“I refuse to celebrate mediocrity!” says Pot to Kettle

I don’t understand the reaction to the recent matric results. Have we gotten so used to complaining? Are we so easily fooled to even complain about the good things that happen in our country? We are truly a twitter nation, making snap judgements based on headlines, dropping comments like they were change, and moving on to the next story to vent about.

The context

The grade 12 pass rate in 2012 was 73.9% and it increased in 2013 to 78.2%. That is a significant improvement by any measure. This has made people very excited, but the wrong kind of excited. The immediate reaction from some quarters was that the results were cooked before you factor anything else into it. Now add the fact that the Western Cape did not occupy one of the top two positions as it had in previous years. It did not come third either. It came in fourth place. Once you’ve absorbed that then factor in the fact that in 2013 the pass mark was dropped to 30%. That means you only need to know 30% of what you have been taught to advance from grade 12. These facts have strengthened the perception that the results were tampered with.  No wait, that’s a bit of an understatement. These facts have convinced people that the results were doctored. No, that’s not quite right either. These facts have solidified the fact that the ruling party have been for years now tampering with not just the results but with the students themselves and the teachers and the markers to ensure that in 2013 the pass rate would be 78%.

The Da Angie Code

Yes, there is a national conspiracy to ensure that weak students never write matric and thereby guaranteeing that the government can celebrate improved pass rates. It is a conspiracy that involves teachers, students and their parents. They have agreed, under coercion from the government, to hold back weak students in grades 10 and 11 so that they do not sit for matric exams the following year. Robert Ludlum, were he still alive, would be impressed with the ingenuity to pull this off. Imagine the number of people involved in this, and there has not been a single leak on social media! Think of the efficiency of the government agents that have infiltrated the school system. Here in South Africa! I cannot wait for the movie to be made. To the Conspiracy Theorists (now on referred as CT) this project is called ‘culling’ (yes the same word used to describe the practice of controlled killing of animals).

Is the dropout problem new in 2013?

The high (extremely high) dropout rate in students after grade 9 has been cited by them for this assertion (it is no longer a hypothesis, or even a theory it is now a fact as far as the CT are concerned). Roughly 500 000 students wrote the grade 12 exam in 2013. Twelve years prior when the class of 2013 started grade 1 there were about one million students who registered. That means 500 000 students did not even make it to matric to write the exam. That is a ridiculously high number. A study was done a few years ago and a committee formed to investigate the reasons for this drop out. One of the things they found was that the dropout rate in primary school is so small as to be negligible. Their findings are detailed in the above report. This was done in 2007, it is interesting that no one talked about culling back then. Another report is available from 2011. Again there was no talk of culling. One has to wonder why there is talk of it now. As if to suggest the high dropout has only affected the class of 2013 (less than half the kids who started school in 200 wrote exams in 2012). And it clearly shows that there is something seriously wrong with education in this country and how it is being managed. I am not disputing that. But to suggest a nation-wide government-led conspiracy, really?

Some say we are lagging behind other nations in the world and in the rest of Africa. Zimbabwe with all its problems has been used as an example for comparison. It has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, significantly higher than South Africa and this is rightly due to their fantastic education system. Except it’s not so fantastic. In 2011 the primary school pass rate was 45%. The pass rate for O-levels (which is what they do after form 4 or grade 10, an equivalent of grade 12) was 19.5% in the same year. So maybe let’s stay clear of using Zimbabwe as a comparison.

What about the rest of the world? We are so far behind the likes of the UK that any comparison is ludicrous. From what I can gather, students are free to do whatever after grade 10 (form 4). Apparently only about 20% go on to form 6, our grade 12 equivalent. And then they decide how and when to complete their studies, with the average being 3 to 4 subjects being taken a year. The point is there are so many differences to the system itself that one cannot compare the two. Although in the states grade 11 and 12 are compulsory it is much the same in terms of comparison. Even between different states in the US there are differences in policy.

The (sudden) call for an investigation

Before we go on let’s address the other two factors that have led to conspiracy talk. Why is the fact that the Western Cape has dropped from number one to four matter in this case? Because it is the one province run by the opposition party and they just happen to be the ones screaming for an investigation into the results. As I’ve mentioned before this was the first year a call for an investigation has been heard regarding the improved results. If you take one and put it together with the other you can only come to one conclusion. Contrary to what other defendants of the results have said, I do not believe it is a race issue although I understand why they would say it is. Let’s face it as soon as you shout race it muddies the waters a bit and makes everything difficult from there onwards. It is purely a political decision. It is an election year and no good news from any party can be celebrated, especially when my party has not done as well as expected. That, I believe, is the reason for the call to investigate.

