can do. Find it and do it. As per François Pienaar’s MAD [Make a Difference] organization, “be the change you want to see”.

Hopefully, you’re challenged to read this article with a different, upward-looking perspective….

OUTA leader Wayne Duvenage: Here’s PROOF that SA is on road to recovery – #Stay&Fix
22nd March 2019 by Jackie Cameron

EDINBURGH —  Not everyone in the South African diaspora is on the run from corruption and crime. Many of us are working outside South Africa because that’s where the opportunities in our, or our partners’, careers and businesses lie. Some just want to travel or build up savings in low-tax havens. While there are inevitably some who have left the country and talk down South Africa at every turn, there are many who believe that the country is not a basket case. For people like this, me included, it is good to be reminded of the recent improvements that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team have implemented. The respected leader of OUTA, Wayne Duvenage, led the charge against corruption in the Zuma years. In an open letter to South Africa, Duvenage sets out the many reasons South Africans should be optimistic about the future. He is promoting a #Stay&Fix attitude, but he should not forget there are many South Africans who are very willing to do their bit to promote growth and prosperity from afar. – Jackie Cameron

By Wayne Duvenage
[Wayne Duvenage is CEO of OUTA]

The most common questions encountered at the many talks and societal engagements I attend are ‘is there hope for the economic future of South Africa?’ and ‘seriously, shouldn’t we just pack up and go now?’ or ‘are we winning the battle against corruption?’

My short answer to those who are anxious about our future is to dwell less on what is wrong and to open your eyes to what is really happening. The more we are able to determine and see the positive signs of sustainable change, the better we will be at generating positive impetus for growth and prosperity by those who choose to #Stay&Fix South Africa.

Tough times & tough decisions

There is no denying that South Africa is suffering from the corruption upheaval of the Zuma era that pushed us into massive economic hardship and to the brink of collapse. Furthermore, corruption, incompetence and maladministration by many in positions of authority in national and local government still exist and are a significant challenge to our future prosperity. We have our work cut out for us in this department.

Sadly, however, human nature in stressful times tends to allow negativity to take hold. It clouds our ability to see the signs of positive change by new leadership committed to turning things around. We forget that change doesn’t happen overnight and that when turning a massive ship around towards a favourable destination, the extent of the change becomes evident when we look back to see the wake of our revival.

However, the extent of change is not always easy to gauge in the early days as the pace of change is never quick enough to satisfy our natural desire and hungry human nature for a big and fast-paced change, especially after a prolonged period of damaging leadership. And when that doesn’t happen it gives rise to growing frustration.

Throw in a few curve-balls such as Eskom load shedding and you get massive spikes of negativity to catalyse thoughts and group discussions of giving up and emigrating. This is where we are right now.

Looking back to move forward

Consider for a moment where we stand today compared to 15 months ago when Jacob Zuma was still in power. The Zuma cabal was confident of winning at the ANC’s five-year elective conference in December 2017, yet they didn’t.

We need to understand that had Team Zuma won that battle, Tom Moyane would still be in charge at South African Revenue Service (SARS), Shaun Abrahams at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Lynne Brown and the destructive forces would continue to plunder away at Eskom, along with a host of other connected cohorts wreaking havoc in many positions of authority. The last remaining “positive” ratings agency, Moody’s, would most likely have downgraded us to junk status and the international and local investment fallout would have been in full swing.

Well, that didn’t happen and very quickly we became upbeat as Cyril Ramaphosa took the reins of national leadership from Jacob Zuma. Our appetite for change and corrective action ran high and placed us in a state of mind that expected more to have happened by now.

We became blind to the complexity and enormity of the turnaround job that lay ahead and the massive “Zuma-era hangover”, with which CR and his new team have to contend, not to mention the internal ruling party factionalism and external election rallying. Throw into the mix constant rating agencies’ scrutiny and a society baying for more, and it is safe to say that Ramaphosa occupies the toughest job any South Africa president has faced.

Despite all these pressures, encouraging developments within the vital institutions that ensure national stability (which were systemically destabilised by Zuma and his cronies) are now adding to the momentum of change that we seek. Think about the recent revelations at the various commissions of inquiry, the introduction of new capacity within the NPA, at SARS and the Hawks and of the many (often not published) new proclamations resulting from the good work undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Let’s not forget the significant Cabinet changes undertaken soon after Ramaphosa became president. Remember too the amendment he introduced to the terms of the State Capture Commission that allowed for evidence presented therein to be used in future charges.
Then there are the banks announcing the closure of business accounts of African Global Operations (formerly Bosasa), just as they did against the Gupta companies, adding another effective mechanism to tackling money laundering and corruption in South Africa. One cannot emphasise enough how important these decisions and developments have been in our journey of recovery.

While the recent arrest of Bosasa and past Correctional Services bosses and others has been music to our ears, people ask:

“But why hasn’t the President had Zuma, Koko, Zwane, Motsoeneng, Seleke, Molefe and others arrested yet?”

Well, for starters, the president may not command arrests. That process resides within the NPA and the Police, aided by the Asset Forfeiture Unit, SIU, Hawks and SARS. Encouragingly, these same institutions are currently being restored, fortified and de-Zumafied to enable the rule of law to start working again.

Let us also be mindful that some cases are just more complex than others. Some need more “ducks in a row” before the trigger is pulled, while others have the external pressures of political chess and factionalism that take longer to break down in order to achieve desired outcomes.

High on the juice of positive thinking?

Some may believe that any positive view of the present dire situation could be a case of getting high on the mantra of head-in-the-clouds thinking, or being blinded by Ramaphoria or even being a government or political party lackey that seeks to sugar-coat and downplay the enormity of our problems. And society has a lot of them.

While driving a positive narrative does help to increase the energy in any system, effective civil intervention requires that we remain pragmatic and apolitical, giving credence to developments that generate momentum, consistency and sustainable positive change, while constructively criticising, challenging and seeking to amend government’s inefficiencies and ill-doing.

Civil society upbeat

The focus is on Shamila Batohi and her beefed-up team to re-energise the rule of law – and in fact, this is already underway. Just as the water flows in a dry riverbed after good rains, it starts at first as a trickle. The challenge, however, is to ensure it doesn’t turn into a raging torrent that is out of control and doing more damage than good.

What we seek is a longer, controlled flow of energy that is contained, less destructive and more effective, as the authorities round up and charge the culprits that set our nation back by a decade or more.

As civil society, we must not relent in applying pressure for the government to fix our broken state entities and to introduce the competence and visionary leadership that is able to take tough decisions.

Neither must we decelerate civil society’s opposition to irrational and failed policies such as e-tolls, the dubious Xolobeni mining and N2 toll road decisions, or the forthcoming flawed Aarto process and other matters that questions Government’s legitimacy.

These issues, along with gross electricity tariff hikes, questionable taxation policies, bloated and inefficient government departments and failing municipalities, will keep civil activism dynamic and prevalent for years to come.

While I maintain that we should all commit to challenging that which is wrong, or at least support those organisations which do so, let’s also acknowledge significant positive developments when these are evident.

Without being blind to the stormy waters and uncomfortable swells that lie ahead, now is the time to promote a #Stay&Fix attitude that will ensure hands on deck to give us a better chance of survival and greater prosperity.

