Friends & Friction: This is the new normal – get used to it

2015-04-15 15:00

You will need every creative strand in your body to survive in business.

We’re now living in the new normal.

If you hate foreigners and think they must return to their countries of origin, then you’re going to die a bitter and twisted old fossil.

You’d better accept that the 2?million or so Zimbabweans who live in this country are going nowhere – and their children who were born here are as South African as braaivleis.

The Somalis and Pakistanis who trade in townships and other areas have loyal customers who keep them in business. Their children are now citizens of this country.

After all, doesn’t the Freedom Charter start by saying: “We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it…”?

That is what the ANC sold to South Africans and the rest of the world. In return, it received votes of unwavering support from South Africans and the rest of the world.

To add an emerald to the crown, we told the world through a brilliant advertising campaign that South Africa was “alive with possibility”.

We brought out our best, such as Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Abdullah Ebrahim and Thabo Mbeki, to mention but a few.

They talked about freedom and the possibility of becoming what we wanted to be.

So all those who were in search of opportunity and a better life descended on the new promised land.

As per the original and intentional design of apartheid, when opportunities opened up like floodgates, our people were unable to take them.

Economic transformation seemed painfully slow, and so hope dried up like a puddle in the sun and anger grew.

We now find ourselves in a perfect storm: severe economic crisis, angry youth and weak leadership at the helm.

We know how the last storm brought down some great black businesses, such as Chicken Upeo, which was founded by Makana Tshabalala. That was before Nando’s. This Soweto icon has been featured in at least three movies and some great musical hits. Yet Chicken Upeo could not survive the riots of the 1980s because of its location.

It is a question of time before South Africa is hit by countrywide riots again, unless there is serious and smart intervention from the governing party.

What we call service-delivery protests are nothing but small rehearsals. It’s time for those in power to conduct a surgical operation and live through the pain and discomfort now.

Like any operation, there is no guarantee that it will be successful. But whatever the outcome, it will be better than the status quo that one-time US president Ronald Reagan said was Latin for “the mess we’re in”.

Radical change must be seen to happen.

So all colonial and apartheid-era statues must be destroyed. This will end the daily insults to people who have to walk past them. Such statues are similar to the old signs that used to say, “No dogs and blacks allowed here!”

To those who argue that they are part of our history, I remind you that in Germany you don’t see Adolf Hitler’s statues, even though he was a significant part of that country’s history.

Some investors may not like it when South Africa embarks on radical transformation, so they may withdraw their money, but that happens from time to time. When they later see stability and improvement in the incomes of people, they will reinvest.

Government must make it a priority for the returned land to be profitable, for people to see that the promised land provides some fruit, at least.

In the meantime, the country will be unkind to small business people, unless they team up. It’s time to talk about co-opetition rather than competition.

The idea of street committees must be reinvented to form street business committees.

These must not become business vigilante groups but strategy hubs, to help small businesses navigate the new business environment that no one envisaged.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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