“And the other thing that everyone has been going on about?”

“Oh yes, the drop of the pass mark to 30%! Almost forgot about that.”

This article from a retired headmaster is the perfect read for you if you are in the stable that believes the drop to 30% is criminal and eroding the quality of education in this country. The pass mark in the previous regime was, wait for it, 331/3%.

“Wait, so we are complaining about a 31/3% drop?”

“Um, yes. Yes we are.”

“But people have been going on about 50%?!”

Yes they have, and they have been, and continue to be, wrong. The same people who went through that very same schooling system.

Some went to the trouble of quoting the FS University VC, “You no longer need 50% to pass certain subjects, which means that you can be completely ignorant of more than half of the subject matter content and still pass.”  Yeah, you never needed 50% on any subject, ever! I urge you to go into the DoE website and find out for yourself what the requirements for passing at each level are.

But the poor kids will struggle at varsity!

The final point I want to address is this fear that university students are being compromised by this. There is concern that kids going to university are being set up for failure. As in “these kids will get to university and fail.” Huh? The pass mark was dropped, not the university entrance requirements. A kid who passed with 34% or 30% is still not going to make it to tertiary. None of the kids who pass between 30% and 34% will be at university, so how has it affected university dropout rates? Again, you just have to check the DoE website and you will see that to get to university you need a 50% pass mark in at least four of your subjects, subjects that carry 20 credits. Keep in mind that universities determine their own entry requirements; this just makes you eligible to attend a university. So if they (the universities) have lowered their admission requirement to accept kids that are not suitable to study at university then they should be held to account (with Bra Blade if he’s involved). It’s got nothing to do with matric pass marks.

Cause for celebration

I choose to celebrate the fact that we have 8 provinces with greater than 70% pass rate and 4 at over 80%. I choose to celebrate the fact that we have 61950 more kids who passed matric than in 2012. I choose to celebrate the fact that we have 35708 more kids who achieved a bachelor’s pass and 20411 more who achieved a diploma pass than in 2012. I choose to celebrate the fact that the non-diploma and non-bachelor passes only account for 9.4% of the improvement from 2012. And if you believe in the conspiracy theory and the culling, then I suggest you get Dan Brown on the case although you may have more luck with Tom Eaton for this one.

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Twitter strikes again… and again

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It is sometimes such an excruciating experience but I always go back to it. It’s not quite an addiction yet but it’s getting close. It is true that it sometimes makes me laugh, and I can always find interesting (useless but interesting) facts about stuff and things. I can catch up on the latest sports news, find out how my team is doing (but I have the Supersport app for that?) and just read through people’s thoughts about anything and everything. Mostly nothing. These are people I don’t know, have never met and will never meet. But I want to know what they think about whatever. It’s a craving, but only sometimes. I can stop whenever I want. I can delete it whenever I want. I just choose not to. The fact that this is what every addict says is immaterial to the point I’m making. So you can stop looking at me with those judgemental eyes. Well you’re not looking at me because you can’t see me but I can feel you reading this with eyes full of judgement.

Anyway, where was before you interrupted? Ah yes, the excruciating pain of visiting twitter. I must admit it is nowhere near as bad as News24 and IOL. I mean if you want to be truly depressed and be driven to the verge of giving up on the human race then go read the comments section on IOL and News24. It doesn’t matter what the story is. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just pick any story and scroll down to the comments section…

Depressing right? Twitter is not so bad. Perhaps because it’s designed for people with (a little) attention disorder and has such limited space and you need tons of attention and acres of space to spew out the negativity like the guys do on News24. Don’t get me wrong they do give it their best shot. But at least they choose their stories very carefully. Anything that is political is fair game. This includes any mention of any politician or pseudo-politician. Any good news about South Africa is also up for attack. And they will never strike alone, they get shipped in The Band Wagon with their fingers ready for war.

