Wednesday 24 June 2020

Doris' House

Doris and myself at Bethany's Baby Shower

The first seller was willing to sell his house to Doris, our expatriate Zulu housekeeper from Ulundi then living with us in Saudi Arabia, but said he’d keep the erf upon which the house was built. 

We were not to worry though, all would be sorted out by an affidavit he’d make at the police station, in which he would state, untruthfully, that Doris Mbekwaphi Mamba was his aunty and hence entitled to live in the house. All this in exchange for a mere R85000, to be sent via postal order.


We were obliged to tell a greatly disappointed Doris that his scheme, although innovative, was illegal. The blow was significantly lessened, however, by her discovery that hijackers operating in the neighbouring house dismantled cars throughout the night.


The second seller did not own the house he was selling. He too proposed a series of payments into a post office account, after which the longed-for title­ deeds would materialise. He was furious when he discovered we’d had the audacity to hire a firm of conveyancers. But we had told Doris that since it was our money purchasing her house, the involvement of lawyers was non-negotiable. She, of course, was terrified of losing a dream, while we were adamant we’d not subsidise thieves. A stand-off arose, but thankfully Lindi, a member of Doris’s extended family, worked at the Department of Housing and independently ascertained that the house in question had no owner. Lindi told us our would-be seller spoke no English or any common African language, which made it all the more remarkable that when our conveyancers contacted him, his English proved adequate, albeit profane.

The setbacks were hard on Doris, who spent day after day, week after week of the Saudi summer, which we fled yearly to return to a cold, dreary winter, taking taxis from township to city, city to township, pounding the streets, knocking on doors, asking if anyone knew of a house for sale.

But what was this Zulu woman doing in Saudi Arabia in the first place, working for us as a housekeeper? Some 13 years previously I had phoned an employment agency looking for someone to undertake “piece work” and was duly informed, “I am just going to have to send you Doris.” I was startled by the fact that here was a fait accompli being presented to me. When I queried this, I gained no satisfactory reply, and hence Doris arrived.

At that time, she spoke only Zulu, but proceeded to demonstrate her willingness to work by tackling absolutely everything all at once in one day. It was exhausting to watch her and in her haste and anxiety she was very clumsy. But the desperation in her eyes was apparent. As the years went on and we learnt her story­, we realised why.

Abandoned by her mother at the age of two, Doris was first put to work as her blind grandmother’s eyes. When her beloved Gogo died, Doris was sent into the fields to herd the cattle­ since her uncle considered schooling wasted on girls. 

Desperate for education, she’d attend a week of school here, two weeks there, and would beg others to teach her what they knew. The fact that she can read and write today is testament to her intelligence and sheer doggedness.


Her move to the city in her early 40s was precipitated by her husband taking a fourth wife and refusing to support her and her two young children. The rural areas around Ulundi provided no work and she was told the best she could achieve, “with no skills” would be domestic work.

Duly arriving in the city every day that she could, Doris scrounged the fare from her brother, took a taxi to the employment agency and sat there, simply sat there. Work there was to be had and, by God, work she was going to find. And hence both the employment agent and I had to submit to the inevitable.


A few months later, however, she found full-time, live-in employment and brought along her sister-in-law, Regina, as her replacement. This would normally be the end of the story­, except that, one day, some 10 years later, Doris arrived in Regina’s wake.

Regina said Doris, now fluent in Afrikaans­ but unemployed by nine job losses, needed the work. She was reduced to living in a squatter camp and despite clear evidence of starvation, would cheerfully take the earliest taxi and sit outside on the verge, waiting for the household to stir.

“Die werk is die werk,” she’d reply staunchly to us, mortified by her long wait. I remember her bouncing my newborn son in the air upon hearing we were to leave to go to Saudi and saying, “Wat sal ons doen? Ons sal vrek van die honger! Vrek, vrek, vrek, vrek, vrek van die honger,” bouncing him higher up in the air on each vrek! He loved the ride.

In a heartbeat, Doris, who had no experience of travel, gave an unqualified “ja” to our asking if she would join us in our expatriate life, and some 18 months and miles of red tape later, there she was, a feat all in itself.

My husband had, in fact, to take himself off as supplicant to the offices of the Emir of the Eastern Province, where, towering over the Saudi security­ guards with his long hair in a ponytail, it was hard enough simply to persuade them to let him into the building. He was accompanied by a Saudi friend, who argued convincingly that provincial affairs included those pertaining to an expatriate worker in the oil industry, a previously untested proposition.

Once inside, it was an even more daunting task to find someone who would accept the letter he clutched in one hand, beautifully transcribed into Arabic and with all due honorifics added.

Our Pakistani translator, thrilled to discover my husband was writing to one of the Big Four Saudi Princes, was horrified that we had not understood the gravity of the situation, and informed us that a simple, “your royal highness”, although necessary, was utterly insufficient.