I called this blog, South Africa’s Edge. You may have thought I was thinking of the cliff we look into every day. It’s unassailably daunting whether you’re at the top or the bottom. But actually, I’m talking about you and me. You and I, the people of this beautiful, tortured country are the EDGE! Jack Welsh, the famous CEO of General Electric, defined people with EDGE as having: Enthusiasm; Differentiation; Guts and Energy [as adapted from his book, Control Your Destiny or someone else will].

Even if you’re one week from going, do something “vir oulaas” even if it’s putting R250 into the Hermanus Siyakha project – you have no idea if the next Business Woman of the Year is in that photograph.

Yours in Property.

ILD – FAT

I love fat people. Cuddly, happy, smiling and always ready to help…

Oops! Wrong start to the blog on LIFE and the “F” in the acronym 😊

Let’s start again, but before we do, I must tell you a story. Once I went to Lyons Wholesalers, across the road from the Wits Business School. I had come to know them as providing an excellent product at a fraction of the price – especially Pringle clothing. It’s an old fashioned store full of people my mother worked with when she worked at Ansteys in West Street, Durban – you know the one with the tube into which you inserted the invoice and the money for a purchase and minutes later, the change came down another tube – that kind of store. Anyhow, I was looking for a suit that day and the gentleman – you know the one, pants with braces and no jacket, but he wore those elastic armbands that kept your sleeves from going over your hands – came over and asked me what I required. “A navy blue suit,” I answered. “Oh, sir” he said, “that you’ll find in this section – for the “fuller figure, you know.”

I bit my tongue like my Granny taught me, stared at him with steel-blue eyes trying to get him to drop his gaze, but as he never did [for he knew my type from years of failed confrontation], and I ended buying from him. I do remember, he had to take up my leg length and soon conveniently forgot that that happens only when your waist size is perforce bigger than the length that your legs require.

Now stop giggling and let’s get on with this…

I’ve been cheeky responding to an acronym with another acronym. You see FAT stands for Faithful, Available, Teachable and this is one of those insights you’ll never read in a Harvard textbook as it just comes from experience. I was introduced to the idea by a minister on a Sunday morning. He was talking about the qualification for elders and deacons in the church to which I belonged. FAT people make good church leaders was his premise. I was a little sceptical in the beginning as a result of being “of fuller figure” myself, but I managed to remember that sermon to this day. The reason is that you often remember something that is practical and proves unbelievably meaningful to you.

“Faithful” speaks volumes and anyone who has experienced “unfaithful” knows exactly what it means. Faithful people stand by you. They encourage success and they avoid “kommentaar” in the presence of mistakes and even, failure. You see, we all know the glow of success – that warm fuzzy “I did it!” feeling that flows through you. Little successes or big ones, a monthly award or the trip overseas, the feeling is the same; just the depth and the duration differs. Loads of dopamine pumped through your brain into your cells. Faithful people are there to congratulate you, avoiding any gnawing jealousy and just giving you genuine praise, but even more important for me is the fact – and I know this in my own life – those faithful people put you on the stand in the first place. That’s incredibly humbling and my immediate response is to say THANK YOU again to the hundreds of people who have teamed up with me to make a success of what we were doing.

God knows, I appreciate each of you and, hopefully, so do you. For example, when I was asked to run Card Acquiring [the machine or internet through which you “swipe” your card at a point of sale], I was given a target of taking the division from under 20% to over 40% market share in 2 years. When I left 2 years later, we had a market share of 38%. Do you really think that I did that alone? Yes, I worked my guts out as usual, but who do you think created the break-through opportunities that made it possible? My teams across the country, of course! We did some simple things such as improved motivation of the sale teams and stepped-up the efficiencies of our acquiring by rolling out the latest technologies, we turned on, at great courage in those early days, the internet payment system but then we also improved relationships with our Corporate banking colleagues.

In doing this, we hunted big corporate relationships and had success with a few who were big hitters. Recognise the strategy? Frankly, just like you with your customers and your calling pattern and your building of solid relationships. In the process, faithful people came alongside our effort. Sceptics and negatives left behind – we were off to get us a big fish – and we did. Even the corporates that allowed us in and let us access their point of sale tills were faithful to Nedbank Card, and our ability to process their credit card business. How would you feel as a CFO if you motivated a change to the Exco, implemented it and then on the 3rd day of business, the tills went down for two hours? Of course, they believed in us to deliver on our promise; they were faithful! And, so were we. If ever “whatever it takes” was a motto, it was on those implementations and those first few months. Morning meetings, reporting, outage real-time feedback by till, by store anything it took to retain their trust.

You got the picture? Faithful people, by any other name [loyal, committed, related, involved, etc] give you allegiance and receive it in return. If and when you succeed, you can give bonuses and increases and even shares, but at the end of the day they appreciate your appreciation. I can honestly tell you, I could never repay the faithful people in my life. Never! Faithfulness mirrors your behaviours as a leader. Like we all know, you earn trust, and so you earn faithfulness. People do not give away their precious independence and dignity and respect to untrustworthy people. That does not imply you do not fail but what it does imply is the emotional reserves and contriteness to apologize and behave like you mean it. You can probably see by now that this attribute of leaders and followers is deep, earned, and psychologically contracted. It is friendship on steroids and foundational to lasting relationships. Leader, you get what you give, make no mistake about it.

“Available” is a little more practical but it also stretches boundaries. I’ve worked with people and have also expected that a report requested on Friday afternoon is available on Monday morning. If that request is asked too often, expect push-back, but if asked with courtesy and respect for reasons of urgency or importance an available person understands, they will deliver it on time. In turn, available people take your calls. They may tell you they’re in a meeting, but they surely get back to you as soon as it’s over. They are reliable and consistently so, but there is an element of available that is deeper than just practical availability. This is presence – not just “there”, but hearing, listening, accepting and understanding. How many times have I had an issue that needed ventilation [the new 702 buzzword!]. Just some time to be able to off-load, be listened to without judgement and then receive back some advice, an opinion or two or some rich experience from a mentor or confidante.

How we need more of this availability! As stresses mount in South Africa and the voices of leaders and wanna-be leaders become an overloaded cacophony, how we often need someone who is just available. Just ….available. The old saying, “A problem shared is a problem halved” is true and it’s only with available people that that can ever occur. You may need one as you read me, but are you one? To whom do people turn when they need one? You? Or, are you too busy, too important, too out-of-reach to be available for them? How many relationships could have deepened if you just took another 5 minutes before you looked at your watch? Think about it – and do it next time. Have a Nike moment: “Just Do it!” And remember the quote I’m sure I’ve shared before: “Some people give you their free time. Others free their time for you.” Be one of those!

“Teachable” It’s not the ability to learn that is important here. Heaven knows we’ve listened to teachers and parents and teenagers for long enough to learn and some of us have learned much and have the walls of degrees to prove it. The issue with teachability is the willingness to learn; that is an attitude of the heart not of the left-side brain of the head. Have you ever had to hand over a job to someone so that you could take up your new promotion? In comes your replacement. It’s quite obvious from the outset that they wonder why you and not they got the leg-up. They can answer you before you open the first screen.