The latest band wagon: the matric results. How painful it was to read the tweets! And sure enough The Band Wagon rolled in, full steam (for some reason this band wagon runs on steam, strange). Until about 09:30 (that’s when it ran out of steam). And then everyone remembered they were at work or simply forgot about it. I’m going with they simply forgot. Tomorrow when something else is announced they will become experts in that too (everyone on twitter is an expert). A quick Google search and then they are throwing numbers on their timeline and barely-understood facts to make their point. Logic be damned! And dare to be the one being positive in the midst of all the negativity. They will attack you relentlessly; well they’ll stop and slink away once logic defeats them. But you get my point. Before you know it you are typing furiously asking questions that should be common sense.

I remember Heritage Day fondly. That was incredible. As in, it was beyond belief and not in a good way. The righteousness I witnessed that day was biblical (except it was on twitter so that’s a bit of hyperbole). People who were having a braai were called weak, lacking self-esteem, victims, confused, allowing our culture to be destroyed etc. It was so much fun to read! One person went as far as to say that we should be holding debates and discussions and reflecting and not braaing. I don’t know, I guess because September 24 is only one hour long and South African law dictates that there will be no discussion while having braai, the only talk allowed is sports, but no national teams must be mentioned, only clubs and provincial teams. But I’m moving away from the topic. The pain. The twitter pain.

But I can’t stay away from it. It gives such insight to the people we are living with. And this is important. If one day these people decided to use more than just their fingers for protest and a real revolution started it will be important to know how they think and their views on running the country and the world. Maybe they will start the revolution on twitter. Send so many tweets all at the same time that the government just breaks. So I’ll keep checking in, just in case.

Entrepreneurship and the route to economic freedom

We fear so much losing what little we have that we dare not take a stance against something we know is wrong, or to fight for something we know to be noble. We fail to see that we should have much more than what we have because we have had nothing for so long. We have fallen into the trap of thinking true economic liberation can only come from self-employment. This is what we have been taught to believe. This is what, at least in our country, is the prevailing wisdom.

In fact, it is so deeply ingrained that you might find it hard to reconcile these words with common sense. I mean, of course you need to be an entrepreneur to make it in this world, at least financially. Everyone knows that! I believe this to be very far from the truth. Or if not far from true then significantly skewed towards what is merely one alternative.

The richest in South Africa are entrepreneurs (but are not self-employed)

The list of the richest people in South Africa – and how much they are worth – from Forbes is mind boggling. Incidentally, there is only one black billionaire in this country. That’s one. In the entire top ten there are only two black people. And there are no females.

Rupert is the chairman of Richemont and Remgro; Gore is CEO of Discovery; Bekker is Naspers CEO; Ackerman was chairman of Pick ‘n Pay; Dippenar is chairman (and co-founder) of First Rand Group; Oppenheimer was chairman of De Beers before he sold it for $5.1 billion in cash; GT is also co-founder of First Rand; Saad is co-founder and CEO of Aspen; Wiese is executive director for Shoprite which he bought for R1M; Gray is the founder of Allan Gray; Noutton is chairman of PSG (his son is CEO); Sacco inherited Assore Group from his father; Attridge is co-founder and deputy CEO of Aspen; Ramaphosa chairman and founder of Shanduka Group; and Motsepe owner of ARM.

Although they are all CEO’s or Chairmen of their respective companies they are also co-founders of these companies or they got very lucky with some risky investments. I’m not an economist so I will not try to analyse their situations and what allowed them to make it when so many others did not. Maybe you can read Jim Collins’ Built To Last and Good To Great for that. The point is that it is clear that some form of entrepreneurship was vital in making these men as wealthy and successful as they are. So at this point I want to clarify: there is a difference between entrepreneurship and being self-employed.

The difference between an entrepreneur and being self-employed

There was some research done to try to understand why self-employed people in the US on average earn less than their salaried counterparts. What the researchers found was that they had to separate entrepreneurs from other types of the self-employed by “disaggregate(ing) the self-employed into two groups—the incorporated and unincorporated.” They described the incorporated as having “limited liability” and “a separate legal identity”. This simply means you have your own business but you are owned by a bigger corporation or they have a significant stake in your company. The research they found was that these individuals earn 28% more than their salaried counterparts. They found that unincorporated self-employed individuals earned less than their salaried counterparts. Interesting.

They also found that successful incorporated entrepreneurs were successful salaried employees before they ventured out on their own and that those who remained unincorporated were never successful as salaried employees. Very interesting.