After four hours of being kicked upstairs, in slow increments since no one wanted to make a decision upon the matter lest it rebound upon them, at last they were left to cool their heels outside a very fancy door. Great was their surprise when barely five minutes later, the letter was returned with an important signature scrawled underneath a few words to the effect: “Give visa.” That part of the process took two days, the rest, months of blood tests and police statements and the usual bureaucratic requirements.

The letter stated our reasons for asking for a special visa to bring Doris, a woman in her mid-50s, into the country under our direct sponsorship.

 We asked our Jordanian friend, Ammar, who was Muslim, spoke Arabic­ and had worked a long time in Saudi, to help us in finding common cultural ground. But actually it was compassion that ruled the day, for among other reasons, we stated simply­ that she had worked for us for a long time and with our leaving she was without work (although we did grant her a monthly stipend during this era), that we were loyal to her and wanted her to attain a better life. Islam, after all, values compassion, and ever since Archbishop Desmond Tutu had urged all South Africans who could, to adopt a family in need, well, we figured, we knew who our family was.

Once in Saudi Arabia, Doris proved her remarkably resilient personality, befriended all the nurses and led a far more social life than we did over weekends. Her chakalaka even won first prize at an American chilli cook-off contest, much to the chagrin of her highly competitive fellow participants, and is now sold by a Saudi catering­ company, which reports to us that, apart from being healthy and vegetarian, it is remarkably low in calories.

We led an expatriate lifestyle to fund our dream house and did not see why Doris should not realise her dream above all dreams for which she prayed. After all, ubuntu is not just about the spirit of giving, it’s actually about giving. We could not ask her to save, since among the very poor, if you have, you give.

At last a third house seller was found who actually owned her house and was willing to sell both it and the ground upon which it stood.

The conveyancers informed us that here indeed we might have a deal, all we needed to surmount was the issue of a substantial backlog of rates, a tenant unwilling to vacate, a husband wary of selling, and the usual small mountain of related paperwork. But nothing could frighten us now.

So, as others had helped Doris, she helped them, as she helped us, we helped her.

Doris, her dream realised, took early retirement and lives with her grandchildren in a house of her very own.  

About the author

KATHRYN Kure studied for her initial degree at UKZN, Pietermaritzburg. After many years in Johannesburg and Saudi Arabia, she, her husband and three children now live in Kloof. From February, she is the new director of the eThekwini Community Foundation. Her food blog can be found at

First published in the Natal Witness as part of their short story competition - but it is now lost from the interwebs and hence has been republished here under the moral rights of the author to her creation, though it was recently found in a News24 archive:

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Time to get crafty about being searchable online

Crafters, artists and designers need to link with suppliers and retailers

Yenza, made by a number of craft groups in eThekwini
Arts, crafts and design have huge potential as sustainable income generators across South Africa but in order for this to happen in a meaningful way, our crafters, artists and designers need to be searchable, particularly through mapping services, or products will not be known.

Sustainability, like an African pot, sits on three legs. If you only care about people and planet, without due care for profit, true sustainability is not possible.

Invariably, we ask how can an enterprise do social good, but he reverse question also needs ot be asked - how can what is socially good become an enterprise?

It is popular to talk of finding new models of doing business, of the need for hybrid skill sets and of the importance of change agents.

The reality is, however, that those drawn to the business world do not readily make the transition into the non-profit world, and vice versa.

The profit and non-profit secots require different skills, partiuclarly in relation to business and marketing. Often, fledgling community-based craft organisations whose capacity has been developed by the non-profit sector attemtp income generation through selling "expensive uglies with a tender story".

The market for non-funcitonal handmade products is extremely limited and typically high-end apart from the usual tourist curios. Businesses need to understand what sells before they produce good; in the high-end, commission-only Persian carpet industry, the loom is only strung once the carpet is sold.

Community Foundaitons are relatively new to South Africa and although like others in the non-profit sector, they must fund-raise, they are also grant-makers.

The question that the eThekwini Community Foundation has been asking is: How can crafters take a product to market without any marketing budget? To answer this, we drew together a diverse group of people from the profit, non-profit, academic and government sphere. The interesting initial answer has been: data and mapping.

The world is searching on digital platforms, partiuclarly mobiel phones, for products. In the five largest European economies, 50 percent of internet users access maps online and 35 percent of smartphone users do so through their handsets. In South Africa, home to 60 million cellphones, 65 percent of Google searchers over a weekend come through cellphones.

Unless our crafters, artists and designers are searchable, their products will not be known. On our mobile- first continent, the need for better mapping and mobile go hand-in-hand. However, such mapping or geo-services are considered and intermediate good - they are not valuable in themselves, but enable consumers to engage in other activities.

Yet the economic benefit of such geo-services is high, for at the least they provide a platform which enables transactions to take place.

