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Fri Oct 31 17:01:12 SAST 2014

Real jobs do not work for me

Peter Delmar | 14 November, 2012 00:02
Peter Delmar
Image by: The Times

So, wife tells me the other day that it's time I got a real job.

I reminded her I once had a real job, where I used to wear suits and ties and go to meetings all day. I had to provide "deliverables", write reports and deal with self-important clients who couldn't tie their own shoelaces. And I had to manage staff who were so stupid I wondered whether they were capable of doing number twos on their own.

No thank you. The seven years I spent doing a real job were the worst years of my life. As soon as I'd saved enough money I gave up that lark and went straight back to the sheltered employment that passes for journalism.

But, like many people, I yearned to work for myself and so, five or so years ago, I quit and, truth be told, I still get a kick out of working all morning in my pyjamas. (This column might make you think it was penned by a terribly sophisticated, nattily attired Nobel literature laureate, or at least a Pulitzer winner, but it was, in fact, written by a slobbish third-world hack in his underpants and T-shirt.)

No, there's no way I'm going back to the relentless drudgery of formal employment. But Wife's suggestion did make me think that maybe there was a way I could have my cake and eat it. Maybe I could swing the security of a regular monthly salary while continuing to try hatching my various hair-brained entrepreneurial schemes.

Corporate South Africa, we all know, takes a dim view of employees running car-wash businesses or owning Chicken Lickens on the side but, at present, public servants face no such strictures.

Nowadays it seems it's almost de rigueur for the people whose jobs it is to issue birth certificates and passports to be running minibus taxi services. Provincial housing officials are accused of selling state-owned land for their own gain. The queues at your post office might wind around the block because the sideline catering business owned by the aunties meant to be on the counters is dishing up nosh for the local municipality's Christmas party.

Nurses can't find the time for chronically ill patients because they're busy filling in tender forms for the supply of earth-moving equipment, and officials in Cooperative Governance are building bridges - literally - for the Northern Cape Transport Department.

At the Eastern Cape education department - that landmark to bureaucratic bungling and corruption - 90% of senior managers are in business with the government that pays their salaries. (That last bit of information is not apocryphal but, believe it if you will, completely true, even factual.) If senior officials aren't in business for their own account, their brothers-in-law and their cousins are.

There have even been suggestions that individuals employed in nature conservation are shopping information about where to find and kill rhinos to Vietnamese smugglers. This comes as no great surprise, seeing as our intelligence minister's intelligence was so lousy he didn't know about his wife (a local government official, by the way) running an international drug ring under his nose.

This Sunday I read that the Limpopo government (I know that's an oxymoron, but that's what it calls itself) is looking to pay someone a million bucks a year to head up its Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism.

The candidate needs to have "extensive knowledge of Public Service Regulatory frameworks and Public Finance Management Acts, Supply Chain Management and relevant prescripts". This sounds like a weekend's reading.

I like going on game drives and travelling business class to international travel shows as much as the next man, and I know at least as much as anyone else in provincial government about what's involved in promoting economic development: give all the tenders to yourself or your mates and their friends.

And I like the sound of that million bucks.

The job itself would be a doddle (especially if you consider that Pravin Gordhan has sent in clever suits from Pretoria who do all the Limpopo government's work anyway). Problem is that the successful candidate would probably be expected to rock up to work a few days a week. This is fine by me but driving to Polokwane all the time is not really on my agenda.

A pity, because for a million bucks I would happily work mornings only developing the provincial economy and selling the wonders of baobabs to Scandinavian and German tourists.

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