Financial Accounting & Auditing in a Complex World

Accounting Equation

Expertise, sensitivity, multiple factors / inputs into complex financial and economic models, the myth of mathematical accuracy, underlying assumptions and significant judgements, uncertainty and variability of cash flows are all factors that may arise in different business models. Auditors generally rely on management to provide them with information that whatever financial results they present are a fair representation of the company’s business model and activities during a particular financial year. They thus place reliance on management’s interpretation of their own business model and interpretation of the financial reporting standards.

Fair value accounting purports to present a reliable estimate of the fair value of the business based on the present value of the company’s future cash flows. However, because it relies on a determination of future cash flows (where the discounted value method is applied), it involves significant judgements and assumptions about the future, some of these are based on contractual agreements where future cash flows can be reliably determined (for example loan assets provided to clients by banks with fixed or variable interest rates and fixed terms of repayment). By nature estimates of fair value are based on forecasts of future conditions, and on this basis alone auditors cannot vouch for the accuracy of forecasts but can assess the reasonability of assumptions upon discussion with management. Where contractual arrangements are in place and a relatively easily determinable client risk profile is available, it can be easy to test assumptions made by management. However, in most cases determination of fair value is not as straightforward especially when it comes to acquisitions and related party transactions.

Every accounting student that has done group accounting can attest to the complexity of group accounting and the notion of goodwill in consolidated financial statements. Growth through acquisitions is one of the quickest ways to achieve growth in a company, to gain market share in a particular market or diversify the company’s operations and as a result increase its earnings base, resulting in the generation of additional value for shareholders. Typically a company is acquired from its existing shareholders at a determined price which is agreed by upon between management and the acquiring company which are ideally approved by shareholders in a shareholders meeting (there are certain laws, and requirements by stock exchanges around the world pertaining to acquisitions, I will not delve into these). The whole process involves the engagement of expert advisors, lawyers and independent valuers who ultimately determine a “fair value” of the shares to be acquired and draft the terms and conditions of the approval with inputs from the competition commissions.

In the case of acquisitions it is not uncommon to hear of a “premium” to current market values being paid for the acquisition of shares. Such a premium for accounting purposes will normally result in the creation of goodwill which is the excess of purchase consideration less the net asset value of the company after consideration of the fair value of any contingent liabilities or reliably measurable intangible assets. Such goodwill is recognised as an asset in the group’s financial statements as it represents the premium which the company could potentially realise in the future, however, it is impossible to measure whether such goodwill is realisable or not. A prudent approach would be to write of the goodwill as soon as it arises and focus on creating value from the acquired assets. Research has proven time and again that most mergers and acquisitions fail due to cultural clashes or failure to realises the synergistic benefits initially envisaged for the business, thus whatever “premium” is paid for the business is mostly for the benefit of shareholders in the company being acquired and not necessarily a measure of the company’s ability to generate future cash flow.

When buying a second hand car, a seller will make sure to polish the exterior and highlight the positive things about the car, whatever happens after the sale is normally the buyer’s problem. This phenom is true with companies as well, at times over and above the purchase price, the acquiring company ends up having to spend additional costs post acquisition in order to streamline the two businesses before generating any value from the acquired business. Typically the issues discussed above are what management has to grapple with when making an acquisition and determining a fair value to pay when acquiring a company. All of these have an impact on the company’s short term perform, risk profile of the business as well as the funding requirement.

Acquisitions can bye funded by a company’s cash resources, through a rights issue, an exchange of shares or  debt financing. All of these increase the company’s financial risk profile; a) where existing cash resources are used, the company runs the risk of not having sufficient cash to cover post acquisition expenses or future working capital requirements, b) where a rights issue is made, the company will be under pressure to increase returns to shareholders immediately after the acquisition and c) where debt is issued the company will increase its level of gearing and interest expenses may erode any returns expected from the acquisition in the short term.

Management has to take all these factors into consideration in making a decision to acquire a new company, these have a pervasive impact on the company’s risk profile and its business model. Given these complexities auditors have to provide reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free from material misstatement whether due to error or fraud. When evaluating multiple assumptions in determining fair value, the margin of error is relatively high, especially where a single factor has a compounded impact on the results of a mathematical/financial model. To pass this risk on management generally request (at a fee) the services of an independent expert valuer to advise on an appropriate value to pay for a target company and the relevant means of financing thereof, even with the involvement of experts, the margin of error is still high as the future cannot be accurately predicted. Auditors may be involved in providing reasonable assurance on the financial statements of the target company, however, that is only limited to the information provided to them at that time.

