Suc­cess doesn’t come cheap

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@ city­press. co. za

‘Ev­ery­body, shh!” Word spread like thun­der­less light­ning through­out the house. “The liquor squad is out­side!” some­one ex­claimed, and that was enough to si­lence the throngs of peo­ple packed in­side. The al­co­hol that was in the brains of the pa­trons evap­o­rated like wa­ter in the Karoo, and so­bri­ety reigned again.

The “liquor squad” was an “elite” po­lice unit that spe­cialised in find­ing il­le­gal she­beens, and had the power to ar­rest any­one in­side the house and con­fis­cate all the al­co­hol. In pub­lic, the po­lice claimed they spilt it down the drain, but the pub­lic be­lieved they spilt it down their throats.

“Shh!” the call con­tin­ued. It was a stokvel and the po­lice wanted a liquor li­cence, which no one had both­ered to get be­cause the of­fi­cials never both­ered to is­sue it, even if you ap­plied.

The po­lice cap­tain came into the house while the rest of his men stood out­side. He was a big, tall Afrikaner and he pre­tended that he’d come in to in­spect the liquor li­cence. In­stead, he took his money and walked away. In the world I grew up in, noth­ing was cheaper and more cor­rupt­ible than a white po­lice­man. They de­manded brandy, Coke and cash, in that or­der.

There I was, 12 years old or so, deep in the night, work­ing, learn­ing about busi­ness, but sadly see­ing the noc­tur­nal ways that would be­come the foun­da­tion of the “new South Africa”.

The mu­sic from jazz fu­sion group Weather Re­port played from the turntable. The group got that name be­cause it was un­sta­ble, due to the mu­si­cians com­ing and go­ing like clouds.

Mu­si­cians are the orig­i­nal en­trepreneurs. You have to be good to get a gig, and bet­ter to keep it. The re­sult is im­me­di­ate, but suc­cess never comes overnight. One-man bands do not work so well, so you have to assem­ble a band, and once you’ve played, you have to beg the owner of the joint to pay you the agreed amount.

No one de­scribed this more elo­quently than Abbey Lin­coln in her song You Gotta Pay The Band.

The same is true in busi­ness. First, you need to be ex­cep­tional to suc­ceed. You have to be able to deal with re­jec­tion. You must have the re­silience to col­lect your money, and have the pa­tience to suc­ceed.

There are many mu­si­cians who will never be fa­mous, but will get on by play­ing at wed­dings and night­clubs. Most will never record.

Like­wise, there are many busi­nesses that will never be known. They will pay the bills and send their chil­dren to school, but they will never make the front pages of busi­ness jour­nals. Yet th­ese busi­nesses do a great job, which is of­ten un­der­rated. They help so­ci­ety by em­ploy­ing a few peo­ple, and they are also the train­ing ground for the chil­dren of founders.

The gen­er­a­tion be­fore us has equipped us with all the nec­es­sary tools for suc­cess. Our prob­lem is that our so­ci­ety has low­ered its ex­pec­ta­tions. We have stopped ex­pect­ing the best from our kids. We have given them all sorts of ex­cuses why they shouldn’t suc­ceed. We have also al­lowed racists to dis­tract us be­cause, in a warped kind of way, we ex­pect those who hate us to help us. We wish they could have a change of heart and love us. How do we ex­pect oth­ers to love us when we don’t love our­selves? When we still use skin light­en­ers and weaves to look like them? How can we ex­pect them to re­spect us when we hardly re­spect our­selves?

Weather Re­port fi­nally dis­si­pated when the founders, Joe Zaw­inul and Wayne Shorter, split up to pur­sue solo projects. Zaw­inul started what he called the Zaw­inul Syn­di­cate. In his first al­bum, The Im­mi­grants, he put new lyrics to his old com­po­si­tion Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, which he had writ­ten for an­other jazz great, Ju­lian “Can­non­ball” Ad­der­ley.

On that track, Zaw­inul speaks to him­self and us through the vo­cals of Lynne Fid­dmont. “I’m not one to judge what any­body does,” he says, “but drown­ing in de­spair won’t get you any­where.”

He was not writ­ing this from a perch of priv­i­lege, but from the dun­geon of hurt and ha­tred that he had ex­pe­ri­enced as a de­scen­dant of Hun­gar­ian gyp­sies.

“I don’t need mercy,” he says to him­self, “to get me through my life.”

We need to tell our­selves as the black com­mu­nity that we don’t need mercy from white peo­ple to get through our lives. We must look in­ter­nally, use our so­cial lad­der of suc­cess again, and force our chil­dren to climb it.

In the ear­lier gen­er­a­tions, a child was ex­pected to stay at school and get bet­ter ed­u­cated than his or her par­ents. If he was the youngest, he was ex­pected to be the most ed­u­cated among his sib­lings, and the whole fam­ily as­sisted in that re­gard.

That is how so­ci­ety’s up­ward mo­bil­ity is achieved. In other words, if as a par­ent you are more ed­u­cated than your chil­dren, then you have failed mis­er­ably in your duty. As a par­ent, you can­not give up on the education of your chil­dren, be­cause your off­spring must have a bet­ter qual­ity of life than you.

There can be no ex­cuses, be­cause our prob­lems are not unique. Yes, white peo­ple have un­leashed in­ex­pli­ca­ble in­hu­man­ity on peo­ple they per­ceive to be dif­fer­ent.

Zaw­inul agrees: “Trou­bles ev­ery­where, pres­sure fills the air”, but he also re­minds us that at the end of it all, the road is for us to choose, whether we win or lose.

“With ev­ery chal­lenge that life brings, I’ll sing no mercy for me,” Fid­dmont sings to her­self. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive,

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