They are clever, really clever and help you on the keyboard. Then, you open up having done that every morning for three years and start the lesson only to find know-it-all knows it all. They really do, but the problem is, they don’t. They interject, roll their eyes, ponder their navel and generally show a quiet level of disdain for you, their teacher. Whenever I have trained, I have endured these awesome people; who needs this, I’m so clever? However, so many times the rubber hits the road with a thud when they have to do what has just been theory. You know, like estate agents and consultants, just fill in the form, hand it in and wait for the loan to be approved/the mandate to be signed. Oh really?! It takes years we know, of hard slog and mistakes and successes to create the relationship-based environment to be able to be successful. No one-day wonders here; rather the hard slog.

Teachable people know the privilege of their place “at the feet of giants”. They listen and question, they experiment and revert with mistakes to unpack the learning, and then they go out and succeed and revert with “war stories” and a fist full of mandates and applications. They know their place in humility, know their place in the power of skills, and even often have the gratitude to acknowledge those who taught and mentored them to success in the first place. Teachable people acknowledge the people, the past masters, who put them where they are today and, as usual, teachable people love to teach. You see, once you’ve experienced learning and internalised it, you can teach others. It’s called Progeneration and it’s the process of “passing on” to the next generation. It happens in homes, schools, factories, offices and in cultures and nations. It is critical to continued sustainability and success and I can assure you, the art and skill of growing others even to be better than you, is a blessing into old age. There is nothing so sweet as hearing that someone whose life you touched has advanced from teachable to teacher in their own right and by the way, you’re never done. Always hang out with someone better than you. You can always learn from them just by asking the deep questions that beg an answer in your mind.

Oh, and by the way, FAT people are not schloeps [spelling?]. FAT people are confident and committed. They may be learning, but that for a purpose perhaps even bigger than themselves. They may be faithful, but they’re also faithful to the truth, pointing out a wrong or a lack of ethics and values. They may be available, but they are courageous enough to set boundaries knowing that everything in life has an equal and opposite opportunity cost; especially their time that they use wisely.

FAT will hopefully always be something different for you. Something different to consider and something for which you strive. FAT people exist at every level of society, in every culture and for every season of your life. Be one.

HLJ’s other name is FAT. There for you, faithful, available and teachable. Willing to listen and willing to share.

Yours in Property.

FREEDOM

Good to be writing again after a hectic March so far. Life’s busy, hey?….even in Hermanus. Following on from Investment, Inspiration and Imagination in our LIFE series, we start with “F” in our acronym. Like Rights have Responsibilities, Freedom has boundaries. Sorry to burst your bubble, especially those of you Baby Boomers who still think the Hippie Age of Drugs, Sex and Rock ‘n Roll has not come to an end. It has! Good, wholesome boundaries accompany Freedom; Granny was always right. So what is this thing every American says they have, every Millennial believes they’re born with and the EFF talk about economically “in their lifetime?”

We turn to the immutable Google and find the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited. Of course, it can also be the state of not being in prison. Thus, with my newly-defined sense of Freedom, I wish that certain politicians, executives of Eskom and those of VBS Bank et al, were not free, but prison is not what we have in mind for this blog; the first definition is our focus. Let’s face it, per definition, we’re not free. Your parents ensured that. Your teachers ensured that. Then, and maybe now still, your boss ensured that. As a free Homeloan Junction consultant, your bank manager ensured that. As a partner of anyone, your partner ensured that. So where does this utter idealism come from? Think about it. We have the notion of unrestrained Freedom in our minds and it is certainly something to be striven for – we have often been grateful in this blog for our Freedom of the Press – Freedom always comes with boundaries. Even the Press have their own Ombudsperson to regulate their Freedom to just let off steam and say it like it is, “without fear or favour.” So true Freedom must be something else other than wanton Freedom. What are these boundaries?

1. Laws

You can’t drink and drive. You can’t steal and not be charged. You can’t compete illegally and not expect a reaction. You can’t beat someone and not expect a retaliation then or later. You can’t buy or rent and not pay and when any of these and many other laws, whether we think they’re well-intended or not are not sacrosanct, you have not Freedom, but anarchy. In other words, your Freedom comes into jeopardy. Laws limit Freedom no doubt, but they exist to protect and defend and finally, are there for those who seek justice. How sad it is that State Capture can occur and yet those who committed it, could get away with it for so long? We need an Enquiry as long as the TRC to uncover the evil done by the rich to the poor others, but it will be laws that in the end result in the Freedom to convict and get a conviction or not. Let us hope that justice, another variously defined term, prevails. My imploration to you, the reader, is this: do not lose your hope, even as your Freedom has been attacked by evil, greedy forces, that the laws will prevail and justice will be done to the few for the many.

2. A sense of values

There comes a point in context and time when our values rise above our want for Freedom. Whether that is being pulled aside with 9 glasses of wine in you as you have been exercising your Freedom or, being in a board meeting and biting your tongue to not blurt out the truth [read: “your truth”] about a person or event. We speak then of obedience, sensitivity and confidentiality towards the person or about the matter. We can remember times when we were rightfully constrained to not “tell it like it is” even in the face of provocation. Similarly, values keep our Free hands out of the cookie jar and out of the till, as the saying goes. I put to you that values are boundaries; much-needed and often exercised for our own good.

3. Consideration for others

How easy it is to “let rip and let her have it.” Freedom lets you, but you too may end up in wards 4, 5 and 6 of the nearest hospital 😊 Consideration takes your foot off the pedal even when the road seems quiet, and slows down reaction times to the nanoseconds required to reconsider your behaviour. I often refer to taxi drivers in this context; they can drive me “mad” as well, but I know a company where the taxi driver is treated as a businessman driving his asset for gain. In achieving that, many payments are in advance, well-used vehicles are traded-in in good condition, various benefits are not abused and insurance is drawn on as a last resort, not the thing to be used.

It is an amazingly different approach to business and profitable by design. So, often when I see “those guys” going down the left shoulder of the road, racing along the right “Buses only” lane, I remember that perspective. How would you feel when a significant portion of the 40%+ tax on a litre of fuel goes to pay for corruption? How would you feel when the payment is too big and the month too short to afford it, as you often hear a complaint about Uber? How would you feel when your passengers are concerned about their jobs for being late when Eskom switches off the robots? Consideration for others gives our Freedom boundaries.

4. Common sense

Let’s be logical, “I did it my way” belongs in a song. Your way may be the highway if the people in our seventh paragraph decide your Freedom does not suit them. Common sense tells us that over-stepping boundaries in the pursuit of individual Freedom can have negative consequences.

5. Other boundaries

In his brilliant book, Sapiens, A brief History of Humankind, Professor Yuval Harari posits that there are other kinds of boundaries that enabled global domination by a few colonial countries. Included are: Money, Communism, Capitalism, Imperial Visions, Religion, Nationalism and Culture. These are huge swathes of invisible, but powerful beliefs that have influenced nations to conform within their borders and internationally to super-powers’ whims and fancies. Very interesting reading if you have the inclination, but to the topic, these mega-beliefs are boundaries to our Freedom.

So what is all this talk about non-existent Freedom about? How do we achieve it in our lifetimes? Does it do any good? Freedom exists for us to wish it upon ourselves and others. Nelson Mandela expressed it this way: For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. You and I have a right to Freedom but it is also our duty to enhance the Freedom of others. You see, I would go so far as to say that unless we enhance others’ Freedom, we will not ultimately be or become Free. Selfishness is its own inhibitor.