Where businesses have complex business models, management resorts to simple explanations of the phenomena they are dealing  with and auditors rely on these representations to determine the reasonability of financial information presented by management. What is clear is that audit opinions on their own are not sufficient for investors to make a decision on whether or not to invest in a company. The financial statements presented should be able to disclose enough information for users to be able to analyse an entity’s business model and risk profile and then make an investment decision based on the information available to them. It is easy to point to the auditors when things go sour, but investors themselves need to have an understanding of accounting to see through the smoke and mirrors that is fair value accounting.

Given the complex environment we find ourselves in, auditors should be able to step out and say that they don’t understand what’s happening in the company’s that they are dealing with but from the evidence provided to them by management everything seems to be alright but there is a possibility that it might not be the case. Wait, they already are saying that! How much are you paying your directors?

*Views written herein are my own and do not in any way purport to be factual representations, some accounting terms are used herein, these may have been incorrectly applied as I rely on my understanding of accounting thus far in this analogy (this does not purport to be a technical report).

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Infinity

 

 

17991898_10212981848484874_7985588953810147989_nThe beginning of a journey is its end. The end of a journey is its beginning. Darkness ends with light and light ends with darkness. What is dead is reborn, there is no death without birth. We can afford to live a life of sin due to the sacrifical lamb, the lamb itself was sacrificed because of these very sins.

Good and evil only exist because of the existence of the other. There is no singular without a plural and plurality is a figment of imagination without the singular. The fall of autumn leaves and the bareness of trees in winter make way for a blossom in spring allowing summer to bear nourishing fruits. You cannot recreate what has been destroyed but only what was created can be destroyed. These statements are as obvious as sunrise and sunset, however, because one can assign to themselves a favourite time of day they fail to appreciate the importance of all hours that precede or follow this magical hour of theirs.

Like everything in life, our emotions are temporary. The heart skips a beat, butterflies flap their wings in our tummies throughout the night, we weep the loss of a pet and get frustrated at the pace of traffic. We recognise the presence of these emotions so well that we associate them with certain facial expressions and behaviours.

Because of this constant evolution, it becomes difficult to pin the essence of an individual and confine it to defined characteristics or behaviours, particularly where human beings have developed the intelligence to use our emotions to obtain a predetermined reaction from the other. 

Dust as Nostalgia (An Interlude to Closure)

She leaped like a gazelle from the valley, carrying a bucket load of water and sometimes a pile of firewood on her head. She would take long strides as she walked through the paths in the wood leaving her friends out of breath as they struggled to catch up with her.

Hurried Grace, would be the answer to what’s in a name. Her strides through the woods were made graciously as she stood upright carrying these heavy loads on her head each morning/afternoon. Having been married at the age of 17, her wedding to the  Prince of the Masikane clan was also a rather hurried affair which took the form of an abduction from her homestead as the wedding was being delayed by the bride’s family who were still waiting for the wedding dress to be completed. So she was “abducted” by the groom’s family, who were ready with a wedding dress and an anxious groom. The wedding took place just outside the ancient stone house that had housed the clan for decades.

That is the Home to which she returned in her last days; our most recent memory of her would be the party she threw to officially open the homestead. It’s the best gift that she gave those who were close to her heart, a thanksgiving, farewell and welcome all in one. That she was aware that her days were nearing an end was never something she was afraid to share with us. A wedding is a beautiful union, but to dream of a wedding is said to be a sign that death is near. What is nostalgia?

When black people ask for the land, all they are really asking for is a piece of home; everything else is secondary. To dust we are from, to dust we shall return.

To Whom It May Concern,

This year must have been an interesting one for you, that you have come to see its end is testament to that. A year is filled with a dozen highlights and perhaps an equal amount of lowlights, to live through these is to embrace each moment fully. However, it can be dreadful if we hang onto each, longer than we should.

