Living in a “Junk Status” SA

I’m feeling some type of way about the recent junk status downgrade South Africa’s received. I love this country, I really do and I want to one day raise my kids here, but the way things are looking now, it seems unlikely that having kids at all will be a viable economic option for me.

For those of you in the dark, this is what went down. Mind you, this is an incredibly watered down version of events passed and it’s probably not as politically correct as you’d like as a base for your thesis or essay or whatever, but here goes.

Not too long ago, our country has been flirting with danger as the threat of being downgraded by ratings agencies to junk status, which basically tells the world that South Africa, is a country that is less likely to meet its obligations in terms of credit and paying back its debts. This would have been bad, because it would also mean that international investors would have turned on their heels and not considered our country and economy a viable investment.

Our then finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, worked his magic, along with a number of skilled representatives, and we retained our then BB- rating. So things weren’t amazing, but they weren’t awful.

Fast forward to the first week of April and after a sudden cabinet reshuffle from the President himself, with little to no warning to the ministers who’d been let go and the country and all its stakeholders, ratings agency Fitch saw it necessary to downgrade South Africa’s credit rating to BB+, after S&P had also downgraded South Africa to junk status.

That was a mouthful. Now, what does that mean exactly? It means that the economic world views our country as more of a liability and a high risk investment than a reliable one. This might sound like one of those out of reach “it won’t affect me” things we tend to sweep under the rug and let the higher-ups deal with, but I assure you this has everything to do with you because your life will be that much tougher if you’re the average or below average South African.

Heck, this is going to heavily affected South African businesses and the tier one’s (a little nickname I chose for those at the highest income rung).

International investment will be scarce, meaning investment from conglomerates wanting to build, I don’t know, manufacturing plants in our country will be a hard to come by in this newly changed economic climate. Investment from outside in our companies will trickle to a dismal drizzle as well as investment in important infrastructure will be made more difficult. The effects aren’t only on the international level.

You’ll feel it too. The cost of enterprise is most likely to increase, that means the cost of banking, corporate tax rate as well as the cost of purchasing resources whether imported or from within the country will all rise. This means that employers will feel the tightening of their belts, so much so that employment opportunities will be a hard find, especially for graduates.

It means that the cost of living will increase, the cost of petrol, the cost of food and an entire host of things will increase as well.

Now, why would a country be downgraded to junk status? Some of the reasons are because there is no faith in the country as a paying entity. Think of a country as its own company, the man at the top is the CEO, and in companies as per the King Code, corporate governance is of the utmost importance if its to list in the securities exchange and if investors are to trust its financial statements and entertain the idea of investing in the company. Now if there is a breakdown in corporate governance, there is little faith in the financial statements presented and thus little hope in investors wanting to invest in the company so that it may grow. Due to recent events, the world now feels like there has been a breakdown in the south African governance structures and because of that, they do not have faith in the country’s financials as well as their (our) ability to meet our present or long-term obligations.

In short, this is a big mess and as bleak as things might look, there’s still hope.

The economy could make a turnaround, reliance on South African enterprises to supply and meet demand as well as focussing on entrepreneurship for job creation as well as service delivery could see us pulling a China and creating as well as satisfying our own demands with little international intervention.

To be honest, this topic is so much bigger than what I’ve tried unpacking, but it’s not all grave news. There’s a silver lining in all this…our is, Bonang. We have her, you guys. Also Trevor Noah and Gqom music and lions, they think we all have pet lions anyway, and…yeah…we’re screwed.

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Let’s get naked…i did, and i liked it.

So I took the plunge. I couldn’t be more literal than that if I’d wanted to, but yeah, I dropped trou and took to the seas like some new age, psychedelic dream chasing, African hippie and…I kinda liked it.

So there’s some necessary background to be explored here, lest I come off as some eccentric liberal who makes a habit of taking his clothes off in public for the sake of taking his clothes off in public. There’s truth in that, anyway… I am a bit of a liberal. Go on, hate me you precious fossils you.

So what had happened was, I was in my room (where most of my more “Ingenious” plans are conceived) and where I normally have a very reliable “Stop nonsense” reflex that puts a halt on the more…insane/ridiculous/illegal ideas, this time around a part of me I’d long ago thought successfully smothered, tied up and left for the coyotes, decided to fight through the less than boy scout grade bindings and push the big red button.

We all know what button I’m talking about; the button that sees you jumping out of moving planes, swimming with man eating fish and hooking up with weird strangers from the net. Yes, that button.

