The bare necessities of life
Every year, as the Highveld winter wears on and on and on, Wife and my domestic suffer mightily from the dryness associated with that time of year.
These poor, allergic souls both sneeze and wheeze and feel uncomfortable and irritable. As the plane trees in our street disgorge visible torrents of itchy stuff, they mutter with the utmost lamentation to each other about the extent of their misery and console themselves only with the fact that neither is in as bad a shape as the hyper-allergic woman next door whose sneezes regularly convulse the street.
With mounting, pathetic hope, they scan the late-winter skies for that first thunderstorm that will signal the end of their travail. As the clouds that briefly pretend such hope pass uselessly overhead without shedding a drop, they commiserate with each other and pop another allergy pill.
Every year Domestic tells me that, as soon as it rains, she is going to shed her clothes and dance naked in the downpour. And every year I ask that I be spared the spectacle and that she do her celebratory rain dance discreetly, out of sight. I ask this favour not to slight her, but because she is a lady of a certain age and I am her employer. There are, I have always assumed, some people it is better never to see with their clothes off. You don't want to spot too many of your relatives in the buff, and there are precious few politicians you would want to see starkers (just ponder for a moment our cabinet and the DA front bench).
It seems I am finally becoming old-fashioned and out of touch. This thought occurred to me as I read last week about unemployed Cape Town accountant Paul Reid who had to sell everything he owned to pay off his bills - except his computer and his modem. He used these last surviving possessions to create a website - and a business. The business essentially employs young men and women to work as handymen, accountants, plumbers, computer geeks, cooks and cleaners - while wearing little or no clothing.
For a moment I toyed with the idea of contacting Reid and offering my services (I have been going to the gym religiously, at least once a month, since the New Year and, even if I say so myself, the results are beginning to show) but the thought of working as a freelance writer while clients ogle my crown jewels is more than I believe my modesty could bear. I also don't believe that I shall be engaging Reid's services; I just can't conceive of explaining my expenses and invoices with a straight face while a buxom 20-something-year-old disrobed accountant completes my VAT return.
One could debate until the cows come home the propriety or otherwise of calling in someone to fix that dripping tap, asking them their call-out rate and then specifying which pieces of clothing they should leave at home. But one has to compliment Reid on his entrepreneurial spirit. With no money and nothing left except a computer and his own ingenuity, he has created a little business for himself and part-time income for a couple of dozen people with nice bodies.
This column tends more towards the curmudgeonly than the complimentary so it is slightly out of character that we commend a government minister, in this case the finance chap who makes that big annual speech in parliament about how he's going to take all of our money and give it to lazy and/or corrupt civil servants.
Pravin Gordhan's announcement in this year's budget speech that little businesses are to get a few breaks is to be welcomed. Specifically, he announced that the first R350000 profit would be taxed at 7% and not 10% as was the case, with the threshold going up from R300000.
Of course, even if you're making a healthy 20% gross margin on a turnover of R1-million, you're hardly minting it. So it is to be hoped the Treasury will find it in its steely heart to extend the favour to all so-called qualifying small enterprises - those with a turnover of R5-million a year or less.
Gordhan also announced that small businesses - those with a turnover of R1-million or less - would only have to fill in two tax forms a year as opposed to 18 or so. This, too, is a good thing.
Red tape is anathema to entrepreneurship and, like clothing on attractive young women, less is generally better.