In 2017, I have seen love manifest itself in the form of death, being; tears of grief and joy that don’t stop falling, a heavy bitter lump in one’s throat, hearty thoughts of happier days, the comfort of family and friends and the stark reality that tomorrow is waiting for you. We love dearly in death and in times of hardship, but what’s stopping us from loving all the same whilst we are alive? Be patient with those close to you, any harm they might have caused you is unintentional, therefore forgive them before they even ask for forgiveness. Perhaps we do love alive as we live in death, but we fail to express that love in endearing and positive lights to each other. Let’s let love lead us in the coming year, and try not to bury it within our hearts and wait to pour it out when death comes knocking at our doors.

A true mark of humanity is our ability to tacitly influence the people around us. Today we are fortunate to be privy to widely used and content rich communication platforms which allow us to interact with the world as and when we please. Oftentimes we express our views in the affirmative with no consideration for alternative views/opinions, the result is having a closed circle that is usually agreeable to us and provides us with information that is “trending” within our circles. This phenomenon is made worse by algorithms that tailor information to “our needs”.

We do indeed attract who/what we are, however, expanding our horizons and challenging our perspectives beyond those held in our immediate circle of influence requires conscious and deliberate efforts to expand your views and engage with new people and information. Let expanding your circle and web (through weak links) of influence be one of your challenges for 2018, the larger your web/circle of influence- the easier it is to connect ideas and fill pockets of opportunity through these links as well as find ground for collaboration across sectors.

Financial freedom is our only hope; thus it is important that we have open conversations about our financial well-being with close friends and family. Given the common understanding that most South Africans are over indebted, it is important to speak of debt and routes to financial health, the same way we speak of Banting diets and fitness routines amongst our peers. I challenge you to master the management of your personal finances in the coming year, start the conversation and consider enlisting the services of a trusted financial advisor who can assist you with a personal finance management plan. Alternatively, find a mentor you can have an honest conversation with about financial health, it is likely that they may have personal stories to share about their personal finance journey which could assist you.

Lastly, if I had to set a resolution/theme for 2018, it would be one of collaboration and working with people in one’s web/circle of influence and further, to effect change in the world around us. Let this be the year where we work together to be more than we can be.

Let the coming year be a year to collaborate and extend our circle/web of influence, attain financial freedom and let love lead us at all times.

Yours Sincerely,

Msizi Ayabonga Masikane

NUMB: Life Under The Influence

“Ey grootman, cela ungisiza  angazi ngizofika kanjani ekhaya, lo ngamla uqeda kungishaya ngemoto,” he cried, with tears streaming down his face, limping to the traffic lamp away from the danger of cars after being run by one driven by a white man (ungamla) on the road. I nod, coldly, acknowledging his existence and partially his pain as I open my hands to make an animated shrug of helplessness, “hade bro.” The traffic lamp turns green and I continue the drive home after a late night at the office.

A part of me, wonders where his home could be and how he would get there limping. His life reduced to that of a stray dog sniffing the neighbourhood streets for food. That driver must have had a rough day at work, once more he’s been robbed of his peace just as he thought he’d seen and heard enough of these people for the day. Sometimes, it’s too much of a hassle to wait until one gets home to take their mask of.

I smile and greet the old lady who sits on the corner of Rivonia and Outspan Road with a child on her lap. She returns my greetings with smile as she cups her palms together and bends her head slightly asking for mercy. I bend my head in turn, lift my hands up and shake them with a shrug, “kuyabheda”. She accepts and signals “tomorrow”, a common signal when privilege meets poverty. Freedom is still on its way.


At 9am each morning, a packed Bakkie drops her and the kid at the traffic crossing. Two blocks away a wheelchair bound man is dropped off with a “family member” who carries an empty cup to receive blessings from the hand that gives. They all wear the same expression and plead poverty with cupped hands. The response is generally the same, a shaking of the hands. Once in a while empathy prevails and a donation is made, sometimes a paying job is offered, to which they frown.

You worry about the child who has been born into a home where each day is spent on the streets just to get by. You add hope to the empty cup, it makes you feel a little streetwise. The language of poverty and privilege is a rehearsed pansula dance routine that moves to the rhythm of the traffic lights and stops just in time for the uncomfortable conversations. Some days you appreciate the dance with a nod of the head and stomp of the feet; on others you you hastily spray your windshield and wave away the rain of sunlight liquid infused water from the remaining few 500ml reused bottles of coke.