6. Some thoughts about Freedom for our consideration:

  • Freedom is a privilege of the few who are content. On Netflix there is a movie called Minimalist. In it, a range of people who have decided that minimal is more, share their journeys and their new location. For those of us who have been privileged to amass [relatively speaking] many things, minimalism may be anathema. Ouma se kombers, Mom’s broaches, fotos in custard-coloured albums, linen, tapestry, doilies, silverware, books, Singer sewing machines…even clothes. My friend, who has just lost 5 kilograms, was in his Lake Tahoe sweater the other day [like my big yellow jersey with a horse’s head on it that my sister knitted for me in Standard 8] and told us, “I love wearing old things.” Oh really? Lots of those in Hermanus, but he was in Lake Tahoe in the 80’s. You see contentment is Freedom. The Good book says, “Contentment with godliness, is great gain.” It is indeed. Ever seen less well-off people who are really happy? – they have it. Give some thought to the Freedom of contentment in your own life.
  • Freedom is not dependent on circumstances. They help, make no mistake, but they are not your sole determinant of your Freedom. You see, a little earlier I proposed that “Freedom exists for us to wish it upon ourselves” but let’s look a little deeper at this. Anxiety, fear, worry, depression, unhappiness, loneliness, and many other emotions are prisons of the mind. You can be walking along a beach with the sun on your face and the breeze on your back and be racked with worry. Life throws things our way and steals our Freedom, our physical, emotional and spiritual Freedom. As it does and if we let it, the prison door locks behind us and we relinquish our Freedom to that “other thing.” Please, don’t think I’m preaching to you – I know that sound in my own mind and the hopelessness it brings every time. You are not alone but please find someone with whom you can speak your heart out and share the burden. This too will pass; don’t allow these negative emotions to steal your Freedom.
  • Freedom demands that you hold your assets lightly. The simple act of dedicating your children when they are young, is an act of lightening your hold. Your favourite house, your car, your family, your bank account – everything, just hold them lightly. Of course those of you who know me know that I couple this kind of language with my Faith, but I have learned by personal experience and experiences of others, that “assets” are lent not owned. Life does happen while we’re making other plans and those of you who have suffered loss of money, loved ones, health, material possessions and even, peace of mind, know that what we own does not define us for any length of time. Rather, who we are and who we become is the benchmark of a legacy. I officiated at my dear Aunt’s memorial service three weeks ago and informed her son and grandchildren that while she was a matriarch of note and had left them Millions, her legacy would be immortalised in them. Even after her very successful life, her “legacy asset” could only be realised in her children and so it is for many of us. You are truly Free if you hold your assets “lightly.”

I’m going to close this heavy blog for some with lightness. Free people are grateful people. I often say, “Even on a bad day, I’m blessed.” The corny, “When life gives me lemons, I make lemonade” may sound pathetic, but it holds some truth. I may be at my lowest ebb, my health may be waning, relationships may be in the drink, business may be getting harder, assets may be dwindling, the “old days” may be grand in comparison, but here and now there is a silver lining. Not everything is as bad as it seems and some whisper of gratitude is becoming of us. Thankfulness for what I have and have done. Thankfulness for money in the bank, health that remains, people who love me and who I love, a son, daughter or wife who cares and will go out of their way to do so. Be grateful for the many blessings. Put your troubles in perspective and know you’ve [probably] come through worse before. Freedom is Grateful and Gratitude is Freedom.

At HLJ we enjoy our Freedom. Every day is Free. We are free to serve, make choices, help you with choices in your business, free to have associates and friends and business principles. We have earned our Freedom in many respects and stuck it out when the chill winds of adversity stifled us into almost-paralysing doubt, but we survived and Freedom resulted in our business, our attitudes and our sense of Thanks. Thank you for enjoying your own Freedom, but having the good grace to join us in this business as associates and even friends. We appreciate you.

Yours in Property.

BUDGET 2019

A real quickie this blog joining the chorus of feedback and comment on the budget.

NFB Private Wealth Management was succinct in its bulletin of 20 February 2019, commenting:

In less than 60 minutes Minister Mboweni presented his maiden budget in Parliament today. In a national election year, off the back of poor economic growth and dwindling confidence, it had to be a budget targeting renewed optimism for us at home and the broader investment community. As he started talking, the rand weakened but by the end of the day, had strengthened against all major currencies; perhaps a glimmer of hope? – Minister Mboweni

Little changed as regards personal taxes but inflation will mean that the man-in-the-street pays more. From the little bit I’ve experienced recently, Mark Kingon, acting SARS Commissioner, has SARS on its toes looking for unpaid tax. Beware! Fortunately, there were “no changes to retirement funds, trust tax rates, donations tax and estate duty” and CGT. That’s good news. At the corporate level, company tax remains at 28%, says the NFB report. Sin taxes have increased. E-cigarettes have not escaped the attention of the new Finance Minister and one of our colleagues is really irked about that ☹

My most annoying one is fuel levy [29 and 31c on petrol and diesel respectively]. If we understood what it means to use a taxi every day we would realise the 41% we pay in taxes in the price of every litre of fuel, is simply a tax on the poor subsidized, in the total, by the rich. We’re not exceptional but when added to the impending Eskom tariff increase, prepare yourself for a shock to your pocket. We’re staring down the barrel of higher inflation, controlled by increasing interest rates, in a tiny-growth economy, while fighting for job creation.

The introduction of a Chief Reconfiguration Officer [CRO] to oversee SOEs who rely on the government for funding should curb ever-increasing debt. Love it, Minister Mboweni! Government’s wage bill being cut “by R27-billion over the next three years” and a “freeze on performance bonuses and salary increases for certain state employees” is welcomed. The Minister concluded, “There are no quick fixes, but our nation is ready for renewal.”

Sin Tax 2019

Very short and sweet.

The Businesstech report was more detailed but I just draw out of it certain relevant points:

  • The minister painted a bleak picture as the country struggles with rising expenditure, failing SOE’s and declining revenues, but outlined several processes underway to try and rein things in.
  • Economically, real GDP growth for South Africa in 2019 is forecast at 1.5% and is expected to reach 2.1% by 2021.
  • In the medium term, spending reductions are expected at R50.3 billion, while provisional allocations of R75.3 billion have been budgeted, mainly to deal with the Eskom crisis.
  • The country’s budget deficit has widened because of Eskom and because of a revenue shortfall and is now seen at 4.5% of GDP in 2019-20 – up from the 4.2% forecast in the October mid-term statement. [Ed: We have reached the critical 60% Debt-to-GDP level, often referred to a fiscal cliff.]
  • State wages and compensation remains the largest category of spending, accounting for 34.4% of consolidated expenditure – a level which the Finance Minister described as “unsustainable”. Measures are in place to realise a R27 billion reduction in spending here, he said.

Eskom:

  • The big topic on everyone’s mind in the lead up to the budget was bailouts for SOE’s – and especially what was going to be done with Eskom.
  • According to Mboweni government will not take on the power utility’s debt, as has been suggested by Eskom in the past.
  • “I want to make it clear: the national government is not taking on Eskom’s debt. Eskom took on the debt. It must ultimately repay it,” he said.
  • However, he said that the restructuring plan – to split Eskom into three entities – is on track, and Treasury is setting aside R23 billion a year for the next three years to financially support Eskom during its reconfiguration.
  • The total of R69 billion is a “shareholder” move to assist the utility to pay its debt, however, it comes on the condition that Eskom cuts cost to cover debt-service costs and meet redemptions.