Entrepreneurs in the corporate world

We’ve heard about the incorporated self-employed, what about entrepreneurs in the corporate world? Can they exist? The answer, if you buy into the above argument of incorporated self-employed, is that of course they can and they do. In fact, I would argue that what encourages them to leave and start their own businesses is a recognition that the corporate world is holding them back from achieving their goals of changing the world. The same researchers found that there are have been organisations for a while now, long before Google and Apple that actively encouraged the spirit of entrepreneurship within their employees because they understood the role these people played in the success of the organisation. And think about these guys mentioned above. They are the leaders of their organisations. Is it not feasible and even probable that they will be looking for people like them to continue their businesses? I see a trend in corporate towards building a culture of entrepreneurship. The more forward thinking organisations have this already inculcated in their people and it is a key factor for new hires.

But for some reason we view people who stay in the corporate world as not being brave enough to tackle the outside world on their own. We use terms like the rat race (I saw a poster saying that even if you win the rat race you’re still a rat!). We make being self-employed sound sexy and earning a salary sound boring. You even see it with your friends and acquaintances. They walk around like heroes with the slightest bit of self-importance around them. It’s like people who have this insatiable need to tell everyone how difficult their MBA is while they’re doing it and how hard it is to have to attend lectures after-hours. MBAeish!

The sad thing is I used to feel inferior somehow (I could never really understand the exactly how I was inferior) for not following my friends’ and former colleagues examples of starting my own business. I think about it now and there really is no reason that I can see right now to leave the corporate world and start my own business. If a company is no longer fulfilling my passions then I need to find one that will. I need to rise high enough in the organisation to be able to influence decisions on things like culture change, contribution to economic development, the building of leaders in-house and whatever else you may be passionate about. And if you are truly entrepreneurial you will know when corporate is no longer sufficient to fulfil your passions and then you will build your own little corporate or big corporate to satisfy those passions. Not because you want to make money!

There is nothing less inspiring than money. I had a debate with my little cousin some time back. He was adamant that his goal in life is to make money. I asked why he wants to make money. He was unable to answer not because he didn’t have an answer but because he felt it was self-explanatory. It is not. If you one of those people whose goal is to ‘make a lot money’ ask yourself why? Why do you want to make money? Is it so you can be comfortable? If so would you accept other sources of this comfort other than money? Is it to provide for your kids? I would argue that staying in corporate is the best way to do this. You can’t get any more stability than that. Ask yourself why you want to make money and then stop focussing on the money and start focussing on the reason!

This is where the economical difference between an entrepreneur and someone who is self-employed. The entrepreneur is not focussed on being self-employed for the sake of being self-employed or for the sake of making money. They engage in entrepreneurship because they thrive on invention and innovation, on creating and finding needs to fulfil. A Forbes reader commenting on an article about entrepreneurship wrote that an entrepreneur has “an insatiable need to make the world a better place through… improved services or products.” Richard Branson said “There is no point in going into a business unless you can make a radical difference in other people’s lives.”

So the next time you feel under pressure to ‘start your own business’ think about whether you will be changing the world or not. Think about what difference you will make in this country with your invention. Think about the impact you have in your current job and whether or not you can do more. Ask yourself if you have not been successful in the corporate world where you are given all the resources at your disposal what makes you think you will be successful on your own with significantly less resources. Think about your driving passion and if it is compelling enough for you to say fuck it I’m doing it.

Your employees are still your most important investment

I’m beginning to think that Larry was a small but critical part of my development into a leader. He stands as the symbol for the metamorphosis that I went through while under his tenure. There were surely events that occurred in my earlier life that have been preparing me to be a leader. From my family to high school; sports to varsity. All of these experiences and life lessons cannot be relegated to the back benches in favour of a single period in my life as life changing as that period was. So I conclude that Larry having a massive influence over my life that he did was another cog in the still being built wheel. If there are three central cogs that keep this wheel turning, and if my father is one, my high school rugby coach (who was also the superintendent in the boarding house) is another, then Larry would be a third. Perhaps there are more than three of these cogs, maybe there are six or ten. What’s relevant right now is that there is more than one.

Larry has been a yard stick for every manager that came after him. Most have fallen short. Some have brought different perspective to how I view leadership and in that way have helped me grow as a leader. Others have shown me how not to be a leader. And I have taken their lesson to heart.

