Building on SA’s heritage

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The bunny chow, biltong, and chakalaka are part of South Africa’s rich culinary heritage we have enjoyed for decades.

As we pass on culinary recipes to our descendents, we should pause to reflect on what delicacies we’re serving that will have an impact on generations to come.

While a selfish few have vowed to take their family recipes to the grave, others are doing all they can today to contribute to a better South Africa, not only in the kitchen but in other spaces in society.

“The question that we should all honestly ask ourselves is what kind of country do we want to pass onto the next generation, and what state will that country be in? What values should drive that generation and can we be proud of what we are lining up to hand over to the next generation?

“Is this the legacy we want to leave behind as a generation or can we be the generation that turned it around for South Africa, its economy and all its people?” says Proudly South African CEO Eustace Mashimbye.

While we have indulged in rich foods and donned our traditional outfits this Heritage Month, Mashimbye says heritage is about the core of one’s existence and where one comes from.

“It is about the characteristic of your people, the values and principles that resemble where one comes from. My message to South Africans is that we should use this as an opportunity to celebrate that which comes from South Africa, including the products and services, in order to help preserve and grow what we have for the benefit of those who are coming after us.”

While few will understand our love for biltong and koeksisters, Mashimbye points out that South Africans, who come from a painful history, are known for their resilience and optimism.

“The ability to prevail in very difficult circumstances, the sense of ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan [meaning a farmer makes a plan] - we always figure a way to get through. At the very best of times, our racial diversity and how much more we have in common with each other than that which separates us, is something to celebrate,” he says.

That same resilience displayed by South Africans in the past is the same broth that is aiding the country in the midst of the COVID-19 storm.

“We can be proud of the resilience we have shown as a country under very difficult circumstances, and of the way we mostly followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s instructions regarding lockdown.”

With Heritage Month celebrations drawing to a close today, Mashimbye is of the view that the country fared relatively well compared to other countries with a high prevalence of COVID-19.

The recovery rate of those who tested positive for the virus now stands at 90%.

“We have seen people pulling together and supporting each other. We must always hold on to the innate optimism that we have over many years of political and social upheaval demonstrated and we will come through this together,” he says.

Weathering jobs storm

In the wake of the pandemic, the South African economy like many around the world took a beating.

This is despite the fact that the economy was limping even before the arrival COVID-19 on South African shores.

Job losses, coupled with the shutting down of several businesses in the last few months, are commonplace.

Some member companies of Proudly South African (Proudly SA) did not survive the ongoing Coronavirus storm.

“We are devastated at the resultant job losses,” Mashimbye says.

Proudly SA, which came about from the 1998 Presidential Job Summit convened by President Nelson Mandela, has consistently called on citizens to support local businesses.

In the earlier levels of the lockdown, the organisation shot a television commercial titled ‘Game Time’, which features the prolific actor and author, Dr John Kani.

The emotive commercial appeals to South Africans to support local industries.

In May 2020, Proudly SA announced the extension of its locally made product offering on its portal to include locally produced hand sanitisers, surface disinfectants and detergents.

“Our initial portal, which we created on our website, was a list of local manufacturers of fabric face masks.

“A number of companies successfully pivoted their operations during early lockdown, principally in the CTFL [clothing, textiles, footwear and leather] sector and switched production of clothing to masks, and this was very successful.

“We then extended the portal to sanitisers and detergents, and then to face shields,” says Mashimbye.

He says the objective is to match buyers and manufacturers where all listed companies are verified for compliance with minimum manufacturing standards and for their local content.

At a time when it has become crucial to support local industries by buying local, this move means that buyers can be sure they are supporting local suppliers.

The organisation, which also saw its operational budget reduced, has been able to recruit new member companies in the last few months.

Appliance manufacturer Defy is among those who joined the Proudly SA buy local movement.

“We have nevertheless recruited some important new members, as businesses realise the importance of the collective and of working together. These include Huletts and Defy, which have both been operating in South Africa for over a century.

“As the country’s official ‘buy local’ movement, our inputs are being sought by many organisations and we have never been busier consulting and sitting on various committees,” Mashimbye says.

Members of Proudly SA share a commitment to an uplifting ethos that promotes social and economic change and progress.

Growing Proudly SA’s reach

With Proudly SA due to commemorate its 20th anniversary next year, Mashimbye, who took over the reins as CEO in December 2016, says despite difficulties, the organisation has been able to grow its membership over the years.

“In terms of highlights, from my point of view it has been the growth of our membership, and the profile we have gained through newly invigorated marketing activities during the last four years.

“We have also introduced so many new elements to the business, including a tender monitoring system, which monitors all tenders and request for quotations (RFQs) for items designated for local procurement, per the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA).

“We launched an online and ecommerce platform, RSAMade, two years ago.”

However, Mashimbye highlighted that much more still needs to be done.

As work continues to revive the economy, Proudly SA will continue to push the buy local message to the public sector, private business and individual consumers.

“We want to see our logo on more products. We want business to pledge to procure more local items for their daily business needs.

“Above all, we want to see the levels of unemployment fall. Everything we are doing now and are planning for the future revolves around these objectives,” he says.

Mashimbye also reflected on the personal lessons learnt since taking over the reins at Proudly SA.

“The biggest lesson I have learnt during my time at Proudly SA is that we all have to take collective responsibility for the growth of our economy, the prosperity of our country and the economic well-being of our people.”

He says we all make decisions daily and at most times, we don’t give consideration to the impact of some of those decisions.

“Yet we still want to experience social well-being, as well as prosperity and in our case as the buy local campaign, we want jobs to be created, and all of us can contribute to that cause.

“We have some way to go in turning this tide but not all is lost, as we are seeing many positive signs. However, there is a need for a stronger social compact, where we will commit to play our part.”

It is said that too many cooks spoil the broth; however, it takes a nation to build a country, more so in times of uncertainty.

No chef or home cook worth their salt can deny that. -

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