Land Reform:

  • While the government pushes ahead with its plans to make land expropriation without compensation more clear in the Constitution, Treasury is also allocating funds to accelerate land reform and acquire state land.
  • R18.4 billion has been allocated to accelerate land reform over the medium term, which will help finalise more than 1,700 restitution claims and acquire more than 325,000 hectares of land for landless South Africans.
  • This budget was presented by the ex-Governor of the SARB. He is highly competent and politically connected, but what I like about him most of all is untainted and honest. Can we do with a bit of those virtues right now!
  • Honestly, our country is in a shocking state after 10 years of Zuma [trust my maths, please, with at least 4 more years to come as “aftermath’]. However, whether Tito stays or goes, another strong Finance Minister will replace him and we will get through this. Again, honestly, the demise of Eskom is too horrific to contemplate so let’s get on the bright side. “Too big to fail”, was the way the World Bank or IMF described Eskom.

All of that said, in the property industry we will enjoy:

  1.  A 1.5% GDP growth this year – hopefully!!
  2. No increase in property-based taxes.
  3. A slight narrowing in affordability though we need to wait for Eskom’s tariff announcement.
  4. Probably, stable to improved job statistics.
  5. Better house sales year-on-year [I believe].

Compared to what we have lived with while we get out of the mess and approach the General Elections, I would take this if I was you.

HLJ does take it and remains positive.

Yours in Property.

INSPIRATION

Continuing with our series using the acronym LIFE and on the “I”, let’s explore Inspiration.

I have had the privilege of meeting many inspirational people in my life. Victor Vermeulen, the Transvaal cricketer who dived into an empty pool, is memorable. Constrained to his wheelchair and cared for by his amazing mom, he had us in tears and stitches as he spoke of his life and times. He paints by mouth and even coaches cricket in his spare time. Think about it… coaches cricket… from his wheelchair.

Similarly, Nick Vujicic, the Australian evangelist, who was born with tetra-amelia syndrome and therefore with no arms or legs, is also one of my most inspirational human beings. He struts up and down the stage and then falls over. Flat on his tummy in the video clip, he then tells the kids who are fixated on him, that you may fall and things look impossible, but you can always find a way to get back up. Slowly, he turns himself around and with his head on a firm cushion, he finds his balance and “stands” again. Love it!

When I watch and listen to these kinds of guys, the question: “So what’s your problem, Jack?”, pulses through my mind. Huh?! Fat flab – then do something about it! Relationships – sort them out! Petty issues like taxi drivers – get over yourself! Nothing that worries me day by day as things currently stand, even matter. Really!

Have a look at YouTube if you don’t believe me…

So why do I focus on disabled people to now? Perhaps mistakenly, in your opinion, they personify the courage of the human spirit. Victor: no legs, where once there was a batsman, no arms where once there was a scholar, no independence where once there was transport and venues, no privacy where once I showered and changed myself and then, in the hidden corners of my soul, all the doubt and hurt and “if only’s” and anger and self-un-forgiveness and all of that put aside in favour of life and love and others’ inspiration. What about Nick? He’s never had anything of Victor’s life before the accident; not one iota, but over the years, he has developed his mind, found a lasting Christian faith and journeyed with probably millions of people in audiences around the world lifting their spirits and sense of wellbeing. Wow! So what’s your problem, [your name]?

The other day, the Stormers came to train in our gym. Eben Etsebeth is larger than huge, larger than life and his bicep is bigger than my thigh. Flippen’ huge! If he’s not your hero, tough; when you see him you will be in awe and if you don’t know who I’m talking about, shame on you!! Jy watch seker nie rugby nie – Skandaal… He’s an inspiration and like Kolisi and others, we scream them over the goal line every Saturday in season. Just by playing the game, he’s an inspiration; in my gym, well, he changes the ambience of that sweaty place, but everything is in the right place and he had everything, and then honed it, to make him the great rugby player he is.

What about Nelson Mandela and so many other great leaders? You want to know them. You long to be known by them. You hang onto their words – you YouTube, TED and Wikipedia them. They inspire you and lift you up when you’re down and raise your sights when you’re up. That’s what inspiration does, but then, the other day I get this clip of an ant pulling a spider up a wall. I have no idea of the weight variance and, in case you wondered, the spider was dead, but, my goodness, was that little ant strong and determined. No wonder the Good Book says: “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.” – [Proverbs 6:6].

Big and small, human or otherwise, they inspire us. You could say, we are surrounded by inspiration. So what’s wrong when you and I cannot lift ourselves out of sadness, worry and agitation so many times? When finding things to be grateful for seems to be a trick of the motivationalists to detract us from our own weariness and problems. Ellende!

So what about you and I? Can we be an inspiration? We have all our arms and legs so there’s nothing to overcome. We have all of our faculties so we cannot be modern-day Helen Kellers who said: “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing, and, blind, she lived it; way before Facebook and YouTube and TED and TV – just newspapers, radio and a world stage with enthralled audiences whose hearts were quickened. So what about us? Educated and able to be, relatively wealthy, well-travelled with more holidays planned. Married with children and able to make them. Employed, some self-employed and connected to do our work better. So what about us? What about me?

One of my favourite quotes is that by Martin Luther King,

Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great. And then there is another that I have come to love sharing repeatedly [Longfellow: Psalms of Life]:
The lives of great men all remind us
That we can make our lives sublime
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.

 

Rather than set the bar high focussing on what everybody else does and says, “Let’s get a little practical with our own lives…”

1. You have Influence

Whether you’re up or down, we know it. So, be up. My misery, problems and hassles worn on my sleeve may be real to me and based on Agrizzi’s evidence; my posture may be because I have synthesized the facts and I’m going to do something about it, but darn it, making my problems your problems always, in-depth and continually, affects you. I can have whatever, I can confide my deepest thoughts which hurt with a confidante but when I step out of the room, my influence makes or breaks your day. Make my day, please. I want motivated, I want enthusiastic, I want whatever hope is left in you and I want my kids to believe the world can be a better place because they’re in it. Leaders, your people don’t need sweat on your brow. Be scared, be real scared, but then get out and display confidence.

I must tell you this notion feels fake for me. For many years I never let on I was in pain – that my ear hurt after successive tumour operations. Nobody knew it and I’m fine was my pat answer. Then one day I shared that stance, in a spirit of what we like to call authenticity, with my Coach Supervisor who is also a psychologist, and she said to me, “You need to let go a little, give yourself some slack and share your true feelings.” I started to do that and felt really authentic. You ask me, “How are you feeling?” and unlike my usual, “I’m fine!”, I said, “My ear is hurting me and I’m taking quite a few pills a day for the pain.”

What then followed was hock and horror firstly but then a kind of distancing that was tangible in my relationships. You see, on the one hand, people could not think of Jack appearing miserable [he’s always so positive], and, on the other hand, they just couldn’t face my pain on top of their own issues. So I hear the word authentic and I understand it well, trying always to be as open and honest as possible., but I have learned to limit, once again, my complete honesty around any negative things or physical pain, preferring only to share my deepest opinions with confidantes. Honesty or hypocrisy, you decide! I want to be inspirational certainly without being perceived as fake and those who know me, know that.