At the coffee machine at work, a colleague tells you about the rude chap that threw back the brown coins she had given to him back into her face. She was shocked by this unappreciative gesture; for some reason it doesn’t cross her mind that one cannot even afford an eclair with a 50cent coin. The privileged base the value of money on the efforts they exert to earn it, the poor place a value on their ability to get a meal on the table, 50 cents is equally worthless to both.

You smile wrily as you remember a joke told by a friend about the “school of begging”, this in reference to the demeanor, facial expression and posture of beggars the world over. Wearing the same smile, you can’t help but notice the similar demeanor, expression of self importance and pride displayed by your peers as they traverse 24 Grand Central to fuel up for the long afternoon that awaits them. This is the “school of excellence” the extreme opposite of the “school of beggars”.

I picture them laughing at how quickly we roll our windows up as we roll up to the traffic lights, how you all have the same stressed look on your face after a long day at the office, how you scramble for coins to give and end up shaking your hands just like everyone else does. They probably laugh about your borrowed English accents too, and they all stop and listen as the rude chap tells of how he threw all the bronze coins into that silly ladies face, laughing their asses off as he explains the lady’s reaction, “Hong Hong Hong”.

You get home that afternoon and have a glass of wine, he gets home and fixes a joint; you are both numbed to sleep. For a moment we are free from a strange world where less than half the population scrambles into costumes to get into huge capsules and get a glimpse of the future leaving the other half, literally a stone’s throw away, stuck in the past.

Of Course, I Love You (Closure: Part II)

Seeing you leave home for the last time it struck me that we will never ever see you again, never see you brighten up with a smile as I walk into your room having not sen you in a while. That beautiful smile of yours open at the bottom like a kraal’s gate, brought joy and warmth into our lives.

You did warn us though, that your days in this earthly world are numbered, I would always brush it of with a smile, “kahle Gogo, ungasho njalo”. My heart would sink a little, just a teeny tiny little and I would push the thought aside and return to the present. Even in your last days when all you could do was make hand gestures, you indicated that your time to be with the lord has come; still I smiled, in denial, and insisted that you are well on the road to recovery and we’ll soon be welcoming you home. So strong was my conviction that even when the doctors indicated that there was nothing more that they could do, it being just over 10 days post surgery with you showing limited signs of recovery on the ventilator, I chose to hold on to the fact that although slim there is still a chance you might make it through.

I kissed your hand goodbye on Sunday evening as I rushed out on my way to King Shaka International Airport to catch a flight back to Johannesburg. I still remember your smile and you spurring me on not to miss my flight… I would have taken you with me if I could, just to spend a few more moments with you, shown you what I have made of myself in this foreign land.  You may not be around when I take off to further my studies outside of the country but I sure will fly your flag high as promised.

You were a woman of integrity, ever generous to family, friends, neighbors and helpful to those in need without a single complaint or judgement. You took full responsibility of raising your offspring from your first child to your great grandchildren, though you lost all four of your sons during this period, you lived to see the family grow again with the birth of your grand kids. One thing I will commend you for is your ability to allow us to become individuals in our own right through imposing virtuous values in us as opposed to mapping our life paths for each of us.

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One of the last and most important lessons you taught me in the last few years was the courage to follow your heart by any means necessary, this despite any resistance you may receive from those around you and any other obstacles. What is clear to one is never clear to everyone else… it was only about a year ago that you sold the four roomed house on Mondi Road (even the peach trees blossomed in the middle of winter upon hearing of this move). You then built a new home for us in the land of our forefathers right below the stone house outside which you got married to your husband, a true homecoming. Though this move threatened to tear us apart, it eventually brought us all together, albeit only upon your return to the soil.

Thank you for the life lessons and steadfastness in pursuing your dreams honestly and truthfully. Through your wisdom and light we will prosper.  I will always love you, my dear beloved and the life I live is testament to that love.

Amen and A Women.

