So, my mind went to the time when I bought a goat for the chief Nkosi Dlamini from the Southern lands in KZN. Well a goat amongst other things like blankets and meat, sculptures and the like. You see I was knee deep in rural development for the South coast on behalf of a few companies looking to build new hospitals, schools, housing, clinics and malls in under developed areas. The majority of the land is owned by various tribal chiefs and one cannot simply just buy the land off them with a fat check, there are certain procedures and customs one has to follow and one of the things involved is the offering of a live animal, depending on the size of the land, or request it can range from a chicken/chickens a sheep, goat and or cow.

From the wearing of blazers and a hat for men to the compulsory dress and headwrap. It’s a weird sometimes interesting process but very testing on the patience front. So, this is how I ended up buying a goat.

It was a Saturday afternoon when the call came in from a hospital group looking to build a new hospital for the South coast rural development project and they were having a hard time securing the land south of the river just outside Hibberdene. It wasn’t that they didn’t approach them themselves and offer a good and fair price for the land, it was the way they approached them that caused a stir. Showing up in ML’s and X5’s and Volvo XC90’s won’t impress anything and one of the ladies who accompanied the first party where renowned “Negotiators” who showed up in high heels, clevege, weave and a short skirt.

That proved to not be so smart as they were chased away literally by angry elders wielding sticks, knobkerries, stones and the like. From what I gathered one of the men offered help to one of the chief’s sisters and didn’t greet the chief first and smiled at his wife. Yikes! The barely dressed women who followed sadly didn’t help matters as the conservatively dressed room fell in to shock, confusion and then rage.

After a good laugh over the brief my employers at the time, the Ntabayokunqoba group assigned us all tasks. One those was procuring the meat and livestock. You see the procedure with paying for land is that you need to approach with respect, one doesn’t go directly to the chief, you have to go through his “subjects” or right hand man first, you meet him outside at the land you would like and explain to him what your plans are then he goes back to the chief and gets feedback, after that he will call for a second meeting at the land and if the idea is approved, then he would like to see the plans on paper and get a proposal from you and mark out the land that will be offered.

The idea that most developers don’t understand is that the land is simply not for sale. What the chiefs are looking to do is develop the land for their people and provide some sort of stimulation and economy that will primarily feed everyone and provide them with essential services, so most of the time they provide permission for the land to be used in exchange for a service or profits that will be fed right back into the community.

In our case it was to build a hospital and then build a soccer field for the schools to have a place to host tournaments and events. After the plans were given to the chief (keep in mind we hadn’t even met him yet) we were invited to his home. Before any of that could happen, we needed to prepare. First was the offering of a drink. And yes, a stiff one, like brandy or any bottle of jack. As a sort of proof of wealth on our side showing that we can fund and finish the project and not leave it as soon as the money goes dry.

Then it was the offering of meat for the meeting to “break bread” or in this case break meat over agreeing the terms of the land use. And a live animal which was to be a symbol of good faith and early contribution towards the community. That is where I came in, I was assigned to find a good goat. The chief had plenty of cows, chickens and sheep but what he had in low supply was a good goat, and that goat wasn’t even for him it was going to be given to the household that needed it most in the community. So, from the upper highway area I went to a church full of nuns in Marianhill. They had a small goat farm on their property and where selling them at a cool R1500+ which was fantastic.

When I arrived at the church grounds I learnt that they kept the goat and the sheep together and from afar it looked like they had more goats than we assumed they did, and guess what? They didn’t fetch the goat for you, you had to pick and load it up yourself and if you bought a sheep by mistake it was your own problem. So 35min later after a lot of falling and getting kicked we caught and loaded our goat to the back of the bakkie. Then the fun started; we were at the paying table and the peak of African negotiating took place.

In the same way you buy a luxury car and pay for the extras this goat must have been a Ferrari the way they were throwing in extra features. So the base price was R1500 then because it was a female goat it cost an extra R500, it was also young and at prime birthing age so that was an extra R350 and it came from a good set of parents and that cost another R200 and it didn’t put up a major fight (I wish) so an extra R150 for temperament. R2700 later we had a goat! Yeah some of you might be thinking why you didn’t you just go somewhere else. Well there was a strict restocking policy and I would have lost R1000 to put the goat back. So, I couldn’t back out.

Then the fun would really start after we arrived at the chief’s home. Part 2 is to come soon! 😊