I have often heard one of my favorite speakers, Vusi Thembekwayo, exclaim "Black people judge success by the car you drive. Fact". While not necessarily quantifiable, that statement certainly rings true in our townships. Hands up anyone who knows someone that drives a posh car but stays in a shabby looking place. Without counting hands, I can confidently say that most of us know people like that. If not you've seen those emails, you know, the ones with a BMW M6 parked outside a shack? For those who don't know, that's a million rand car!
That raises the question of how black people view economics in general. I mean are we mostly living beyond our means? Do we save? What about long term investments? Just a few years ago the term "black diamonds" was being thrown around like a wet towl whipping ass but it was suggested even then that it was credit that was boosting the black middle class not assets. I would go as far as to say even the seemingly rich black people we look up to are not nearly as rich as they want us to believe.
I am not saying this to undermine their achievements but rather to highlight our preoccupation with seeming to be wealthy rather than just being patient, making that money and really living it up. I noticed a tweet by DJ Sbu yesterday that suggested that a list of the ten wealthiest people showed that entrepreneurship was the answer. We are not quite there yet but I do believe entrepreneurship holds the key. Yes, our wealthiest people mostly come from privileged backgrounds or old money for example the Murdochs and Oppenheimers of this world but you also have such enterprising individuals as Patrice Motsepe. The point however is not to encourage everyone to want to be wealthy after all it is not the only measure of success, rather my point is to encourage black people to re-evaluate our lives, priorities and the paths we chose because this will be crucial for the next generations.
Photographer: George Gladwin Matsheke