"People expect magic, more and more," said Fred. "Wave a wand and you can transform anything. And you can get rich, quick." It became clear that the magic wand he was referring to came down to the "charterists" and "lobbyists" that, with increasing vehemence, are demanding their share of the black empowerment pie.
After making a quick check of the number of stompies in the ashtray next to his Klippies and water no ice, in an attempt to estimate the state of his inebriation or sobriety. He was well within his capacity to make sense, I decided, as I ordered my Windhoek.
According to Fred, the lure of untold fortunes for those who had already got it right, was clearly their motivation.
If you cannot succeed by providing a service which buyers want and which delivers a fair profit, declare the playing field unfair on racial grounds, "wave the magic wand" and all will come right. Better still; lobby your cause to Parliament (the heartland of all good fortune) in the hope of special legislation to help oil the way. Good fortune will follow, as if by magic.
We agreed that transformation was good on two grounds; it would activate otherwise hidden skills and thereby, it would increase competition and it would make good on the wrongs of the past. Both of these are however predicated on the hope that such transformation would result in improved service and product delivery. However, if this "magic" has the effect of reducing the quality of delivery or increasing costs, it does not make sense. Indeed it will be economically ruinous, in the long run. A few will make a short term buck; the majority will be poorer.
"Surely, that is how a free economy functions," Fred argued. "Any intervention in the market mechanism must be viewed with suspicion just as any racial bias must be abhorred?"
We reminded ourselves that many of the current successful black business leaders honed their skills under apartheid. They succeeded against all odds. They built businesses because they promised and delivered services better than their competitors who were mostly white.
There was no black magic wand to help them, only guts and determination.
As I left the pub, I decided to contact Sifiso Falala and Vusi Makhathini (founders of the recently constituted Research Industry Transformation Group). I want to ask them whether they supported the principle behind SAARF's recent award of half of the lucrative AMPS contract to a black empowered consortium and whether the companies they own and manage had tendered for this contract or not.
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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