Too few zukas and boyz to be rich

Once, when I was a little boy, I picked up a five cent coin in the street.

Once, when I was a little boy, I picked up a five cent coin in the street.

Those days you could actually go far with that sort of money. I am by no means ancient, so this was not that long ago.

Several times in those days I did errands for my parents to inform some neighbours and relatives that "dad is asking if you can help him with that parcel".

That parcel often meant 10cents or so they had borrowed.

It was not unusual for you to be sent to a neighbour to wake him up before sunrise because your dad wanted him to "break" 10 cents for him.

"Breaking" money meant getting change for it.

Back to my lucky find - my shiny five-cent coin. We called it a zuka.

Clutching it firmly in my hand I cast my sights well into the future and told my friends, Jabulani Malindisa, GG Khathi and Bongani Hlatshwayo, that I had found the answer to my future wealth.

I shared my vision: "I will wake up in the morning and just walk around looking for money on the ground. I will get very rich. I am going to do that."

They agreed it was a brilliant idea. It was sweetened some more by the realisation that one did not have to rack one's brain with arithmetic, Afrikaans, social studies and all the other boring and difficult subjects. Just make time, cast your eyes on the ground, and you could make bucket loads of money.

Of course, times have changed. Not every kid today will think it is worth the effort to bend their knees to pick up a boyz (Pretoria's slang for R2). Many will just walk past it.

Sadly, I never followed up on my dream of the big treasure hunt. So I remain poor.

I am comforted to know that I am not the only poor sod in town. When several years ago I lived in Mabopane, north of Pretoria, there was a whole generation of ostensibly stingy men whose mantra was "Ek bou." (I am building).

They wore the same shoes until they looked like they had been chewed by a dog, fed their children chicken heads every blessed day and always expected someone else to pay for the drinks in the shebeen.

That while they had good jobs and worked their fingers to the bone.

Each time they were confronted about their obvious reluctance to loosen up and pay for some fun and good life, they would retort: "Ek bou."

The sad thing about it was that it affected their families as well. The children lived on chicken heads and hair salons were out of bounds for their wives.

When weaves, perms and dreadlocks were the styles of the day, their wives sported R5 hairdos cruelly named "breadwinner".

Sure it must be nice to be rich, but it is also comforting to know that for every millionaire out there, there are 100 struggling jerks like you and me.

Maybe I should have followed my dream ...