As you could read, my previous blog just sprung on me as I sat down to write this one. However, as raw as it was, Hope still needs to be our mantra. In the recent Nedbank Private Wealth Client Newsletter, JP Landman similarly wrote of the cry from the beloved country, to reference Alan Paton’s famous book.
JP wrote the following in his “Act 1” entitled, Reclaim the State:
“Just do something” is the cry now rising from all over South Africa – a plea to the president and government in general to take some action to break the logjam in which the country finds itself. Confidence is low, growth sluggish, and emigration high. It is useful to replay what has been done.
The Ramaphosa administration has set itself two tasks: to rebuild the ethical foundations of the state and to revitalise the economy. The two topics are too much to cover in one note, so I will discuss ethical renewal in this note (Act 1) and assess economic renewal in the next one (Act 2).
- Part of Ramaphoria was the belief that the bad guys would lose. That is certainly happening.
- People who were once untouchable have fallen from grace for all to see. Some have even been convicted already. The impunity of the Zuma years is slowly being reversed.
- The process is not over, with the Zondo Commission still in session and almost weekly revelations of appalling behaviour.
- Getting convictions in court is very different from revealing things at a commission. Despite this, many people have already fallen on their swords.
- Civil society organisations have helped in this clean-up and this speaks volumes for South Africa’s democratic activism.
Why I like JP Landman is that he was the first person to really introduce me to the concept of “noise” and the damage it can cause to me. If you read his article and juxtapose it to the Maverick editorial, you will read the same thing. But the former, whilst assertive, lacks the anger of the latter. That not-so-subtle difference in writing style is also “noise” in our heads and hearts. This point about one of many of Hope’s facets is essential. Now let’s consider the following article by the son of Alan Knott-Craig (Snr) who, though I’m open to correction, was the “founder” CEO of Vodacom. As such, I would guess the Knott-Craigs have “something to lose” if South Africa goes belly up. And yet his progeny, Alan (Jnr), chairman of Herotel, decides to come back and be part of the solution. Somehow, he manages to see through the “noise” [the last time I’ll use the inverted commas] and urge us to be positive.
GETTING YOUR MIND AROUND WHY IT’S POSSIBLE TO BE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT SA
[Preface by Alec Hogg: Every now and again I ask my pal Alan Knott-Craig to apply his fertile mind to reasons why fellow SA-optimists shouldn’t be sent to the booby-hatch. He responded today with some practical reasons why those of us in this tiny camp should be committed, in a positive way of course. And as he has done before, this young father of three girls, a CA who returned home from New York in 2003 to follow his entrepreneurial path, has delivered a piece guaranteed to uplift even the most cynical of his fellows. Have a read and smile. And if you’d like to read more content like this, subscribe to my Daily Insider newsletter]
South Africa’s vibes are pretty negative at the moment.
Eskom (still). ANC factions. Zondo Commission. Baddies not in jail. Army in Cape Flats. Crime. Everyone seems to know someone who’s leaving Joburg for Sydney, without passing Cape Town or Durban. Depressing stuff. Makes you think whether it’s time to consider Plan B’s. Maybe it’s time to leave the country. There are plenty of good reasons to throw in the towel. Crime. Crooks. Corruption. There are also plenty of good reasons to eat anchovies. At the end of the day, what you do is up to you. But before packing your bags, you need to find reasons to NOT panic. You need rational arguments for why SA is not heading for economic (and social) chaos. Unfortunately, there are no rational arguments. All the evidence points towards doom. The only hope we can cling to is that we’ve been in the same situation on several previous occasions, and the country somehow confounded the doomsayers. But hope is not a strategy.
Neither is a non-SA passport. It’s nice to think you can hop on a plane if things get really real, but in truth, most of us are economic prisoners. We can’t leave SA because we can’t afford to live anywhere else and have the same quality of life. London, Tel Aviv, Singapore and Tokyo are awesome. Absolutely stunning cities, great food, trains on time. A beer costs R100. A house costs $5m. Nairobi is a lot cheaper. Beer costs R35, but it takes 90min to travel 10km through gridlocked traffic, all day every day. The trouble is South Africa is the only country in the world where we can be happy. We can’t braai in England (it’s illegal to burn wood), or visit family in Australia (no family in Oz), or live in a decent house in New Zealand (too expensive), or drive to work in Hong Kong (permanent traffic jams), or breathe in Beijing (permanent smog), or be proud of your president in America (imagine having The Donald as your chief ambassador?)
