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When Money Costs Too Much

by Keitu Reid / 22.06.2011

In case you’re not on Twitter – Nonhle Thema (the 1st African “global face” for Dark & Lovely products with her own lame reality show) and her 10-million-Rand-in-the-bank are currently trending locally. Her out loud big upping of her own finances is staggering.

Here’s a taste of what she has been tweeting:

Nonhle Thema

Nonhle Thema

Nonhle Thema

‘New money’ vulgarity is ugly up close. A guy I know “made it” as a tenderpreneur and bought himself 5 Range Rovers in different colours. Once my girlfriends and I were enjoying sundowners when a guy, let’s call him Sipho, wanted to buy us drinks. We politely told him we can pay our own way thanks but Sipho didn’t get the message and threw an impressive bunch of car keys on our table. Then he sighed ostentatiously and lamented about having so many rides he has to park some on the street. The difference between Sipho and Nonhle you ask? Sipho has probably not figured out how to use twitter yet. New money vulgarians, they both mistakenly equate money with inherent personal goodness. They think material things make them better than everyone else. It’s creepy and appalling. A guy I know in kasi drives a top of the range BMW slowly at peak hour with Armani shades on so everyone in the taxis can see him.

Are we Africans replacing values with money?

African business owners treat their customers with disrespect through bad service. After these shop owners mismanage their businesses to failure – foreigners move in and offer genuine value – and we call it unfair, and even get violent.

Nonhle Thema

It’s about being respectful. Being admirable. Being polite and real. To everyone. All the time. That’s ubuntu. Nonhle has begun calling her fanbase ‘haters’ after people responded with disgust at her brash tweets. As a brand, Thema may be damaging herself ironically by crowing about her own success. Especially in a country as smarting and unequal as ours. Responses to her materialist ego are already going viral.

RT @megangodsell: Dear Dark and Lovely. Dark she is. Lovely? Are you sure about that one? #nonhletendencies …..
RT @ComicalTshepo: When the dark n lovely burns my brain & I have a headache I use cocaine instead of grandpa… Cos I’m rich bitjes #Nonhletendencies too far?
GarethCliff (with over 100 000 followers) retweeted “South Africa’s first Twitter nervous breakdown. Proudly brought to you by: @NonhleThema Terms, issues and conditions apply”.

There was a girl at school who always did the classic ‘Do you know who my father is?’ when teachers shouted at her. He was some mid-tier ANC whatever. I knew the white kids at my fancy school were rich without them having to declare it out loud. Their families made big donations to the school, they were tanned from exotic holidays, and seemed to be patiently waiting to take over the reins of the family business. Their wealth and esteem looked solid as oak trees. Built on firm ground.

Nonhle Thema

Yes. I know. We black people never had money. Wealth is historically alien to us. We are the expolited labour behind great fortunes. The dirty secret. Slavery built civilisation. Our bodies have been put to work and worked to death throughout history. So white people don’t need to flaunt what they always had – money to them is as natural as the shining sun. We get a little crazy around cash. Understandably.

But will we go on excusing ourselves on behalf of history forever? Most of us wouldn’t know what a Pass book even looks like. We are born free.

“The art is not to make money, but keep it.”

Black people will only graduate from being rich to wealthy, when we appreciate money takes care and consideration. Like raising a family. You have to do it right. When you have it, invest it; or spend it to improve the quality of life, future prospects, and happiness of your family and community. Plough it back into your business. Don’t spend what you got the first chance you get on Uzzi gear.

And if Nonhle wants to make that 10 million genuinely mean something that matters beyond her own narrow interests, she would look around her with humility, and see where she can help, she would be thankful and gracious, she would be conscious and affirming. She would try to make a difference. Nonhle’s vulgar bragging maker her common. That 10 million has alrady cost her way too much.

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