Act XX, Scene VII

 

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“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and entrances…”

— Jaques to Duke Senior (William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene VII)

A faint hollowness is what I felt when this thought struck in the, a consequence of too much reading and a continuous search for the meaning of life. Sitting in the waiting area of the Intensive Care Unit I realize the theatrical nature of the life we live; how we worry so well when it’s time to worry that we somehow manage to neglect other aspects of our lives except the object of worry and also how we insist on self development and growth, be it up corporate ladders, academics or conquering the den of entrepreneurship at the expense of the things we claim to hold most dear to ourselves. It’s the sheer determination and excellent theatrical manner in which we take on these roles that shook me into a hollow. Right there, in the middle of my act I threw the costume on the floor and recused myself from the set (by levitation) and only one question rang at the back of my head, “Who would you be if you weren’t cast in the role you are playing now?”. One like and two comments, my one spectator reckons he would be an astronaut the other connected to the source. Both are yearning for defined roles.

We are a sum of our influences; our immediate family, extended family, friends, the communities we grow up in, our intersections with other communities, the laws of the land, access to information, access to resources and our contextual positioning in Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. The state of hollowness referred to above is that in which a subject exists in a vacuum devoid  of any of the above influences. In this state one could be considered innocent and devoid of any influences. All social etiquette, mannerisms, cultures and mannerisms that we embrace are all learned behaviors and conduct from which our moral compass is moulded and values.

However, within these spaces and influences there are different dynamics at play, for example, no family structure is similar from one to the next despite the universal expectation that each household has a mother and a father as a key figure as anchors to a family. Some families have a both figures in the beginning, then only one of the two should they separate in others the grandmother is the anchor, whereas some households are run by children. At this immediate level, the influences at play have a major impact on one’s perception of life, what’s expected of them and what a family is, as principal this basic view is what they project onto the world on the other hand an outsider might view the state of the principal’s family matters with disdain provided their different backgrounds. The problem gets more complex as individuals engage in different spheres of society as well as with different sources of information.

Identities forged largely by influences can be dangerous as they are.often times not open to ways of living other than those they were raised to believe are the only ones. With this comes bigotry and intolerance of diversity, sometimes resulting in the formation of cults and war mongering. On the other extreme we have flexible chameleons that are culturally diverse and flexible to the circumstances, these are also dangerous because they can be pretentious although they may be seen to advancing liberal thoughts, they are largely in denial of their ingrained stereotypes and flawed “cultural’ positions.

The fluidity of human character allows human to adapt to different roles over the course of their lives given the environment and context in which they find themselves. We are constantly influenced by our surroundings and also yield the power to influence those around us to perceive us in a certain manner thus subtly encouraging certain behaviors in others which will allow them to accommodate us. This has serious implications in the age of social media as it has allowed for further pockets of cult(s)re to form, this has made it much easier for individuals to align with those with whom they are agreeable with whilst in the same process they further marginalize those who are outside of their circles. This is evident in the recent rise in populism as well as different types of movements forming, sometimes under the same banner but the intended outcomes completely different. Noble and righteous causes are easier to discredit from within the cult (for lack of a more appropriate word), as chameleons adapt themselves to look the part whereas their internal compasses are still ingrained with dogma.

To live is to partake in this play; to be able to throw the costumes on the floor and simulate an outsiders perspective can make you realize the fickleness of human nature and the need never to take ourselves too seriously. Don’t forget to replay the bloopers.

Crying Mountains, Selfish Humans

And so the mountains wept and the universe rejoiced. Springs sprung, water fell, and rivers meandered through valleys giving life to all earthly beings along its paths. Being the first point of contact with rainfall, mountains are containers of water and thus at times collect so much water that they end up crying for days at a time: pure, fresh and cold spring water.

Giants that stand shoulder to shoulder, mountains represent a facade which enamours a vulnerable creature. The wildest of mountains contain volcanoes of lava within them, while the most serene contain volumes of water. Make no mistake both are destructive and spectacular creations. Springs of  water and volcanic eruptions shape the face of each mountain, forming wrinkles and grooves over the years creating memorable timescales. Just like human character, mountains are as still as the elements that influence them on a daily basis.

I tried to hike it away, tried to climb onto those metal clouds that hang heavily around my neck like an albatross. This is an exercise in yoga in itself, without the bending of bones and placing one’s feet around one’s neck. In it’s easiest form it is laying the albatross on the floor and standing on it, to understand its intricacies.

