The world is going through a recession. OK, many central bankers, economists and other clever people are insisting that it is just a down market. As my 13-year-old niece would say, ”whatever”.
Fact is, the brown stuff is hitting the fan. Big banks in the United States are falling like thongs in strip clubs. Car auctions are beginning to look like lucky draw competitions — you may walk away with a car just for attending. Bankers have more houses in their vaults than cash, thanks to repossessions.
So, on the back of this, I thought it was uncharacteristically responsible of an otherwise obstreperous radio talk-show host on 702 to ask the other day: ”What can the man in the street do in these trying times?”
And the best advice from a concerned listener was, ”buy gold”.
I have always wanted to write an advice column for the poor about how to avoid debt, survive bad economic conditions and be fully prepared for rainy days, but I could never put my finger on exactly what it is I think they should do. That is, until the talk-show listener’s world-class advice.
The time has come for people to stop buying monthly bus and train tickets and rather put their money in gold. Yes, a bus or train can take you to work today, but what about tomorrow? The bus might not be there. And that’s when you need something to fall back on. And nothing glitters more than gold.
Imagine the gluttonous poor putting their money in tinned fish and white bread for dinner. I mean, what right-thinking person does this when the rand is in free fall? Let’s not even talk about those who go for exquisite dishes like goat innards or chicken feet and heads. Do you know how much gold you could amass if you didn’t flaunt your money on such unnecessary luxuries?
The future of this country does not lie with Jacob Zuma and his coming government. The future of this country lies with the wise among us educating and advising the poor about how to take care of rainy days like today. This country is busy bickering about cartoonists and former presidents who are still in office, when the biggest challenge we have is recession.
It is for this reason that I am proud of a few people I see in places like Eldorado Park in Johannesburg and Mitchell’s Plain in Cape Town. These folk are amassing as much gold as they can lay their hands on. At any given time I will happen upon a fellow or 50 laden with heavy gold chains, rings and sometimes guns. These guys have looked at the world markets, studied the futures market and realised, like the good listener of my favourite radio station, that spending money recklessly and not buying gold is the fastest way to go down Lehman Brothers Avenue.
These wise South Africans, though found in some of the poorest townships in the country, will be the last men (they are always men) standing when doomsday arrives. On that day, when the rand will be R15 to the US dollar and banks will be lending us homes because banking will have become cashless, these wise brothers will be laughing all the way to the stock exchange.
Sometimes the gold wedding bands we wear are little more than a constant reminder of emotional mistakes we cannot reverse. But now ordinary men and women in the street, the kitchen or even the bar can look at their rings and know they are covered for darker days. All most of us need do now is to make sure that we rid ourselves of greed, overspending and unnecessary cravings like sour milk and bread.
At this point, I envy those permanent African rulers and kings who, years after being vilified by the West and its stooges, can now be exonerated for having spent years in office amassing all the gold they could lay their hands on. These great sons and daughters of the soil are worth their weight in gold, from what they keep in their safes and around their necks — and the necks of their spouses — to their furniture and sometimes the rims of their car wheels. At least some of the so-called poorest countries in the continent can rest assured knowing their benevolent leaders have tomorrow covered in gold already.