Chippa story a rush of sunlight in the darkness
The other day I did a very bad thing.
I was in my local news agency and took a certain publication of great notoriety off the shelves. Looking around furtively to make sure there was nobody in the shop who might know me, I sidled up to the cashier and paid for the thing.
As soon as I got my change, I folded it and stuffed it into a deep pocket in my coat and went home.
When I got home, the coast was clear so I went into my bedroom, locked the door, closed the curtains and got out my new purchase. It's not something I'm terribly proud of but the truth will out sooner or later. So let me fess up here and now: the other day I bought myself a copy of the Daily Sun.
I read most of it and was afterwards mightily relieved to learn that the awful South African reality portrayed by most of our mainstream media is not the only reality you can choose to believe in.
In the Sun's version of reality the wicked government is only a bit player and the poor lumbering economy is of no particular relevance or interest.
In the Sun the usual suspects were making the usual mayhem. In Sun-land there are headless corpses and sangomas aplenty, but these mostly afflict the poor souls who are unfortunate enough to live in Limpopo villages. And I don't live in a Limpopo village so I'm all right, Jack. (There is a bit of soccer, though. Quite a lot of soccer, in fact.)
Of course, apart from the occasional lapse in judgment, I rely very much on the mainstream media to tell me what is going on in the world. Telling it like it is requires informing the reading public that there are blood-sucking rank-and-file crooks wearing police uniforms stalking the land and that their bosses are even worse.
And the ministers are using public money for limos to go see their girlfriends in Swiss jails (sorry, but I still can't get over that one) and giving their boyfriends contracts to throw big parties using money they got from private companies.
In the corridors of power, the crooks are running wild and the poor little Limpopo village kids aren't getting textbooks.
Sometimes the newspaper-reading public gets tired of an endless torrent of bad news. But it's a newspaper editor's job to keep them reading. And at the same time to keep telling the truth. Yet the truth is just too depressing for words. It's not easy being a South African newspaper editor.
To leaven the wearisome tidings that it is their duty to inflict on a long-suffering public every day, editors get as much of a kick out of an honest-to-goodness good-news story as they get out of a stonking scoop that exposes the venality of our public representatives.
So, I can just imagine how thrilled the editors of the Sunday Times were when a couple of their reporters presented them with the story of Chippa Mpengesi, who, two years ago, paid next to nothing for a no-hoper soccer club that has just qualified to play in the national premier soccer league.
I know you're expecting me to turn on the satire at this stage, but I'm not going to. I simply love Mpengesi's story. Working as a security guard, he took it upon himself to approach Pick n Pay and offer to get back their trolleys that he had seen littering Cape Town's townships. The company obviously wasn't going to hand over a fat contract to this unknown then and there but it did give him a letter of sorts.
With this he went around collecting trolleys and handing them back to Pick n Pay for a fee.
He was in business and soon started all sorts of enterprises, as long as he could make a buck.
Today his businesses employ 3000 people and he can (almost) claim to be in the same league as Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich.
You don't need to be a trained rocket scientist - or to have even the foggiest idea what a Higgs boson looks like - to make a buck out of rounding up supermarket trolleys. You just need to have what Mpengesi clearly has - a dream and plenty of drive.
I like his story immensely and plan to follow the fortunes of Chippa United with great interest. Even in the Daily Sun if necessary.