Petes Weekly: SA Not Right Place To Start Business ?


Maybe SA is not the right place to start a business?


Last week I wrote an article about how easy it is to start a business in South Africa. I fear that I must reconsider some of my words. It seems that Armageddon is nigh, and I may have to invoke Rule #6.

Firstly, about the ease of starting up. I was wrong. I am the first to admit it.

I was right about the amount of time available, but I was wrong about the quality of that time. Who wants to trade a Tuesday on the sand at Strand for the rigours of having to think about clients. Or trade the enjoyment of a medium rare fillet lunch at the local Spur for the challenges of invoicing. (A Spur is a rare gem which I have yet to see anywhere near where I have lived in Australia,England, or Norway.) I ask you, what was I thinking? I will apologise as soon as I have finished this amazing Wimpy breakfast that is so cheap that the proprietor will have to pay me to leave.

Now, to an even more serious topic: our looming Armageddon. It is real. Each of us is going to face one in the next hundred years. I doubt we will face the same one at the same time.

And yet, that is what South African newspapers sell every day, this looming Armageddon. If it isn’t the mineworkers on strike sending us a clear message that the end of SA is nigh, then it is the mine owners firing a few workers upping the nighness, or the farmworkers striking for a rise, or the farmworkers getting a rise. I could go on because Armageddon is getting more nighed by the day.

Catch a life. Not even Norwegians are so grumpy, even though they have a lot more reason.

I think we should consider Rule #6. “Don’t take life so seriously.”

I am writing this from a tree-filled courtyard in Somerset West, on my iPad, with the early morning sun streaming down. I could do this here on almost any day of the year, although I might need a jersey in July. Europeans have the iPad and the Internet access, but most do not have enough clement weather to write outside too often.

I am here on a mission to see what the future of my life will hold, a short sabbatical. (And because Mrs Carruthers suggested I needed some fresh air and Vitamin D.) After 7 years outside SA I want to find out if all that I have learned offshore has relevance to SA businesses. But getting past the national obsession with Armageddon is frustrating.

And each time I speak of the subject, I carry an elephant into the room with me. That elephant is the fact that I do not live in South Africa myself. How dare I speak on issues South African when I am so rejecting the country?

That is like asking a dying man why he is rejecting life. Each time I try and answer the question someone will interrupt with their solution, without thinking about it for more than 30 seconds. They have no inkling of the time I have thought on the subject.

In 1967 my biological Dad took a year to die, exhausting the family finances en route. Mom had to uplift her three young kids and take us to a new city (PE) where she had family to help. And then she had to put us into boarding school while she worked to support us. It was a tough time, and we each carry that memory closely. Since 1971 I have lived a life of daily insulin injections, and am nudging the further reaches of diabetic longevity.

My wife is Norwegian, as are her children, including the child we share, who has inherited her fathers curiosity and good looks. Mrs Carruthers has access to instant state help and the support of her extended family when I fall off this mortal coil. No amount of insurance could offer that kind of support, not that it is available to a diabetic. (The road out of here via diabetes is usually via a heart infaction or stroke, and usually sooner rather than later.)

Our children are settled and prospering at school and with great friends, none of which would change when I go, and all would help them. If we lived in SA and I become one with the soil, as it were, she would take the kids back to Norway. That would be a traumatic change, at a bad time. I do not want my kids to face the issues I did.

And since I rather like Mrs Carruthers, I am happy to be where she is. But the other half of my heart will always be here, no matter how much Armageddon is getting nighed.

All the best
Peter Carruthers

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