2. Mix with Positive People

Allied to what I’ve opened up on above, mixing with positive people rubs off. Don’t be fooled, you are not bullet-proof and inoculated against bad news and often when you’re down, I’m up. It works like that in our relationships and we find ourselves able to comfort each other at different times. Enthusiasm is contagious and being enthusiastic is what people want you to be. They will pick up flakiness by their 6th sense, but they will also rise to genuine happiness and hope spoken out. I have lived with positive people in the business. They exude confidence, they always have a plan or consult to get the plan, they empower you by trusting you with information so that you can feel and be part of the solution, they form bonds with others and “get real” if and when it’s appropriate. Gail Kelly always goes through my mind when I write like this [if you don’t know her, you can Google what an inspiration she is].

3. Get involved

Not sure of that, I hear many of you say. I’ve got enough troubles of my own. Really, if that’s your opinion, go back and read my opening paragraphs. Involvement asks questions and listens to answers, it takes time to reply and not rush out your experience and your solutions, it respects the other person and does not pry. Let me get real about someone I know… He has bone cancer and a friend of his told my wife in confidence knowing that I would get the message. I do not want to breach confidence as I respect the privacy of people, but I’ve just received a call and been asked to go for coffee on Friday and was told that on Thursday he’s going to the doctor. Will he finally tell me about his illness? I don’t know, but I can tell you, I’m involved and waiting to become more so as matters transpire.

People need you at times in their lives; you don’t need to barge in larger-than-life with all the answers. Just stand by, be available and be prepared. To this latter comment, I was intrigued to hear during George Bush senior’s funeral a meeting in which his Deputy President, Dan Quayle, asked him what he expected of him. His answer was: “Be faithful and be prepared.” That’s involvement. In leadership positions, you will often hear me refer to FAT people – Faithful, Available, and Teachable and goodness me, have I been blessed to work with tens of such people in my career. They’re not puppy dogs that roll over when you speak, they’re competent, opinionated, hard-working and committed, but when the chips have been down and a single outcome required, they have been FAT. How grateful I am that I have been able to be involved in many lives of family, friends and associates and then felt their involvement in mine at crucial times – I am indeed, a man most blessed – thank you all who may be reading for being my inspiration so often.

4. Believe in Something Bigger than You

Crimped in the space of your mind, imprisoned but your little woes, even engrossed in your big ones, you can never inspire. In my humble opinion, it is the belief that there is a higher cause for our lives that takes us through and makes our “overcoming ability” an inspiration to others. Myopic behaviour is selfish and self-centred – me, me, me. Expansive, abundant behaviour enthuses others, brings out the best in them and makes them above average and even brilliant. You see, the Pygmalion Effect, having a genuine sense that others are better than where they’re at [of My Fair Lady movie fame], lift them to greater heights. Many classroom experiments have been done when I teacher was told the opposite of the true IQ of pupils. So the teacher gets to the class believing the bright kids are not-so-bright and the not-so-bright kids are really clever. Lo and behold, the grades of the bright kids’ decline and the not-so-bright kids’ grades improve, even dramatically. What causes that? – well, I posit that the way the teacher talks to the kids founded in what she thinks about them raises the capacity of the children to believe in themselves. They rise to her expectation of them.

So, taking that to our own situation, if you believe that there is something big, bigger than you, towards which to strive, upon which to trust, for which you serve and get involved, then just the way you get out of bed in the morning changes and changes dramatically. The Purpose is Power. A Sense of Belonging is Presence and Positivity about someone or something beats misery hands down. Some say that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover Why. Sitting in limbo wondering and wandering meaninglessly? Find that higher cause and let It, or them, ignite you. You’re better than lounging around mentally and spiritually going to seed. Wake up! Stand up! And Get out! – be the difference you want to see.

As I close, I want to leave you with this quote by George Bernard Shaw that I know you have seen before, but bears repeating:

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature, instead of a feverish little clod of ailments and grievances that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

We are all on a journey. You and I coupled only by our humanity, but for those who are rich and famous, well done and for those of us who are not, we can at least be great. Be influential, mix with the positive and rub off on the negative, be involved, and live for a cause higher than you and for which you leave a legacy albeit just in the memories of your children. You have what it takes…

Yours in Property.

LOVE

We’re continuing with our series about LIFE, using the acronym, in the last blog we looked at Live [and a-Live]. I really appreciated the feedback from some of you! Today, I’m going to write about LOVE. I remember once being in the UNISA library looking for a book on Smiles and to my surprise, I found there were 8 books in the library. Imagine how many books have been written about love and loving, but I would like to raise the bar using the Good Book’s definition of Love which I have adapted into a quiz for which the answer is Yes or No. As you know, if you’re above a certain number of Yes’s, you’re awesome and if you’re below a certain number, well, you have work to do. In between, you can decide…

Here we go:

  1. Are you patient?
  2. Are you kind?
  3. Are you jealous?
  4. Are you boastful?
  5. Are you proud?
  6. Are you rude?
  7. Do you demand your own way?
  8. Are you irritable?
  9. Do you keep a record of being wronged?
  10. Do you rejoice about injustice?
  11. Do you rejoice when truth wins out?
  12. Do you never give up?
  13. Do you never lose faith?
  14. Are you always hopeful?
  15. Does your love endure through every circumstance?

 

So, here is the score table:

>12, You’re awesome!
<12 and >6, You may need some work!
From 0 to 6, You have lots of work to do.

Hope you did well against the toughest definition of Love that I know. Jackie Pullinger, a missionary doing an amazing work in the gang- and drug-infested areas of Hong Kong, says “you need hard feet and a soft heart” to really love. Anyone who has an addicted relative or who have endured hardship in their life of different kinds knows she’s right. Of course, if we’re honest, we don’t normally take the definition of love that seriously in our lives. Words like “awesome” and “amazing” roll off our tongue. Love does that as well. “I love that book, I love that movie, and I love that car”, are so common that we just accept it as a term of speech and never an exaggeration.

American movies and sitcoms continue the yarn as people fall in love, make love and drop out of love with regularity. So our world becomes love but the superficial kind. Heaven help us if someone protests in the street! “Those guys”, become the subject of anger and “last time they did it”, the measure of their wrongs. It’s really hard to really love but sometimes, we have to step up to the plate and hold onto love with a passion that even begins to surprise ourselves.

I have a friend who tells me that we hold others accountable by their words and actions and ourselves accountable by our good intentions. Identify with that? “But I didn’t mean to…”, “But you are misunderstanding me…” etc – how I hear myself saying that in defence of myself. My intention was noble, but my execution not quite there. At those times we expect to be loved and forgiven though often, that’s not as easy as it seems.

Enter a minister who taught me much as a younger guy. He said that “love is an act of your will”. Now that’s interesting! You see if you buy that then all the good or bad emotion, all the good or bad feelings, and all the good or bad self-talk gives way to a choice. Crazy, but many self-development speakers will tell you that the only autonomy you truly have in this close-knit, interdependent world, is to choose how you react to something or someone. I know someone who is the best at “Let it go” of anyone I know, including myself.

She just sucks “it” up and seems to do it with everything that crosses her path. She really is a great example to me. You see, I have a belief that you never need to forgive what you accept. Think about it, if you are aggrieved by something and you “lose it” with the thing or the person, you then need to forgive, say you’re sorry and move on as best you can. “I can forgive, but will never forget”, becomes our mantra. However, if you somehow genuinely accept the person or the circumstance and learn a level of tolerance, you never get angry or “lose it” and you don’t need to say, “I’m sorry”. You literally accept the person or circumstance and, if you’re really good, you just take learning from it and handle the situation better next time.