It is possible to live elsewhere. It’s just not possible to be as happy elsewhere. Only South Africa has our families, our culture, or boerewors, our humour, our weather, our chutney. Only South Africa has the Karoo AND the Transkei AND Golf Reef City. Only South Africa lets you see the stars at night AND buy a decent cappuccino. Only South Africa gives you opportunities to help other people, to pay their school fees, to give them a job, to give you purpose. In South Africa, you can make a difference in other people’s lives. The trick is to realise there is no happy alternative.
Once you’ve come to terms with not having a Plan B, it’s a lot easier to commit. And that’s what we all need to do: Commit. Because if we don’t commit, we’ll definitely be unhappy, and we’ll probably fail. The next few years in SA will not be easy. Which is great news. Good times are not really useful for getting ahead. As Petyr Baelish said in Game of Thrones (a few hours before having his throat slit), “Chaos is a ladder”. True opportunity only arises when everyone is heading for the exits. Right now, everyone is heading for the exits. Which means there’s never been a better time to be optimistic.
We’re South Africans. We’re used to tough times. Zuma has trained us well. You can’t do anything about Zondo, you can’t put Markus in jail, you can’t change interest rates, you can’t leave the country. As long as you’re not leaving, you’re staying. If you’re staying, you may as well commit. To commit 100%, there’s no room for doubt and pessimism. You need optimism in the front seat.
Here are four tips for being optimistic:
- Travel internationally. It’s only when you see the other side that you appreciate that the grass isn’t greener.
- Invest in Rand hedge shares on the JSE: ABI, BAT, Richemont, Naspers, Anglo, Glencore. That way if the Rand crashes, your investments will go up. If the Rand strengthens, great news for you because you’re living and earning in Rands.
- Don’t read the newspapers. Firstly, they’re biased towards bad news because bad news sells. Secondly, you can’t influence 99.9% of the stuff you read about. If you can’t influence it, ignore it. It’s just wasted energy. Save all your attention for stuff you can influence.
- Make sure you have a purpose other than just making bucks. Orphans, or cancer patients, or rhinos, or whatever. Unlike Switzerland, South Africa is a country with lots of injustice. Lots of opportunities to make a difference and have purpose in life.
Think of it this way: If SA’s future is bad, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re screwed. If SA’s future is great, and you spent ten years worrying about the future, then you’ll be kicking yourself ten years from now for having needlessly spent all that time stressing and worrying. Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end. You must be saying by now, “Jack, what the hell are you saying?” On the one hand the Maverick article imploring the SA Government to take over properly and do something. That call is then reinforced by JP Landman. Many of us resonate with both. But Alan confounds us further. “Hope is not a strategy”, he writes. Why would I then write about it?
Let me cover a few points about Hope. Make no mistake, I have an agenda. I want you to be Hope-full. I want you to be so Hope-full that you impact other people with the power of Hope. Without it we are not just Hope-less, we are Hope-NOT. You can’t be wishy-washy Hope-full; you have Hope or you don’t. Like a car, you have one or you don’t; nothing less cuts it. Let’s start right there. You see, you can get transport in many places – the bus, Uber, a lift – but you will never have experienced the sense of ownership if you have not bought and owned a car. Let’s face it, that’s why we buy houses. Very few of us rent our whole lives. Hope is like that. It is personal to you. In it, you find your sense of ownership, individually and uniquely. Hope is a head matter, the ability to read the messages of the last three articles, clear out the noise and take from them what you can apply to your heart so as to enjoy and exercise your Hope. I read a mixture of articles but the reason is to make up my own mind. The fact then, as I see it, is that we are in a crisis of huge proportions, but my response to that fact [as I personally and rationally understand it] is my responsibility.
