South Africans can surprise you sometimes, especially on social media. The kind of stuff we are outraged by defies logic at times. South Africa is a country that is facing high levels of unemployment and poverty.
This past weekend the ANC had its annual January 8th statement at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg. The event was marked by festivities in and around Soweto for the whole week. Vilakazi street in Orlando West was buzzing with activities and parties. There were a lot of local tourists, from government ministers, business leaders, "tenderpreneurs" and other politicians. Many enjoyed the hospitality that the establishments in Vilakazi street, the home of two Nobel Prize winners, had to offer. I am told that many restaurants made a killing this past weekend.
Something happened from Sunday evening and continued on Monday that disturbs me greatly, and I need to address it, for if left unchallenged it will continue. On Sunday and Monday there were receipts/bills showing the kind of monies that those who were attending the event had spent. This created some outrage from the people I follow on social media, with some lamenting that it was a waste of money whilst others said the money should have been donated to education. I need to say that there were some who saw nothing wrong with spending money entertaining oneself if one can afford.
I align myself with the latter view, and I will explain why shortly. As long the money being used is not taxpayers' or stolen, people are free to spend their hard earned money the way they see fit. The outrage is completely misplaced. Earlier I raised the fact that South Africa has a high unemployment rate, the latest Labour force survey puts it at 27,1% or some 5,8 million South Africans, mainly young people. The hospitality industry which includes restaurants is one of the biggest employers in the country and it continues to grow. The money that was spent at Nambitha, Sakhumzi, NexDor and other restaurants has ensured that many people have jobs and they are able to feed their families.
ANC's liquor bill for a night... At least we know what they are passionate about... 22 years later! pic.twitter.com/ZOox1wpkRf— Justice4All (@Unathi_Kwaza) January 10, 2017
Whilst others will view the monies spent to be a waste, I see it differently. Those that visited Soweto this past weekend has helped the economy of Soweto to grow. The workers in the restaurants had increased income in the form of tips. Whilst some amongst us are outraged by the R70,000 bill that was paid by some politicians, I see R7,000 that has gone to the workers. The workers will thus have added income to support themselves and their families, they will be able to use the extra income to buy school uniform for their kids and extended family.
The owners of Sakhumzi have made profits that cushion them for the slow months of January and February, and will thus be continuing to operate. It is also slow for the waiters and waitresses as they will not be receiving tips. It is not only the restaurant owners and workers that benefitted this past weekend, the car guards and those tha wash cars also benefitted from the increased traffic.
At some point we have to ask what the outrage is really about, is it that money was spent or that money was spent in the township or the people who spent the money? I have already addressed the issue of the spending itself. Sometimes we have to use what we have to create jobs in the economy, this include going out to restaurants and enjoy a meal there, for by so doing we are helping another person feed their families. If we do not go to places like Vilakazi and spend our money there, many families will go to bed hungry, and will be waiting for handouts.
There is a general agreement that it is the small business owners that will help solve the unemployment challenge we face as a country, but when people support a small business there is an outcry or social media manufactured outrage. Events like January 8th, State of the Nation, and Cape Town Jazz Festival are by their very nature supposed to benefit local business, especially the hospitality industries. If those that can afford spend their money at Sakhumzi or Mzolis, they should be encouraged to continue doing so rather than being seen as wasteful. They are supporting local business and they are helping another person to have a job. We need to encourage local tourism and supporting small businesses. The truth is we can't have a thriving local business unless we ourselves are prepared to support it by buying its product, thus create employment.
I am a resident in the Democratic Alliance-run Johannesburg and my constituency is in Soweto, and I am happy that the visitors this past weekend chose to spend their money in Soweto. The local businesses will now improve their business and they might employ additional workers. Vilakazi restaurants are better off today thanks to the extra income they made this weekend, Soweto and Johannesburg are beneficiaries too.
Makashule Gana MPL writes in his personal capacity - blogs editor.