The last fortress

SALTA Column

Does it sound as if I am writing about a Wild West movie in which soldiers are defending a fortress?

In a way, the tavern/shebeen trade is under siege. Everywhere one looks there are bands of marauding, scalp-hunting bad guys. Writer after writer points to the red tape that keeps the trader pinned down. One of the MECs for economic development even once said all shebeens should close shop and people must go to church. So what happened to the freedom to trade?

The arrogant civil servant had the audacity to wish away a billion-rand industry. It dawned on me that we are dealing with the MEC for economic DESTRUCTION, not development. South Africa is a member of the BRICS countries, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The first four countries promote small businesses because these stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities. Small businesses provide building blocks for the large corporations in these countries.

One of the MECs for economic development even once said all shebeens should close shop and people must go to church.

This is evident in how the Chinese do business. This method is also copied and modified by some foreigners conducting business in South Africa. Instead of opening big retail stores they encroach on the township trade by operating spaza shops. Where you and I would pack our bags and go after violent attacks in a foreign land, these traders stay put come hell or high water. The resilience that they demonstrate of bouncing back even after their shops are torched speaks volumes about the support that they are getting from some hidden source.
I can only speculate that only a government can pump in so much money for its citizens to go out there and “make us proud”.

Let us go back to the last fortress and the besieged garrison. The tuck shop has been overrun by the system and the taxi industry is being slowly but surely mauled from all sides. These used to be the township resident’s last hopes of making ends meet. Shebeeners, like Castle Lager, withstood the test of time. This trade has seen three national anthems. What am I saying here? That is right, three national anthems, God Save The Queen, Die Stem and Nkosi Sikelela I Afrika. We shall still be around to sing the fourth one, if the status quo prevails. This is no empty threat, “ons is gatvol."


SALTA PEC member,
Martin Kaydo Hlongwa