Business

Friends and Friction: Cometh the hour, cometh the man. But it cannot be Ramaphosa’s job alone

2019-06-06 21:16

Historians differ about how the Jeep got its name. Some say it started as GP, short for General Purpose, which when slurred morphed into its current form.

Others say it came from a character in the Popeye comic strip, Eugene The Jeep, who was a go-anywhere do-anything kind of guy.

In our township, KwaThema, we called it ijibhi, and the brand was synonymous with hell.

It disrupted everything – soccer games, a walk to the shops, everything.

When you saw ijibhi you had to run.

It had a loud hailer and teargas chimney on the roof, which it sprayed without any provocation.

It would stop anytime and arrest without charge, as part of the riot police’s intelligence gathering.

Those Jeeps were hyenas, as soon as one had its sights on you many others would appear from all sides, with their long antennae that seemed to touch the sky.

For this reason we decided to abandon our favourite soccer field, which was quite far from the houses and without an escape route.

The alternative was an open space across the street from the houses and was directly opposite my friend’s home.

We used makeshift goal posts with bricks and it was the keepers’ job to guard the post and look out for the Jeep.

“Nay’ ijibhi!” our trusted goalie, Skons, would shout and whoever was closest to the ball would grab it, as we all scattered, scaled the fence and disappeared into the houses.

The problem with our new soccer field was that it was close to where the horses were tied. There were lots of food scraps, so sometimes it would be invaded by fire ants.

One time the ants ambushed my friend, Ngwa, while we were playing soccer. He screamed with deafening pain that got louder with each sting.

He stripped naked on the field as we helped him remove the ants. Because everyone was starting to get attacked, we ran to Ngwa’s home and sprayed ourselves with a hosepipe because ants hate water.

We were itchy and wet, but such is life, not all remedies are sweet and the alternative could be worse.

It was a hard choice between fire ants and ijibhi.

It turned out that the car that we all feared was, in fact, a case of mistaken identity. It was not a Jeep, but a Land Rover, which was the go-anywhere version of British Leyland.

This brand confusion was a problem not only for Skons and us, but for Jeep too because it was a worldwide problem.

To try and distinguish it from similar vehicles, the company launched one of the world’s greatest marketing campaigns, with the slogan: “There is only one Jeep.”

Land Rover returned the favour with its slogan: “The best 4x4xfar,” which made its stand above the lifeless Toyota Land Cruiser and the Nissan Patrol.

Great campaigns seldom survive the egos of marketing managers. Both campaigns were changed and the flood barriers were breached forever, and the SUV market was open to all manufacturers.

As South Africans living after a bruising and divisive election, we now have to choose between our fire ants and ijibhi; whether we support President Cyril Ramaphosa in creating an environment that will lead to economic growth and prosperity or choose divisive politics that will cause long-term harm to our society.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, South Africa needs a leader who can build bridges and, on that, Ramaphosa has no equal.

We know how he played a pivotal role during the negotiations to end apartheid, a skill he learnt during his days in the workers’ unions.

But it cannot be his job alone.

It is up to business leaders to reunite their work teams to build stronger businesses for a prosperous nation.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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November 17 2019