Sensitivity analysis is defined in the Business Dictionary as: simulation analysis in which key quantitative assumptions and computations (underlying a decision, estimate, or project) are changed systematically to assess their effect on the final outcome. So the question is how many of us as newly employed graduates do a sensitivity analysis to determine which variable skills or competencies is to be changed systematically and by how much to deliver the final outcome of the best leader? Or better yet, how many of our managers have determined this? How many are capable of determining this?

What I now appreciate is that Larry understood that my learning curve for skills would take care of itself and that if it didn’t hard work would do it. He also understood that he would have to take care of the competencies. You can teach (almost) anyone how to use SAP, make washing powder, run a boiler, run payroll, test a sample in the lab and so on. It’s a bit more difficult to teach someone how to talk to people, how to discipline people, and how to bring a team together. It gets increasingly difficult when their whole lives have been a lesson in the exact opposite. But it can be done. This is the first thing a manager needs to understand if he or she has any hope of being a good leader.

So what happens when you have been through this for a few years, and you have grown your leadership potential and you now have people reporting to you? The simple answer is that you apply the same principles that have helped you get to where you are physically and emotionally. But it’s not that simple is it? The position that you are in now means that you have to contend with a higher level of management, with different priorities. Your new manager is now asking you to forget about people and focus on results. Less time is given to building these competencies and all the focus is put on skills. To be fair not all of this can be put on the new manager. It is expected that at a higher level the focus will shift to profit a lot more than at a lower level. When the world is going through a recession you can also expect an organisation to shift its focus to immediate delivery of results. What I don’t understand is that even after people have been doing business for over two thousand years they still don’t understand that human capital is the biggest investment they have and that growing it will ensure the security of the future of the organisation.

Burning platforms are here to stay. The days of cash cows are numbered if not yet quite over. Resources are scarce and getting less. There is competition for both your consumers and your talent. Cash flow has become critical over the security of stock, while ensuring that your customers are serviced on time and in full. Does all this pressure translate to: we will no longer put as much effort in building leaders but will expect results based on the investment we have made on skills and experience? I believe that the message must be that we need to put conscious effort behind building (leadership) capability and not rely on managers to do this by themselves. The new business pressure does not mean an abandonment of what we know works to create new leaders but rather a change in the speed with which this is done focussing on impact and not process.

Larry had a natural talent for it. Not every manager does. They will have to be trained how to do this while they themselves are being grown as leaders. If this is not done there will come a time in the future when organisations realise that they have run out of leaders. This will be a great time for recruitment specialists and head hunters but with consequences that some organisations cannot afford. It is happening in some companies already. They have exhausted their pipeline for leaders and are having to recruit outside. They have failed to realise that human capital and not machinery is the priority and therefore have no plans to grow this investment in the future. They have run out of leaders and are now buying them from other organisations. And where does that leave the people already within the organisation who would have been looking to be given that opportunity? Besides a mass exodus you will have people that are disillusioned (which ultimately leads to them leaving anyway); you will create a culture where people believe they can only get to a certain level within the organisation before looking elsewhere but most important of all is that you start robbing the community and the country of a much needed influx of great leaders.

Heritage Day

So there are still people out there who are oblivious to the real world. These people have become very adept at playing victim. And as they go on their race rant they know they have supporters who will jump on the band wagon and sprout the same nonsense. 

The latest of these is the once a year debate on braai day vs heritage day. Its like those guys who only pray and go to church on Christmas day. Or those that only remember they’re fighting for women’s right in August. A month from now, hell a week from now, these same people would’ve forgotten the debate. Until September 23 2014 when some newspaper or radio station will remind them that promoting a braai on heritage day is tantamount to burning our constitution and the return of apartheid. They will voice their outrage at this gross injustice while making sure plans for the braai they are going to run smoothly. They will tweet about how its become commercialised and how that’s taken away from the meaning of the day while they send out invites to a braai at their house on Facebook. And of course its just a matter of re tweets before someone throws in the words ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’. And the ‘victims’ come out in full force. It’s understandable really since government officials will be making rounds to every house in the country to dictate how the day should be celebrated. And they will be carrying charcoal and braai tongs just in case.

Just to be clear I will be going out to buy the thickest fillet and rump steaks I can find today. And I will be having a braai tomorrow. In fact, I will start a movement to make Heritage Day as big a holiday as Christmas. I want people to be sharing gifts with each other that expose their friends to their cultures. I want businesses to take their employees to Heritage Day dinners like they do for Christmas. To have work functions celebrating our South African culture. I want DSTV and SABC to play exclusively South African content during Heritage Month. Radio stations dedicate days to SA music. Small businesses must spring up that sell authentic(or otherwise) Heritage Day stuff months before the actual day. Heritage Day events (read parties) must be announced in July already. South African artists (music, TV, authors etc) must band together to create a truly unique experience.

