After my uncle said no to helping me with the capital needed for the FIFA World Cup some of my mothers friends got together in trying to help me raise the money needed. The thing about South Africa which I found different from the USA is that most people knew each other. If they didn’t know each other directly, they would know of each other based on the family name. Meetings were set up for me to meet with possible investors and organizations that provided funding for businesses.
I remember driving to several provinces trying to raise money for the FIFA World Cup. While trying to raise the money for the World Cup I also wanted to show my family that I was not upset they were not helping and that I could do it on my own. By being so determined to show that I was not upset or hurt things became very cloudy for me. My uncle would invite me to come by his office at least once a week to have such at a near by restaurant and I would go. It was tough because deep down I was hurting and all he would talk about were is successes and things he owned. I couldn‘t understand why at the very least he could not even offer me business advise or advise on how to empower myself in this foreign territory, especially because I proved that I had the potential. The other dynamic was I really liked him, at the time I though the had a great personality.
The relationship with my family was really about them. I was slowly becoming invisible in order to become a part of their world. I also could feel and hear little by little that people in the family were gossiping about be looking for money. I wasn’t sure if it was my uncle who said anything because my father also knew that I was sourcing funding. The only way that my father would fund my project was if he had full control of me and he wasn’t getting that.
Months would pass with me trying to raise the funding for the World Cup. I was always around my family attending events and dinners just to prove I was doing ok but it was hard. Fortunately, the FIFA officials were very patient with me, but I was still very stressed out. They could take the agreement from me at any minute because I hadn’t paid the required capital yet. They would include me in licensee events and treated me just like all the other licensees and I became part of the FIFA family.
The South African government put aside finding for the World Cup and I applied for assistance with the different organizations. I still had my South African passport and qualified for all the opportunities South African citizens were offered. That’s when I was introduced to the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). This was part of a law Nelson Mandela passed which is based on a point system. If companies want to get business opportunities from the government (contracts/tenders) they need to be 51% black owned. The points get higher if you are a woman and youth. What happened in most cases white owned companies would get, let’s say their driver who is black to own 51% of their company on paper. Sometimes it was just someone who is politically connected through a relative or friend. That’s how they are able to get some of the big tenders. A lot of these companies would give the black partner a nice car, house and other perks while they still controlled the companies. Not all companies with black owners are operated like this but a lot are. This is one of the reasons a lot of black CEO, Executives and Owners don’t know a lot about their companies because they are not in control. It just looks that way on paper, something I would learn more about with time.
In most cases it didn’t matter if the company had the skills needed for the tender as long as they met the BEE requirements as far as black owned and also their relationship with the political community. This made it difficult for companies that had the skills but not the political relationships. In most cases having the political relationships meant someone is getting a cut for approving the tender. These were areas I was very naive about, I accomplished what I had up to that point because of my talent and determination. That’s what I knew, and paying someone to get a project in my eyes is wrong.
I never got the funding from the government funds for the following reasons;
I was not willing to give a cut for my project being approved. Most cases I was asked how much out of the funding they would receive? I would just end up walking out of the meeting.
South Africa required me to manufacture my bags in South Africa. I spent months looking for manufacturers to make my bags in South Africa and honestly I would have loved for my bags to have been manufactured in South Africa. This was an event where there wasn’t much time to get a new manufacturer if there was one and the skills for what I needed just weren’t there at the time. Anyway, FIFA only approved the factories that were manufacturing my NBA bags.
Even though I was South African, to most I was not African enough. I didn’t represent the African image.
Things became cloudier for me because not only did I want to prove to my family that I could do this, I needed to prove to South Africa that I belonged there too. I couldn’t understand, the things that were required from me I didn’t find important. I guess this where ignorance came in, I was in a different territory from what I was used to. Things were done differently and people thought differently. I was thinking like an American.
My mom’s friends called friends who were in prominent positions and asked them to meet with me and discuss funding possibilities. Every meeting I went into I was always asked who my family was. I was starting to learn just how small South Africa really is and I thought if I gave people my fathers last name it would work to my advantage because of who they are. In the end it worked against me. To a lot of people when I would tell them my fathers last name they became confused on why I was sourcing money when I have such a wealthy family. It was a question that everyone asked. The other question was “ are you sure you asked your family?” When I would say yes, they didn’t believe me and some would offer to go to my family with me. I always declined on the offer. I then tried to only tell them my mothers last name but they were still able to figure out that I was related to my other side of the family.
I remember once my mom’s friend called another friend to meet with me. The friend asked my mom’s friend to tell him more about who I was, and when he was given more information he shouted the words “ The stolen children?!”