Another thing about love is that it is created in sediments. Think of the Slasto floor covering we used to have in our homes. It was the result of layers and layers of wet sand compressed over centuries. Imagine a world where your consistent acts of service to those you love to build up into solid layers over time. Though separately weak and brittle, compressed layers become as hard as rock. However, it takes time and consistency to build love so purposefully. Like gym, one session doesn’t cut it but slowly over time, you start to see the change. Just so is it with love, as kindness upon kindness builds up and becomes solid and secure in a relationship. Sadly, the opposite can be true of many relationships and unspoken issues and hurts can become seriously rock-hard and be the cause of misunderstanding and antagonism. None of us are exempt in any of our relationships and we all have experienced both with those we love and who love us.

Remember, that as serious as love is, it is also fun. If you’ve lost the “feeling”, then watch youngsters “fall in love”. Why would something so emotional and chemical, be termed “falling” if it didn’t feel like that? Falling for someone is one of the cutest things that can happen to anyone – rose-tinted glasses, flutters, sparks, innumerable messages, and thoughtfulness of the highest order and going seriously out your way, are all signs of love. I remember my Dad coming in and telling my Mom that he had bought me a car. It cost R350 and was a 1968 Volksie. I used to drive it from Potch to East London through the night whenever the army let me off. I had to wear my boots and Grey coat in winter, because the cold air came in at the pedals and froze me., but on the other side in East London, was the most beautiful girl I had laid eyes on to that time. Huh, then she dumped me and my world fell apart; really, I promise! Just like you, Reader. But from the ashes of my broken, bleeding heart, or as the song goes, “my achy, breakie heart”, I fell in love with my beautiful wife.

Life and love turned out to be very kind to me. And so the cycle goes on and I watch my son falling in love, getting married and completing the circle of life and love. Oh, and by the way, grandkids then come and hearts melt all over again. I see these crazy grandparents all around me – thank goodness for Skype and digital spogboekies! Lekker, really lekker to see love going full circle and making people happy and committed and just having fun in all the emotion and feeling. Love is a beautiful and amazing gift to the hearts of men and women. And what about our pets? – ag shame, they’re beeauutiful too!

In closing, some great quotes that sum up so much of what’s been said…


Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning. -Paulo Coelho

To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, to love someone who loves you is everything. -Bill Russell

When you love someone, you love the person as they are, and not as you’d like them to be. -Leo Tolstoy

Gamble everything for love, if you’re a true human being. -Rumi

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. -Mother Theresa

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. -Mother Theresa

Love you All!

Yours in Property.

LIVE

I’m sitting here looking out on my garden through newly cleaned glass stack doors and the sun is bright, the wind almost nothing and everything is shiny after the rain a day ago. Birds are tweeting and the francolin is screeching over her chicks; even our yappy dogs in the neighbourhood are quiet. Our sausage dog has got the idea: peace and quiet in abundance. Imagine the picture I’m looking at. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath… and another. Take 8 more. Keep your eyes closed and listen to your breathing. Feel alive. Feel refreshed. Feel you.

I’m tired of rehashing the same old news. I discussed this with Vincent and he suggested I run a series on a topic where we all can learn and re-think our lives. I’ve chosen LIFE as the acronym and will write 12 blogs on the inspiration I receive per letter. If something strikes you anew or afresh, tell me. I’ll take your emails with pleasure. If it bores you, tell your partner, or rather, don’t read it 🙂

I’ve just realised Live and Live are spelt the same, but pronounced differently. Live is the act of living and speaks to action, location and relation. Live, if we’re honest sometimes, is what we do. We speak about the rat-race as though we’re looking in on it. We seldom really picture ourselves in it other than when we’re exhausted. Then we tend to feel like we’re a rat in the race. We’re paying bonds, running teams, making kids [just had to put this one in delicately!], making other people happy, putting on a brave face, being nice to people who are bugging us, buying, eating, studying, lending, selling ourselves in service, driving, running, exercising, …do I have yours yet? Just add it, You know what I’m getting at.

We live in a place that FICA wants to know ten times a year. We live in relation to those whom we love, befriend, serve commercially, and fight with. We live with responsibility, duties, accountability, and legality – all connected to the previous relationships and those beyond like our banker, SARS, Home Affairs, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. By all means, add your own. Then, we have all the media such as news media, social media, marketing media, professional media and every other instruction we get with our new toaster. It is little wonder we feel bewildered at times, tired most evenings and experience the brevity of weekends too soon. To live is hard work and to breathe, as we did above, seems cheesy when you’re so busy.

Live [or, a-Live, if you prefer for the pronunciation], is a biological state. When we live, we breathe, we urinate; we touch, smell, see, taste, hear and think. Dead is the opposite of live and, if you’re reading this, you probably still are alive. Being alive enables us to live – sounds really obvious, but if all live does for us is enable us to live biologically, then we probably look like the person I described above. Enter the higher functions like instinct [which I really believe is the 6th sense, especially for women], common sense, choice, imagination, positive and negative thinking, perspective, direction, purpose, meaning… got yours yet?…and live becomes a-live. Now the total man or woman begins to appear. Ask Vincent the difference between the two – a little baby is born having been attached biologically to her mother. Dependent, screaming, suckling, looking and moving; the baby lives and is a-live so she begins to take on a form that will shape her entire life. Indeed, nature and nurture kick in the day she knows she exists and I have no other word but Miracle to describe that.

So live and live co-exist. They together give us life and living; the one inseparable from the other as we go about our lives. The real issue for us is how to live and come a-live? How do we do that every morning and what does it matter to others whether we fail or succeed? Me, Mine and Ours – self-centeredness of the highest order. Or, Me, Mine and Others to the point of self-sacrifice? Neither is possibly correct, but both call for our attention. Rather than give you a 10-point self-help plan, here are just two things that I’d like to share. The first is, be kind to yourself. The first person I mention, even if it is you most of the time, is doing her best with cards life played her. You may think you’re just coping, but those who depend on you probably see Mom, Wife and Estate Agent; roles that are chosen and lived out with so much dedication.

Don’t allow ingratitude, the sense of being used, anger directed at you and sometimes, the nonchalance of a teenager to be the sole source of your validation. Like me, and many around me, age may have ploughed some wrinkles on your face but so have smiles. Grey hair is inevitable for most of us; in fact, turning grey is simply the hallmark of the next stage of your live-ing. Being kind means looking after yourself, forgiving your past and just learning from it, taking deep breaths purposefully especially when you’re tired or aggravated and then perhaps increasing that to something that really makes you breathe deeply, like walking. Being kind to yourself is not a cliché nor is it cheesy. I’ve made some bad mistakes and if I dwell on them, being kind to myself does not come easy. We all have, and often need the word in season, to be encouraged to have deeply regretful but, nevertheless, learning experiences. Let kindness to yourself make the days you need it to and make the life of gratitude you want to live.

Another simple thing is Others. You see, you may be in the stage of Success – pay the bond, educate the kids, grow your career, support your partner to grow hers. It’s hectic and any calmness I may feel today completely belies the franticness of this stage in my life. Bob Buford, in his book called halftime [a must-read for 45-plussers], calls this stage, success, but perforce, this stage gives way to significance. Sooner or later, our need for speed, gives way to the great life questions: Why am I here? Is this all there is? Where is this sense of my own mortality going to? Seeing this positively, success gives way to significance and significance, for many of us, implies something to do for others. Grandkids, animal rescue, charities, the sick, the homeless, the poor, ageing parents and many other causes [for Buford, the raising of the education bar for schools in America’s poor suburbs – sound familiar?], start to take pre-eminence in our lives.