 

 

I will in all likelihood fail in this endeavour. But if there’re two of us our chances double. And perhaps if enough people take charge it can succeed. There are many south africans who hold their own destinies in their own hands. They cannot be defeated by the ignorant minority. We are surrounded by negativity daily in the media, when we walk the streets, on our way to work. On this one day when our diversity should be uniting us, when we should be celebrating the unique and difficult heritage our country has, we manage to fuck it up. I would refuse to partake in this debate if I thought it was meaningless. But its not. Its another opportunity for those sowing division to plant yet more seeds. And every time we say I’m not getting involved we are giving them license to continue. Remember that if nothing else.

 

 

Happy Heritage Day. May it remind you to be tolerant of others and encourage you to learn about the cultures of not just our country but of Africa.

What’s sauce for the Goose…

Interesting topic on radio today. A woman in Kenya has agreed to share two husbands. She has been with each one for four years now. When they found out about each other and confronted her she says that she cannot be without either of them. So instead of fighting it out they have decided to sign a contract that will allow them to share her and live with her alternately as husbands and wife. This is the same as polygamy except that the roles are reversed, it’s called polyandry.

The two female DJ’s on the station immediately and vehemently said that they would never do it and one of them said that she can almost guarantee that no woman in South Africa will want it either. This was before they received a number of tweets and calls from ‘anonymous’ women saying that they would definitely go for it.

There are two points that are worth mentioning here:

  1. The two female DJs being against it and with much conviction.
  2. The response from the women listeners.

The first issue tells me that as much as they may think they are champions for women’s right they have clearly missed the mark here. Women being equal to men must be without condition or exception. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. All the time. Not when one group feels like it. If polygamy is ‘acceptable’ so too should polyandry. Or else what, are we saying women cannot handle more than one partner and men can? Are we not equal when it comes to this particular aspect? This is similar to the whole Wimbledon situation (more on that later). Had they argued on the principle of multiple partners by either sex then that would be a different story, and I would support them.

The second point tells me it is just a matter of time until this equality is reached. There are women who are evolving as they fight for men to evolve and accept them as their equal. Let me explain. If I am to treat you a certain way when I have not for the last 2000 years there is a change I need to go through to enable me to do this. Specifically, there are two things that must change, I must have the ability to treat you the way you expect and I must be willing.

The willingness part is easy. You either are willing or you are not. The more we evolve the more willing we will be. It is assumed that I have the ability already to treat you as my equal as that requires that I treat the way I would want to be treated. That’s easy right? Well, it gets a bit tricky when you refuse to be subjected to the same things I am (again Wimbledon). As a man when I hear that there is a woman out there who is practising polyandry I immediately think “Ok good. She is not being discriminated against because she is woman”. When I hear other women commenting that it doesn’t make sense as a woman and no woman wants to do that, I get confused. Why not, I ask. Because she’s a woman, isn’t that what you want, to be treated the same as men? The answer is again the evolution of the very women who want men to evolve and treat them a certain way.

Some women still only see this equality of the genders only the surface. They have not yet appreciated how deep it goes and what the consequences are. They become apparent when you are on your own and not in a public forum. And for real change to take place you accept it both in public and at home. Because gender equality is NOT a one way street.

Random Thought – SA Music

I read a tweet from one of our more prominent musicians the other day. She was saying that something needs to be done about South African radio stations not playing enough South African music. In fact she called for the consumers to fight for radio stations to play more of ‘our’ music.
It got me thinking. This is not the first time that this topic has come up. Yet in the year 2013 there are still musicians who feel hard done by the radio stations.

