It is always a strange feeling when we reach the end of another year. It was either a bad year or a good year. More often than not I hear people saying “that they can’t wait to see the back of this year”. But I often think it is just a matter of perspective – there is always something good to look back on. If I look back at the last eight years that I have been involved in this business, we haven’t had any major property booms and South Africa has been through some very challenging times. But if we really analyse it, South Africa has always been a complicated country.
Our business was established in Johannesburg in 1976, the same year as the Soweto uprising where hundreds of students were massacred by police officers. Nine years later, PW Botha delivered his Rubicon speech, which had a major effect on the South African economy, with the Rand sliding drastically against major currencies and the country slipping into further isolation from the international community. In the mid 1990’s crime was on the increase and there was a big wave of emigration that hit the country. The property market was down due to a lack of commitment from cautious buyers. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? In 2007, Jacob Zuma became the ANC president at their conference in Polokwane, thus giving him the keys to the Union Building two years later which would lead to looting of state resources, corruption and ultimately the capturing of the state by the infamous Gupta brothers.
In the same period South Africa successfully hosted cricket, rugby and soccer world cups. We built new world class stadiums, hosted some of the world’s top musicians and built a high speed train linking Johannesburg, Pretoria and the airport. Sandton City opened its doors in 1973 and the area has grown to become Africa’s financial capital with the Discovery offices and The Leonardo being some of the latest additions to the Sandton skyline. The V&A Waterfront was redeveloped into the major attraction it has become today and Umhlanga has grown from a tiny village to the Miami of South Africa.
This year, we lost some iconic South Africans including Johnny Clegg, Chester Williams, James Small, Phil Masinga, Allan Gray, Carol Boyes, Xolani Gwala and Donald Gordon. When we think of their contributions to our country it fills us with immense pride and we should be eternally grateful to them for showing us the true spirit of being South African.
The memorable moments of 2019 are without a doubt Siya Kolisi’s triumphant Springboks at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the Ndlovu Youth Choir’s incredible performance on America’s Got Talent, and even though politics have not been a highlight we must always be thankful for the opportunity to vote in yet another peaceful, democratic election.
It has been a tough year. The Eskom and SAA story isn’t new. The government corruption isn’t new. Our political leaders’ shameless disregard for the majority who live in poverty isn’t new either. It seems like every other week that we say good bye to another colleague, friend or family member who is leaving for foreign shores.
I returned to South Africa from the UK in 2009, the same year in which Jacob Zuma became president. Maybe naively, I didn’t only consider the negative factors such as government corruption, load shedding, high crime and an economy in decline. I returned for the warm South African ‘Hello’ when you land at OR Tambo, family braais with grandparents and cousins, road trips across the Karoo to the beautiful beaches, African sunsets, the Zulu and Afrikaans you hear in a supermarket, the ordinary South Africans like you and me. But you have to take the bad with the good.
It is sometimes difficult to be positive during these trying times, but we need to look at everything in perspective, including the difficulties we have overcome in the past and the incredible achievements we continue to make as a nation.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2020! Have a relaxing break and enjoy this time with friends and family.
Principal - Harcourts Heritage
12 December 2019