All of a sudden, we’re empty-nesting and post-menopausal [men as well!!] with time on our hands, the bond is paid and, frankly, most of our earning potential is behind us. Suddenly, significance takes on the meaning and all that stuff like “leaving a legacy” starts to kick in with the time to apply ourselves. Others become meaningful and my closing suggestion is, start thinking about significance now – retiring and then wondering why you’re bored is honestly too late and time wasted. This beautiful, tortured country of ours has tons for people as skilled and connected as you and I, to do. Meaning follows other-centeredness like light follows dark, in my humble opinion.

A closing thought [adapted from a wonderful prayer doing the rounds at the moment on social media]:

This is my prayer for you,
That negative people will be kept at a distance,
That you will be defended,
That you need not be defensive when your name is mentioned,
It’s better to walk away than to live in tension.
But listen to me, I pray that you’ll live life intentionally,
When someone is down you’ll be a friend in their need,
Serve others before you serve yourself.
I pray you’ll live for more than the pursuit of wealth,
That you’ll live vertically and keep your eyes off the horizon,
That you’ll walk high in your worth and let no one tell you that you were made for less,
That you spend your life looking forward and not back,
That you’ll give and get blessed,
That your life is long and your nights are calm,
That your spine stays stiff and you live to fight on,
That you’ll find something for the unique you to believe in,
And that your legacy lives on.

Yours in Property.

SORRY

Earlier in the year I stuck my neck out and said that Joburg would show an 8% notional increase in house prices and implied it would be hot property news. Not so, I’m afraid. Sorry. Then, I stuck my neck out [with the IMF as I’ve said in a previous email], and said we’d grow at 1.7%. I was only out by 1, but that’s the 1 in the front. Drat! Another Sorry is due. So before you stop reading and call me a Wuzz, give me a break.

You see, we’re not in technical recession, the first time I heard President Ramaphosa (CR) say that I thought he was taking advantage of the latest weed laws, but then, Roelof Botha, ex-RMB, who I have always considered at the top economist in the country, was reported having the same stance. So maybe, CR has been sticking to Johnny Blue on his Fresnaye property’s stoep. So without boring you with the details, the numbers are skewed by Agriculture in the main, and what remains is some other drought-stricken technicality. All of that said, we should pop out of technical recession fairly soon and recover a tiny growth this year.

Now let’s see why Growth with a capital “G” is on the cards. 

Firstly, the SARB held rates recently and that is good news for our ailing economy. Remember, they walk a tightrope, because the Bond investors love a big differential between the Bond yield and their own country’s interest yields, adjusted for inflation and the Rand volatility. In simple terms, if you don’t raise the rates and the risk of doing business increases for whatever reason, then money flows out of the country. Big risk, but well taken given the current slowdown in our economy. In fact, a complementary decision to my next point.

So, secondly, our President has announced amazing benefits to our economy today. I am so excited even though we know we need far more. On the lighter side, #paybackthemoney would provide more than enough to stimulate our economy; just seeing someone go to jail would really lift our spirits. So again, I have no desire to go through all the details and, if truth be told, I have no idea where we find the money, but a stimulus of R50bn to “stabilize Education and Health Care” is seriously welcome and R400bn to really stimulate the economy is a mind-blow. So much stimulation in one day could be bad for one’s heart; but, thank you, President Cyril and your 10-person Advisory Board, you’re going to announce in the next few days.

We’ll cover a tiny bit of the details, the rest being your homework, but seriously, I cannot tell you how amazing it is to see a President, obviously trained by Pravin Gordhan to read teleprompters, reading a huge economic breakthrough and flawlessly enunciating Four Hundred Billion Rand, that’s R400000000000. So glad the author of 400…Rand…million, billion, ten…he, he, is no more.

We need stimulation. Money flows of private citizens offshore feel to me to be at record highs. People are leaving all around me – kids who comprise our future being snapped up for their artisan, IT and teaching skills. Out there are countries building countries on the back of our young, competent families and I feel like putting my finger down my throat when I think of the loss just when we need the skills the most to rebuild this beautiful, tortured nation, but at least we have a President who sees the issue and has the gravitas and presence to rectify the problem, albeit, over a very long period.

Healthcare needs stabilization. The Minister of Health should have declared a crisis a long time ago, but at least, finally has some money to spend. Heaven knows we need it well spent on priorities that benefit our people. Please don’t steal our hard-earned cash and don’t turn a blind eye to those who would! For education, desks and toilets would be really helpful. Make the former out of recycled plastic and achieve a double whammy. Then, for the latter, build toilets with septic tanks where you can’t easily access a sewerage pipe. For goodness sake, [I heard a guy on CapeTalk saying the sewerage pipe was 4 kms away so they could not give a school a flushing toilet.] Really??!! I used a septic tank in Amanzimtoti for years, because we had no water-borne sewerage and what about every farmer in the country?? Imagine a civil works programme that dug and kitted-out septic tanks at schools using recycled water and then teams of guys keeping them in working order? Now there’s a project worth doing.

So, in the R400bn, is a mega-fund for Infrastructure. Just to put that in perspective, a year or two ago, it was pointed out on 702 that the market capitalization of Mr Price was more than the entire Construction industry. So a company which imports clothes from China and sells them to us is worth more than Basil Read, Grinaker/LTA {Aveng], Group5, Murray and Roberts, and WBHO [the only one making money at the moment] combined. In fact, the shares of Aveng, two massive companies that we grew up with, are currently 4 cents, I am advised. How do we get to this position where the industry would probably battle to revive such is the job-bleed? Well, firstly, you steal from the SOE’s and then you take all the taxpayers’ money and spend it on salaries in government and what do you get? People affording millions of t-shirts, but no repairs of sewerage works and no building and maintenance of roads. It’s called selling your childrens’ future and is great for failed-state ignominy.

So am I depressed? No, very upbeat that we have a President who can recognise the problem and before he jets off to the United Nations and presentations to global business leaders, can announce our best shot at economic revival. His intellect, business acumen and sense of resoluteness is just a breath of fresh air. I’ve said many times before, my faith lies way above him, but if you offered me these packages announced this week and the Zondo Commission in November last year, I would have been amazed at your largesse.

Where does that leave us? As Homeloan Junction we work tirelessly to provide a consistency of service and interface with the banks that surpass expectations. We don’t always succeed we’re sure, but we press on. The wonderful thing about business is that one hand washes the other in a virtuous cycle. As I serve you, you serve me and we serve our customers. Together we do more and everyone wins. From a political perspective, we try our best to encourage each other to lose the “noise” and focus on the good in the system. The initiatives above are good by anybody’s standards and we hope they are implemented and bear fruit – jobs, upgrades, service deliveries and municipalities that work again – for all of our People. We will press on and we and we invite you to join us. We’re not Pollyanna’s, we understand the crime and grime, but we are determined to put in a solid day’s work for a well-earned reward, productive in the knowledge that we know what we are doing and we do it well.

Success to you, our readers, as you take the good, park the bad, and move on to success. We appreciate your support.

Yours in Property.