A YEAR of test driving alternative economic tactics to
balance my personal double entry accounting system, and I am still learning new
tricks in the last few days of 2012.
From sweaty cycles between appointments, shorter shower
songs, homegrown herbs and cash back coupons at my supermarket; I thought I
tried them all.
The more I discover, the more I realised the system needs an
overhaul. It cannot rely solely on the lonely journey of a cyclist seeking
karma between meetings and a balanced life.
A recent visit to a friend’s house in Philippi near Cape
Town’s airport reminded me of the emotional value of networking – and how it
can translate into bricks and mortar. Literally.
After years of living on the same spot, my friend qualified
for a basic government-supported house, which comes, as you know, with only a
few standard items: walls, doors, windows, a toilet and a roof.
She works hard. She is loved by her family, employers and
importantly, her community. And here lays a key part of the secret.
With the help of her stokvel, my friend has been able to
turn her basic house into a very happy home. She added a few rooms, expanded
her kitchen (she’s a famous cook in my circles) and stretched her lounge by a
few extra inches.
While the money from the stokvel is interest free, her part
does not end at laying the last brick to her extended walls: not for her
stokvel duties, nor for her future dreams of expanding her home.
She continues to pay into the system, for an agreed time,
ensuring other stokvel-approved plans of fellow members are also achieved. On
their turn, the stokvel sends an inspection delegation to ensure money is used
for its intended purpose.
For items the stokvel do not cover, she asks other people in
her circle - employers (she works for different people on different days) and
other friends - to help her to save towards the things that will add make her
life more comfortable: a new fridge, a ceiling, a proper stove, a solar geyser,
It is never a loan. She shares her plans with enthusiasm and
then works out how it can be achieved.
On her bumpy public transport ride, 28 kilometers away from
her workplace, she writes her ideas in a little book, listens to a church
service on her mobile phone that connects to a radio station, and thinks of her
children at home.
Recently, after another mugging she endured while walking to
the train station, I suggested a saving towards a bicycle. She just squealed
With her dreams of a better future, immense talent and a
smile the size of our coastline, my friend has worked out a few economic
survival tools long before it became the fashionable thing for us urban
dwellers to do.
In her way, she too understands that the world as we knew it
– before the shine of original capitalism faded – does not exist anymore. She
never really benefited from that either.
We are both keen to explore the benefits of a new capitalism
that is constructive, as suggested by Umair Haque (2011, Harvard Business
Review Press) in The New Capitalist Manifesto.
In our next adventure to add to her earnings, we are talking
about cooking and baking up a Cape storm (minus the winds) in her community.
These are all new to us, but somehow we are designing a new
micro economy that pays the bills.
*On Twitter, Adriaan reveals his #XolisaTellsMe conversations
with his friend as he tweets them from @aiBester. The views expressed are his own.