An albatross and other generalizations of the issues we deal with everyday do not assist us in any manner. Each day is different, it occurs on a specific date, at a specific year and the way the wind blows on that day if at all is different to how it blew on all the other days. Likewise with challenges and problems we encounter on a daily basis; they are each unique and new in their own way.

The biggest mistake that experts in all fields make is to work on a presumption that each problem they face, they have witnessed before and therefore doesn’t warrant so much as a quick fix from their toolbox of solutions without. Meanwhile they are only solving the symptoms of a problem as opposed to assessing its root cause.

We are all experts in breathing, it is something we do on a daily basis to stay alive, it comes naturally. Imagine the disbelief when one realizes that they are failing to breathe normally, upon failing to breathe, they will try and breathe again how they know best to even though they are drowning in a body of water. Only after being resuscitated from a state of unconsciousness and gurgling a pool water contained in their chest and stomach through ones nose, eyes and stomach do we breathe normally again. This highlights how a normal thing such as breathing requires a different pattern of breathing depending on the environment in which you are in.

In directing the right energy towards the challenges we face we need to approach each obstacle, lesson or exercise in life as something new, an opportunity to learn and expand on who we are as individuals. We should be mindful of each and alot to each its time. Don’t give your problems names, lay them out and understand what each part of the problem means, appreciate that you will not know everything, be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it.

Lifelong learning has long been touted as a virtue, and it shall remain so. A master will never learn if they are not consistently challenging themselves or being challenged by their peers and protégés. There is nothing like a rustic master who fails to recognize the complexity and uniqueness of each challenge.

I speak these things in general; we face problems daily basis in our lives as individuals,  colleagues, families, as a community and as earthlings; it makes me cringe where we blanket problems with meaningless terms and meaningless ideologies which neglect to identify the root cause of our daily challenges and instead find blanket temporary fixes to our ills which only exacerbates thie underlying issues.

  • A crying mountain is good for the health of the world, imagine the wonders that a crying human can do, please cry, the world needs it, that shell of yours will do you more harm than good.

Closure


(Noun)
Definition;

“1. An act or process of closing something, especially an institution, thoroughfare, or frontier, or of being closed,

2. a procedure for ending a debate and taking a vote,

3. A sense of resolution or conclusion at the end of an artistic work,

3.1. A feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved” the Oxford Dictionary

It could also be;

4. The edges of petticoat lace.

5. The fringe hiding receding hairlines or a finish on a lace wig,

6. The dog ears on the last page of a book etc.

And this is how Jojo’s journey to closure began on a cold Sunday morning in Winter, if he were to be given a name his name on this day would have been Audacious. On this particular morning he did the most godforsaken thing any child could do at home.

Jojo, being an early bird, woke up at 5am, sneaked out of the room he was sharing with his cousin Zime (the zulu word for Queen), removing the steel iron that kept the wooden door closed Ugogo was still asleep in the room adjacent to them and the kitchen next to it connecting into the sitting room, three internal frames in one house and only two of them had doors. He dragged his blanket with him, switched on the television set and muted the volume. Channel O was still on, his favourite cartoons oGundi no Mazwi, two little rats that spoke forever and always had something to say before uMalume came along in his bus to whisk the kids away to a story telling session, were not on yet. He would increase the volume a little when uGundi no Mazwi were playing so he could sing along with them.

His mother was sleeping in the same room as uGogo. She woke up while Jojo was still watching his cartoons to prepare porridge for the household. Jojo had started behaving like a little brat lately, so instead of being a good child and greeting his mom he pretended as if he had fallen asleep while watching TV. Mother greets him regardless, sleeping Jojo doesn’t respond. He only “wakes up” when the porridge is ready, at that time his cousin Zime was also up and wrapped in her blanket and watching TV on the two seater couch, Jojo always took the three seater.

Since it’s Sunday, mother immediately heated water in the largest Hart pot in the house to prepare bath water. As she was preparing the water she shouts and says, “Ngicela ningilandele indishi yokugeza emnyango zingane.” Jojo looks at Zime in the eye once and she gets the message, she gets up reluctantly to fetch the large plastic basin that was kept just next to the toilet built 200 meters from the main house adjacent to the neighbour’s premises, a small cubicle with a toilet seat and cistern on the one side and a shower head on the other (it only ever works in summer).