So the button had been pushed, and what had been a silently waning wonder, blossomed into something of an obsession.

I wanted to get naked. Not just naked, I wanted to do it in public.

The idea of jail wasn’t a hit, so I thought a less illegal, but still very illegal (I should look into that) way to go about my new obsession would be to skinny dip.

I could have very easily done it in my backyard and been done with it, but no, I wanted to be reckless with it. Now I think it’s best to make it known that I’m in no way a creep. Sure, I have creepy tendencies, but my goal was never to fifty shades of gray it in a public pool with toddlers in tiaras and all things inflatable in sight, no.

The plan was to go to the beach on a relatively warm day, find a safe-ish spot away from prying eyes and go about my pseudo-nudist ways for a hot second before I get my fill without causing a scene and going to jail. Avoiding jail was where the bar had been set; I don’t see myself surviving the slammer.

Why do it, you ask? I needed this, not this in particular, but something as radical and as exciting as this to pull me from within the depths of whatever funk I’ve crawled into and to cure this claustrophobia I’ve steadily developed.

So, the plan had been set, the day chosen, and I was off.

I had fifteen minutes to talk myself out of it. I had fifteen minutes to reason with myself; my moral compass had one job and that was to put an end to this insanity, but as crazy as I was and am, I’m just as stubborn.

Fifteen minutes later, I was there. Not a soul in sight, it was me, the golden shoreline, the gentle giant before me and the clearest sky above head. I hadn’t taken a stitch of clothing off and I’d already begun feeling vulnerable. It was on some level knowing what I was about to do, also, it was that I was alone. I had no partner in crime, no lookout, no getaway driver, just me and this silly, silly idea.

But I was going to do it. Momma never raised no quitter.

I wish I could tell you that I felt liberated with each article of clothing I slowly slid off my person, I wish I could tell you how good the soft heat from the autumn sun felt and how sexy it made me feel, but none of that sensual, Baywatch stuff happened. I tore those clothes off me like they were on fire, trying as best I could to not think about it too much, before I gunned it towards the ocean and literally crashed against a settling wave.

I felt naked; I was literally naked, in public, with no clothes on. I mean I get that’s how being naked works, but I was in public for crying out loud. The shock of it all was almost suffocating.

My first thought? “What have I done?” Regret, absolute regret poured out of me, weeping with every jagged breath while my body acclimated to the ocean water temperature. Also fear, lots of it. I was afraid someone would wander to where my clothes were, figure the situation out and out of spite they’d run off with my clothes and I’d be stranded, naked, in the ocean. Then I was afraid that the very many things that lived in the ocean would wander as well, too close to the bits that could be nibbled…

After the shock and regret and fear, I guess I could say that a resilient calm took hold of me. It was kind of unexpected. The knowledge that it was okay, that I was somehow safe and free and stupid but incredibly at one with everything around me swallowed me whole. I can’t explain it without saying that it felt like a colour I hadn’t seen or experienced before but one I was familiar with and one that felt right.

Don’t worry, I’ve not been converted, I don’t plan on being a nudist anytime soon, but I found a new appreciation for the sheer bravery of letting it all go and allowing your body to be at one with the things that really matter around you; the tangible.

Five minutes later, a very long five minutes might I add, I dried off, put my clothes back on and stayed behind to stare out into the ocean for a good hour with a new admiration for the world and its many wonders.

This wasn’t some Avatar type of connectedness, but I felt real for the first time in a very long time. I both mattered and didn’t matter and through it all I felt in control. I made the decision to take my clothes off, I made the decision to go into the ocean and I was in control through the whole thing.

Some will call me crazy, and rightfully so, I don’t think this is for everyone, but it was certainly a great way to stumble upon a sacred philosophy I’m coming to terms with more every day; you may not be where you want to be, but you are where you are meant to be.

Never Forget

There are rhythms and rhymes that remind me of home

They feel like moments passed, like memories brought to life by the faintest of familiar refrains, or the whisper of a wandering word.

There are hymns that lay dormant in my veins

That burn through the bloodstream of my bloodline while bleeding through forgotten wounds, as the metallic stench of repressed recollections resurfaces to wreak havoc in places they’re no longer welcome

There are sounds and sentiments that become living lore, hymns and harmonies that hound me like resurrected ghosts and ghouls and wilfully forgotten fools

There are voices and melodies that remain

Like tattooed insignia from battles lost; maimed and marred in the reverence of impressions that will never leave.

Reminiscences that will never end.

Hauntings that will forever return.