Unfortunately the ‘problem’ lies with the consumer directly, not the radio stations. The stations only cater to the demand that is out there. There is no doubt that demand, especially now when a vast number of people or consumers seem to need to be told what to consume, can be created by the marketers who work at these stations. But as much as they may try to do this and push a certain product and as much as the consumer may need a push from time to time, if that consumer ultimately rejects the product there is nothing the radio stations can do. After all music is art and you don’t appreciate art just because it comes from a certain region. You admire and enjoy it for what it says to you when you see/hear it. For the emotions it inspires in you. You want to own it so you may have the pleasure of repeating the experience when you want to. You tune into your radio station in the hope that the joy you felt when you heard that song will found in there. You tune in the hope that you may discover more of where that came from. Your heart does not choose to delight to a song based on where it comes from. It’s the voice, the lyrics, the melody, the beat that draws your heart from its hiding place and commands your vocal chords to sing at the top of your voice when you’re sitting in traffic, careless of the stares from the other drivers. The US, for whatever reason, is the capital of mainstream music (the reason its called mainstream is that it is enjoyed by the average person on the street). Just as Africa is the hub of Safaris, Italy the fashion capital and India is the spice capital (having been there and grown up in Durban I would argue that Durban is the new spice capital).

The US also happens to be the movie capital as well. So if they are producing significantly more mainstream music than South Africa, are we then to deny ourselves the pleasures of listening to music from there? Am I supposed to tell whatever it is that makes me enjoy a particular song to quieten down when American music is playing? Of course not. Think about this: South African House music is massive in Europe and growing. They want our music. Should we tell them to focus on their local house music scene and not import from us? They enjoy it so we are giving it to them. Supply and demand.

So what do we do then? Tell SA musicians to live with it? Force radio stations into a quota of SA music? If you want to drive customers away then yes force them to choose what you want them to have. But the poor musicians! They will starve if we don’t buy their music! And if the radio stations don’t play it how will we know to go and buy it!?

Here is the thing (that feels like it should be one word for some reason – heresthething). Radio stations are a medium to transport music (and news, stories, discussions etc.) from their studios to our homes and our cars. That is all they do. The ones that do that the best win the listenership. The more listeners you have the more producers of the products that those listeners consume will want to tell them about their products. And you charge them for the opportunity to advertise their products. And you make money. Of course it costs you money to keep the station running and be able to bring your content to our homes, but the more money you make the more profit you will make. So how do you attract more money? By attracting more advertisers. And how do you attract more advertisers? By having more listeners. And how do you get more listeners? By giving them what they want! Not what the musicians want, but what the listeners want.
“And the musicians? You seem to have forgotten about them,” I hear you ask. I haven’t. A solution still needs to be found. But it won’t be by the radio stations or the consumers. There are three groups of people who can affect this change. The Recording Studios; The Department of Arts & Culture; and the Musicians themselves.

How much money (as a percentage of margin or income) is spent by the recording studios to promote and advertise their artists music? How much do they subsidise live performances to bring their artists to the masses? Do they actively try to connect to corporate and get businesses to hire their musicians for their functions? How often do you go to a supermarket and get an offer of Thandiswa or Simphiwe Dana CD with your purchase of over a certain amount? Or when you upgrade your cell phone contract why not also get a Hugh Masekela CD? Are they doing enough? I don’t believe so.

The government gets a lot of slack and sometimes unfairly. But what tangibles has the DoA&C delivered for SA music artists? Perhaps they are working furiously behind the scenes and we don’t see their efforts. More likely if the musicians are still unhappy then they haven’t done enough, if anything to remedy the situation. Why not open a new radio station that will play exclusively SA music? Something like SAFM (it has the right name already). They do talk shows, and the majority of people tune in for that. Why not intersperse that with local music. Then advertise aggressively to get listeners to tune in. Allocate a budget from the departments funds (tax payers’ money) to the station. Get local artists to perform live on certain days. Hold SAFM sponsored functions where they bring local artists together. Is it so impossible to do? I don’t think so.
And the quota idea is not a bad one either. You can get the national radio stations to send you their playlists for the past three months and you can calculate the percentage of local vs. international music played by them. You agree with them to play a certain percentage and you do monthly reviews with them. Of course this will depend on the genre of music that particular station plays. You will expect RSG to play significantly higher Afrikaans music then you would expect 5FM to play pop music for example. Same with UKhoziFM playing umbaqanga and MetroFM with R&B and Hip Hop.
What ever happened to SA Music Week? And why are the MetroFm Awards more talked about, more hyped than the SA Music Awards?
I think that the artists are trying to change the picture as it affects them directly. Where they can help themselves better or at least differently is by pushing with their union for the above. Continue to urge consumers to listen to your music but the majority of your effort on social media and other media should be used to rally government and your recording studios to support you.

That’s what I think about the local music situation on our radio stations.

Wordslinger Apprentice