On Sunday, uGogo usually takes a bath first in her room, then uMa who takes the basin out to use the bathroom outside, after which Zime baths and Jojo is usually the last to bath in the kitchen. Just as he realized it would soon be his turn to wash Jojo slowly ran outside in his pyjamas and hid behind his uncle’s ikoyi cottage so he wouldn’t be seen. Familiar with his tricks, his mother immediately shouts to tell him the bath water is almost ready, as soon as she hears his footsteps running past Gogo’s bedroom.

Jojo pretends as if he didn’t hear anything he hides behind his uncles ikoyi. In clear view of his neighbours who see right through the fence from the backyard but hidden from his mother. Of late, he has become a little nuisance, rebellious, it seems his balls are becoming greener with audacity. He now has the audacity to pull a frowning face at Mother, stomp his feet in protest, make exaggerated shrugs (shrugs so wild he even smashes his head against the couch if he’s sitting on it), and drags his feet with slouched shoulders as he attends to the assigned chore.

Young Jojo and his green balls, the size of marbles, recently got a backhand smack from mother recently after breaking a cup while making heavy metal music in the kitchen as he washed the dishes, throwing the spoons against the plates, plates against plates and beating at the pots splashing water all over the floor. He received a warning from the sitting room concerning this dishwashing concert he was having, so when the cup splashed onto the floor, as quick as lightning the backhand slap stung on half his face. A classic end to a rebellious show, red eyes and tears dripping from the rupture of flames flying right in the performer’s face.

He hid behind the ikoyi, hoping not to be seen by Mother. It was getting late, and everyone was almost ready for church except for the rock star who was hiding behind the ikoyi. “Jojo! Woz’ ogeza. Sizoba late esontweni.” Silence in the yard, where is this child Mother thinks to herself. “Jojo!” She goes to check at the bathroom, there is no sight of the young man. Just as she turns to leave he sees him right there hidden in plain side between his uncle’s ikoyi and the fence. “Woz’ ogeza, sihambe siye esontweni wena ngane, angazi ucasheleni lapho.”

Audacity;

1. A willingness to take bold risks

2. Rude or disrespectful behaviour, impudence

So Jojo’s growing green balls have made him start a rock band in the kitchen, after recieving that smack one would think that he has learnt his lesson and be an obedient young man. Coming out of his hiding place with a sullen face he mumbles, “Angifuni ukuya esontweni mina.”

Mother’s eardrums twitch, she shakes her head as if to make sure that whatever sound that went through her inner ear and registered to her brain was indeed correct. “Excuse me?! Am I not your mother?”

Audacity stomps, shrugs, drags and slouches slightly as if conforming but he lifts his heads up in a second, “I am not going to church ma!” No words spoken but a hot clap from mother comes thereafter, stinging on Jojo’s face, Jojo cows back, visually shocked but instead of walking away his balls grew a shade greener. He whimpered once but instead of running away with a tail between his legs, he bore his teetth and leaped at his mother with a slap on her face then he ran out of the yard through the hole in the corner of the gate which mischievous stray dogs use to get into the yard.

So, Jojo, didn’t go to church that day, he spent his morning with the very friends he was prohibited from playing with, he got a newspaper tattoo (a print of Wilson’s Champion Toffee), had bread dipped in tea for breakfast, played marbles in the dust and even peeked through a hole in an ikoyi to see two adults on top of each other as the lady was moaning and the kids playing outside could hear them. He thrived in audacity that morning, even when the family had come back from church, although he saw them he made sure not to return home due to the sins he had committed.

Hunger got the better of him, after a while he yearned to go home to eat and wash his favorite cartoons. He lurked around and hid behind a tree to check whether the coast was clear for him to enter the yard. Eventually, he found the perfect opportunity and ran into the kitchen, quickly opened the pot and used his dirty little fingers to pick a piece of meat out of the pot and three slices of bread. Like a thief, he ran out as quickly as he had come in to avoid being caught.

Zime saw him as he slipped through the gate and shouted after him, letting him know that Mother has beeeeen looking for him, and how furious she was that he didn’t go to church.

He only returned home at night that day, he walked in crying looking like a homeless kid with dark ashy feet. Despite his cry of guilt he got a proper hiding, deserving of his foolish behavior.

