"It makes my hair stand on end... a crime free South Africa?" said Fred as he swirled his Klippies and water, no ice, in its glass. Apparently the discussion at a recent industry gathering had to do with the hint of an impending ban on alcoholic beverage advertising.
The silly season was in full cry and for Fred, party time was a good time, free drinks, and free snacks, mingling with the best and the worst in the media and advertising industry. Catching up on all the news. Feeling the pulse.
Like the ban on tobacco promotion, such a move would be devastating, those at this auspicious gathering agreed, drowning their fears in whatever tipple that took their fancy and nervously lighting another cigarette.
This discussion had lead Fred to contemplate the statement made by Ebrahim Rasool, the Western Cape's Premier, that beyond President Mbeki's dual economy, one rich and white, the other poor and black, was a third economy, the "crime economy". According to the SAPA report, Rasool claimed that this economy was "not survivalist; it's rich, it's global".
"Imagine if the Government did manage to get crime under control," posited Fred. "The impact on the advertising industry would be devastating. Far worse than a ban on liquor advertising."
I gulped my Windhoek Lager in shock at the thought. No more Trellidor, slam locks, satellite tracking, gear locks, electric fencing, barbed wire, security patrol and armed response provider advertising. The list seemed endless as we imagined a South Africa devoid of crime.
The insurance companies would be faced with classic deflationary pressures, shrinking markets and falling prices. Dial Direct, Santam and Auto and General would no longer be dominant media spenders. Even vehicle sales would be impacted: by some reports, as much as 25% of new motor vehicle sales are directly the result of theft.
Beyond advertising, employment would be negatively impacted upon. The private security firms employ more manpower than the South African Police Services and their combined revenues exceed the SAPS annual budget.
The specter of a crime free South Africa, we agreed, was too horrific to contemplate. The really hair-raising thing about it all is 'if you can't beat them, why not join them'. It seems to be what government is doing anyway, given their singular lack of ability in bringing criminals to book. It makes economic sense.
Ever seeking creative solutions, I made a note to call COSATU to ask whether they had plans to formalize employment conditions and benefits for workers in the "Crime Economy". And, to contact SARS to find out what contingencies they had to bring criminal revenues into the Tax net. I stopped short of involving Judge King and corporate governance issues.
This week's column is dedicated to Fred's, almost hairless, Zambian fan.
With piercing blue eyes, a full set of clean underwear, his own hair - although it's mostly on his manly chest now - and stealth-like in his entry into his favourite bosveld watering hole, 'FRED' is clearly a legend in his own laager. An insider with so many years experience in the industry that he's forgotten where time began and advertising ended, he will be writing for Bizcommunity.com weekly to bring us the industry news you thought was safety swept under the rug, lurking there with the rest of South Africa's scandals and dirty laundry! If you dare, all correspondence with Fred can be sent via the !
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