Ag shame. There was a time, not so long ago, when being in business was the thing. Parties, expenses, first-class travel, big bonuses and long holidays — it was all par for the course. Now all these perks are reserved for government officials and politicians.
No, seriously; ask the president of the republic: a R246m house plus several cars for each wife. As the young people say: Lol. That’s “laugh out loud” for readers who are my age or older.
And the business people? Poor bastards, they are miserable. Last week the SA Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s business confidence index showed that business confidence had sunk to a new record low in May. It fell to 79.3 from 82.5 the previous month. It had slipped to 79.6 in December after the president leapt into the record books by changing finance ministers twice within a week. This is the worst index level since June 1993.
It is even more depressing if you consider what 1993 was like: Chris Hani was murdered and 400 people were dying in political violence every month.
These are not the boom years of 2004-2007, when GDP growth hovered at 5%-6%. No, sir. This is tighten-your-seatbelts time.
Which sometimes makes me wonder how people can still spend like the customer who went to Sandton’s Signature restaurant recently and paid more than R73,000. There were just 10 people in his party.
What? Yes. The Times wrote that the receipt for the meal went viral on social media, with allegations that our president, Jacob Zuma, was the generous patron on the evening. The presidency energetically disputed the claim, pointing out that Zuma was in Uganda at the time.
So what does one spend R73,053.50 on?
The Times wrote: “The bill shows that in addition to food — including four langoustines at an eye-watering R3,200‚ lamb shank for R255 and salmon confit for R295 — the customer spent R65,198.50 at the bar. The list of expensive drinks included 30 doubles of 26-year-old Glenfiddich whisky for R29,700‚ six bottles of Veuve Clicquot NV Champagne for R8,700‚ two bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Brut for R17,000 and two bottles of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé‚ a snip at R4,600. Bottles of water for the table cost R495.”
Bless them. The rehydrated. They weren’t stingy, either — they left a 10% tip of R7‚305.50. All this happened on May 12, the same month that surveys said business people were depressed.
One of my great friends is an executive at one of these fancy Sandton financial services firms. He gets somewhat depressed by the economy and then he likes a bit of “home cooking” like his mother used to do — pap, beef stew, vegetables and so forth. When politicians drive the currency down by firing competent finance ministers he craves this food. “For balance,” he says.
But there aren’t that many places that can satisfy the craving. So I joined him last week to sample his new find, Mdhavazi at the MTN store’s coffee shop. It serves pap, rice, stews (chicken, beef), fish and some roast chicken. It gets packed at lunchtime, with a clientele that includes everyone from PAs to CEOs and business owners.
You arrive, stand in line and choose your poison. Eat in or take away.
I went for pap and beef stew, and a chicken leg on the side. I have an excuse: I am a reviewer!
If you arrive at 2pm most of the food has gone, so be an early bird. It is cheap as chips, so no worries about your pocket. The servings are huge. It was delicious. My friend was smiling when we left.
I asked him about the economy. “No worries,” he said, rubbing his tummy. “SA always bounces back.”
That’s what I like to hear.
***½ Mdhavazi Canteen
MTN Coffee Shop, Corner Summit and Rivonia Road, Morningside, Sandton
***** Thuli Madonsela