I invited Ted around on Saturday night to discuss the possibility of forming a business partnership.
We have both been self-employed for a while now, and we agreed that the time had come to pursue alternative income-generating opportunities. It was either that or join John the Busker in the subway at Kalk Bay.
The private sector has made it abundantly clear that it wants nothing to do with us, so for our new company to survive we would need to secure government contracts.
By 5am we had come up with a set of objectives.
The first was to find a black empowerment partner. The second was to find more beer.
Objectives 3 to 25 were illegible because they had somehow got wet and run down the page.
The beauty of our business plan lay in its simplicity. Too many companies close down because of complicated love triangles, unnecessary homicides and arguments over whose turn it is to torch the building and file the insurance claim.
For our business to succeed, we needed a black man and we needed beer. “Find one and you’ll find the other,” said Ted. I called him an unreconstructed racist and was about to break his fibula with the sharp edge of my foot when I realised he was right.
All we needed to do, really, was find a shebeen. This was easier said than done.
When I voted in 1994 for the party that promised free guns and drugs for everyone, I voted for a better South Africa. A South Africa where women never said no. A South Africa where all of us, black and white, could buy beers at any time of day or night.
But whoever it was I voted for betrayed me, turning me against politicians and instilling in me a lifelong hatred of democracy.
The election promise of shebeens for all was as empty as the streets Ted and I found ourselves cruising an hour before dawn.
The sun was well up by the time Ted spotted a place that looked like it sold beer and never cared much for its right to reserve admission.
I wasn’t convinced it was a shebeen. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if we were still in the Western Cape. But we pulled over and went inside anyway.
By the time we realised we were in somebody’s home, we had already helped ourselves to a couple of beers from the fridge and it would have seemed rude to leave.
The place certainly wasn’t short of black people. They were everywhere. I introduced myself and began describing our company’s vision until Ted pointed out that we hadn’t got one yet. It must have been some other vision I was describing.
I quickly began taking down names. Two or three people cooperated, but then refused to say if they preferred to work in our human resources or finance departments.
I reached out and grabbed someone’s leg as he walked past. “Look at this one, Ted,” I said. “He’ll make a damn fine chairman of the board!”
The most powerful man in the company dropped his crack pipe and pretended to throttle me. This kind of horseplay is good for staff morale.
Ted misunderstood the situation and brought him down with a straight-armed jab to the groin. All hell broke loose. People scattered, leaping from windows and fighting to get out. I tried to stop them.
“You don’t actually have to do any work!” I shouted.
Ted thought they might have misconstrued our recruitment drive as a police raid, but that made no sense at all. Everyone knows there are no white cops left in South Africa.
We emptied their fridge and drove back to my house to resume our business meeting, pleased that we had met one of our objectives before the company had even been formed.
But we were still short of the one thing that could guarantee us a fighting chance when it came to tendering for government contracts.
I asked Ted once again if he was sure he never knew any black people. Everyone knows at least one, I said. But Ted denied it. He said black people didn’t like him.
“I’m not surprised,” I said, “you look like you work for the security branch.”
Ted protested and tried to assault me with a piece of rubber hose that he had in his pocket. I quickly overpowered him and called the meeting to order.
We turned to our wad of beer-stained government tenders. In applying for contracts, we would need to provide our company’s employment equity profile and empowerment profile of key personnel.
Empowerment, according to the documents in front of us, related to “Africans, Coloureds, Indians and women in general”.
We drank more beer and spent some time in quiet reflection, as middle-aged white men do when they realise nobody wants them.
“Brenda is a woman,” said Ted, suddenly. “In general, yes,” I replied.
Just then she walked into the room. Ted stood up and went over, keeping a piece of furniture between them at all times. This is the most basic survival strategy in any domestic relationship and yet you would be surprised at the number of men who inadvertently put themselves within striking range.
“Hello Brenda,” said Ted.
Brenda gave him the lazy eye and began flexing her deltoid muscles.
“Our company needs to enhance its profile and we hoped you might be interested in assisting us to leverage the benefits of consolidation.”
Just then the doorbell rang. It was a well-knit woman with one arm collecting money for disabled black lesbians.
Ted wrestled Brenda out of the room while I quickly drafted a contract giving our new chief executive officer a 51% stake in the company and a generous 52 weeks leave a year.
We were in business at last.