Market can learn a thing or two from life in the township

Book: There's a Tsotsi in the Board Room

Book: There's a Tsotsi in the Board Room

Author: Muzi Kuzwayo

Publisher: Jacana

Reviewer: Pearl Rantsekeng

My first reaction after reading Muzi Kuzwayo's first chapter of his book, There's a Tsotsi in the Board Room, was one of confusion. I couldn't help but wonder what the hell the book was all about.

After all, the chapter, A view from the township, spoke about nothing else but a goni fight - for the uninitiated and the Model Cs, that's a knife fight. Actually, the chapter took me back to the days of what we, the township products, knew as ibelt-to-belt.

This was a street fight where both the challenger and opponent would tie each other to one another's belts. They would then fight it out using a knife - be it a panga or okapi. The tied belts were to ensure that neither men ran away and they would fight it out until one was left on the field - dead of course.

In relating this, Kuzwayo shares the hardships and violence that those who grew up in the township had to endure. He attributes it to Steve Biko's words during his trial in 1976 when he said: "Township life alone makes it a miracle for anyone to live up to adulthood."

Then Kuzwayo brilliantly draws from the real life experiences using the township hardships to paint a picture of the life of brands in the market place.

Suddenly the goni fight makes sense. It becomes relevant in the cut-throat world of advertising and marketing. A world where not only the fittest, but also the smartest and fastest thinker - just like a tsotsi - survives.

This makes the book a must-read, especially for those wanting to join the industry. But more so for those who are already in the industry; none other than the many white media buyers who always think they know what the black consumer wants come to mind.

By reading this book, those who have never had a taste of township life, both black and white, can appreciate and fully understand the market.

The book not only gives the reader, marketer or advertiser a different perspective on black South Africans in particular, but it also offers solutions and the know-how with anecdotes from different people.

And the good thing is they are not delivered by the Oprah Winfreys or Bill Gates of this world.

It is the man next door - the likes of Sars boss Pravin Gordhan, Black Like Me founder Herman Mashaba, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, to mention but a few. Probably the one common thread that runs through all of the above names is that they are street savvy. - something that you too can acquire by getting the book, which comes with a 10-page street-lingo dictionary. This will come in handy the next time you engage in a conversation - everyone in attendance will know about igusheshe, G-string or i16V.

If you are clueless - you need to play catch-up and get yourself a copy of the book and learn a new language.