The following day he got a good scrubbing from Mother, with an orange orange sack and a pumice stone, right in front of the yard for all the world to see. Green balled Jojo was embarrassed at this feat as he felt he was too old to be bathing in public. That evening he was given the responsibility of ensuring that the gate was closed and locked in the evenings before everyone went to bed.

And so closure, only happens when you come back after wandering around the world looking for answers to face the truth, account for your behaviour and then locking the gates you had left unlocked after taking the due responsibility for your actions.

Snow Capped


It’s a Saturday, I am running low on sleeping juices but still have enough to rollover a little longer. Intutively, my body searches for the device that has become an extended part of my body, a second heart that connects me to the extended virtual world in which I live. The mind retaliates, not seeing the need to touch the damn device secure in the knowledge that I am pretty much alive and external confirmation of this fact is not required, particularly not from a cellular device. The heart smiles, I close my eyes and curl up in bed squeezing the last reserves of sleep that I have.

Ping! 05h00, this translates to 10% sleeping juices left. It’s an email from Alan Knott-Craig’s blog thebigalmanac.com (an influence of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack”) this mornings title reads “Be Generous When Times Are Tough”
“Being generous is one of the golden rules of life. Easy to do when times are good. A lot harder when you are in the vortex. (I need to find vortex in the dictionary it probably has to do with bad times.) That’s when it counts. 
Have the guts and character to help other people even when you are the one in need of a helping hand. You’ll find a helping hand come your way too.”
Short and sweet pearls of wisdom, as a follower of this blog I get showered with one of these every single morning at 5am without fail. 

And so, begin my mornings.
On this particular morning, I did not read Alan’s blog but I did wake up and naturally the big debate began. The first thing that came to mind was Gordon, whose father recently passed away and whose funeral service was being held at 08am today at his home in Winterton. It’s 334km away from Joburg, which is approximately a 3 hour 48 minute drive and an additional hour and 20 minutes would get me home in Pietermaritzburg. 
My heart was strongly inclined towards being there to support an old friend during this tough time they are going through, the body and mind were just baffled by the task at hand which was to drive for such a long way only to come back again and so improptly. It’s already past 5am, how do I expected to get to the funeral on time? The mind chimed in, remember that the time indicated by google maps is only indicative, you and I both know that we can easily cut that to three hours and even less. Thrilled, the body was out and in the shower within a second dragging everyone else along.
And so began a noble trip to KZN, I packed a bag, just in case wanderlust got the best of me and led me to the Drakensberg, in the bag I had a change of clothes, cosmetics and naturally I packed a book, “Go tell it on a mountain” James Baldwin, one of my study texts (yes I am), and my notebook and a pen in case of emergency. I also had a formal grey blazer to wear at the funeral and a winter coat if it gets cold.
The journey down was a cruise, a cruise against time on the inviting third national road towards Durban, the roads were clear except for a single incident where paramedics had covered a body on the side of the road, probably a pedestrian who was knocked over by a car on the highway. There was no sign of the culprit or the car that was responsible for this, it could perhaps be a hit and run. 

It was probably the 800th time this gentleman had crossed the road, sharp and well aware of the risks. He may have miscalculated the distance by a millisecond this time around. His body was covered in a foilly reflective body cover, his freshly cut chiskop was clearly visible to passers by. Blood was dripping from the back of his head just like the juices from the first bite off a ripe mango only that this time it was a windshield or tar that did the biting. This incident must have happened a moment ago.

 I said a a little prayer of mercy after I passed that scene. At the same time I wondered what the paramedics were discussing as they waited on the side of the road. How will they relay the message to those who are expecting him home in the afternoon, with a loaf of bread in his hand for the following day’s lunch or a bag of sugar as it ran out this morning when uBaba had his porridge for breakfast as he does every single day?

We live each day by faith. Faith being business as usual, waking up and going to work each morning, perform the day’s tasks to the best of our abilities and coming back home to rest over a meal with our families, share jokes and pray together. What’s better than sharing a cup of tea with the people that you love.
This afternoon, the special tea sets will be dusted clean and brought out to serve guests who have come to pay their respects to the family, The tray on which the tea will be served will be shaking as the serving hand knows that the family set is no longer complete.
                                  . . .