Hope is a force, not a state.
Alan is right to say, “But hope is not a strategy”. You can’t “live in hope” and sit on a park bench every day and “hope” alles sal regkom. Hope is not static. Hope projects – Alan effectively says, Hope “commits”.
So what then has your and my Hope committed to? What are we doing to calm our nerves and try to make a difference? A friendly greeting, assistance to your neighbour, coaching and mentoring, attending the #EnoughisEnough protest? Or, something bigger – an animal shelter, building a homeless shelter, sponsoring bursaries? Or, to the business people – employing people at a fair wage, paying all your taxes that are due? I’ve said it before; Africa is a place where you cannot sit on the fence any more. You have to commit to something to have any sense of purpose and meaning in the national daily chaos. And boy, are there myriad opportunities to make a difference! I cannot say it better than Alan’s point 4 above. Hope longs, and in that, Hope acts.
Hope has a facet called Humour. Pieter-Dirk Uys made us laugh at ourselves; Trevor Noah does the same. Taking the Mickey out of our daily lives and times enables us to laugh and gain a fresh perspective. Yes, of course, It may just be during the show but often, to feel your belly wobble with laughter is just good medicine. Far from the Madding Crowd, as the book title goes. I’ve bought a Fitbit to replace my TomTom watch and this little bracelet [that’s all it is really] has a cool gimmick, a 2-minute deep breathing button. So you push it and it tells you to relax….so you do. Then it tells you to breathe in and breathe out and on the screen circular dots display out and then in again. What a gimmick, but to be honest, what a lovely [though cheesy] break from the day. Get one, try it ☺
Hope encourages others. Some of you may be reading this and wondering why you waste your time. “The ol’ man is losing it”, I can hear you say, “What drivel’. That’s fine by me. But then big guy, what about spreading some of your optimism and Hope around? Or do you also join “the manne” at the braai and while 4kg of meat is braaiing and the ice-cold Castle is condensing over your fingers in the hot Spring sun, you join the “bitch” about South Africa? That night you go home and dream of the “lekker” day you’ve had. Been there, done that, if you think I’m a paragon of virtue. But really, what help did that do? You solved every phobia in the book – Xenophobia, Homophobia, Guptaphobia, VBSpobia – but really, what help did that do? Last night after a church meeting a guy who I’d met on Saturday morning came up to me and asked for a lift to the taxi. He wanted to go to Stanford at 7:15pm at night. In our town, there are no taxis at night so he was about to sleep on the side of the road. So I told him to jump in and I took him to Stanford. We talked. He came to Stellenbosch university from Angola to enrol to study a Mining degree next year. Speaking poor English, he explained that he was assaulted in Cape Town and came out here to see if he could get a job.
Once again, he was threatened in Zwelihle and has now found a place in Stanford [our next little town] where he can sleep in safety. We then arrived at our destination and he showed me down the roads and we stopped for him to get out. “But this is the Police Station!” I said. “Yes”, he replied, “See you on Sunday [at church]”, he confirmed. With that he disembarked with a rucksack, I guess with all his possessions. As I drove away, I couldn’t help but think that an aspirant Mining engineer has risked everything to come study in our country because and all we could dish up to this foreigner is one assault that left him hospitalised, and one threatening situation and now he has to sleep, perhaps for months, in a small-town Police station. How grateful and how blessed am I in comparison!? Probably, so are you if you’re still reading this.
Spread Hope – the longing yet active kind – the one that hustles while it waits. And in the end, if you leave, don’t kill South Africa with your mouth, because people still live here.
What has all this got to do with Property? Confidence, not money, buys property. So you and I can bad mouth the country and her government, but for every negative seed we sow, R1000 disappears off the value of the very house you’re trying to sell, or mortgage, or convey. We don’t have to be puritan, God knows I’m not, but next time you’re at the braai [Braai Day’s coming up], think about tossing in just one morsel of Hope to the conversation. Who knows that you may not be the estate agent or originator they call to sell that house.
Be real. Be positive. Be Hope-full.