Sulking will get us nowhere

MY mom died in December. She was a great teacher and acted as the unofficial moderator of this column for the past 12 years. Without her, I would have been fired ages ago.

So now it’s back to work in an economy that is just not growing fast enough to yield the taxes needed to secure delivery without increasing the national debt. It seems South Africa will have to wait for the rest of the world to recover before there is hope for improvement.

All depressing stuff. So I took a drive to the Karoo to get away from those who keep complaining about our lousy lot.

For an off-the-wall experience, I was recommended the Karoo Theatrical Hotel in Steytlerville. “That’s the only place you will find some entertainment,” they said, “unless you want to join the skaapkopgulde” (the guild of sheep’s-head connoisseurs’ annual braai at the local showgrounds).

Mark and Jacque took over the derelict remains of the hotel, built in 1943. Most would say it’s bonkers to offer a basic bed-and-breakfast 200km from the nearest city. But with a follies show featuring Mark on grand piano and Jacque belting it out as Lady Layla Lamborghini, it offers more than any game drive. I haven’t laughed so much since Eugene fell off his horse.

Nobody spoke about the economic times or South Africa post-Mangaung and Marikana. Yet, this simple B&B provides employment and much trade for the Steytlerville community. It proves that one doesn’t have to go five-star with a multimillion-rand investment to create a sustainable business.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s new year message was: “Wishing you and your family an optimistic and productive 2013 in which we work harder to build a great South Africa for all our people.”

Perhaps economies, consumer confidence, tax collections and all that stuff are just related to mood. And, right now, most of us are just sulking and complaining. Good parents would not tolerate such behaviour.

If we are going to wait for this to change, a miraculous budget speech and a revival of economic fortunes, we are going to wait a long time. It’s high time we put all this “25% risk of failed-state scenario” behind us and got on with life.

Originally published in the Sunday Times: Money & Careers Tax Talk column.

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