Mapping goes beyond and immediate benefit of knowing who, where and what; information is needed for us to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources such as the ilala palm, which is harvested from the wild, is slow-growing and increasingly under threat by a burgeoning trade in Zulu hand-woven baskets. such information can help stimulate conservation agriculture and specialisation of skills in that weavers should not also have to harvest hte palms, and procuess them through dying them different colours using other natural resources.

Competition is beneficial for consumers and it increases choice for the producers of high-quality goods.

No enterprise can afford to make decisions that are not data-driven. Data is needed to stimulate our arts, crafts and design creative communities. We must map our artists, crafters and designers, know who they are, where they can be found, what their products are, where these products can be bought, the type, nature and variety of items available, price and quality.

A geo-coded craft database can bring crafters, suppliers of raw materials and retailers into the same virtual space for the first time in this country.

First published on August 24 2014 in the Saturday Star Marketing and Media pages

The Rise of the Social Analyst

Interview with Jordan Enright-Schulz of Adobe

The Rise of the Social Analyst

Adobe Analytics bring out a range of products which enable a sophisticated understanding of your digital data, much of which is currently – and increasingly -  social.

The question that was put to Jordan Enright-Schulz, Product Manager of Adobe Social had to do with the bottom-line, the ROI of having a social analyst on board, particularly within the South African market.

But to put the need for social analysis in perspective, a recent US-based research report by the Social Media Examiner indicated that 88% of marketers surveyed want to know how to measure their social ROI.

While 97% of those marketers said they were embarking on some kind of social media, and 68% said that they did analyse their social media activities, 91% still said they wanted to know what tactics are most effective and a mere 37% said they were able to measure ROI on their efforts.

Historically, social media has been seen as a customer retention exercise, and the fact that most report using it to develop loyal fans (72%) and gain marketplace intelligence (71%) indicates its utility in this regard. At the same time, most intriguingly, the top two benefits seen were increasing exposure (92%) and increasing traffic (88%) – both of which are traditionally related to search marketing. 

So while search marketing has traditionally related to customer acquisition and social marketing to retention, the fact that so many people are sharing links within social media means that these lines are increasingly blurred.
Within South Africa, we have a number of challenges, many relating to connectivity, particularly in a highly price-sensitive market. So, while 41% of the population have some kind of access to internet, only 26% have mobile broadband, and as Justin McCarthy of TBWA points out, the “Obstacle majeure = connectivity".

At the same time, however, working off the premise that, strategically, one needs to plan ahead and look to the future, it is evident that this is a growth market, and certainly Adobe Analytics are interested in South Africa for precisely this reason and mobile in particular is seen as an untapped market.

As Enright-Schulz pointed out, it is evident that social is not paid search, it is not a down-funnel conversion tactic, and it is not new for people to have a common topic of discussion, however, the ability to track what is said over a variety of social media platforms is new, and it is quite apparent that if you are a large company interacting on multiple social media platforms, you need to implement an automated monitoring and media management system that can measure every link you publish and enable you to integrate all this data into one system, together with other measures. Hence, Adobe Social generates social data, automates the process of campaign tracking, enables the analyst to sift through the data, make recommendations, and effectively complete the cycle of collaboration.

For companies that are utilising social media, analysis of this data is key, but questions arise as to who to employ to ensure an adequate ROI, what to look for when making such a hire and whether you undertake such analysis in-house or via a third-party provider. After all, since another recent survey by Forrester Research discovered that while 93% of executives believe digital will disrupt their business in the next year, only 15% think they have the people and skills needed to execute a digital strategy.   

While these suites of software enable you to do the analysis in-house, giving rise to commentators talking about disintermediation, the reality is, analysis is a specialist skill-set. Hence, if analysing your digital data properly is going to become a key differentiator in terms of being able to claim your share of voice in a digital world full of endless content, do you really have that set of skills in-house? how do you find or train someone? or is there always a place for an independent, third-party verifier/s who at the very least, won't share the same biases you do (in terms of the well-known issue of confirmation bias)?

Obviously, a large part of that question will be answered in terms of size of your business and the extent to which your business is dependent on internet marketing. If you are extremely large, you have the budget to throw at business innovation, and dare not be left behind; if you are small and niche, particularly if you have a highly distributed audience (let’s say, like Black Milk) and all your transactions run off the internet, then it is self-evident you need to undertake proper analysis, and probably again bring it in-house.

Enright-Schulz commented that, in the United States, publishers such as Conde Nast have a separate team of people, in-house, who look after their social media, including analytics; this includes a social media manager who looks after each brand, and side-by-side, they run social analysis teams which report through to the marketing and insights department. So while the social manager of Wired, for instance, needs to ensure that what is broadcast is true to the brand voice, the social analyst is able to give insights into which pieces resonated most and with which audiences on what platforms and where. The business model of a publisher is relatively straight-forward in terms of monetising the site and ensuring the maximum number of clicks which relate directly back to your primary web property; for other clients, the business model is not quite as straightforward.

As Enright-Schulz pointed out though, what matters hugely is that, “What you are doing in social absolutely has to align with what the business stands for”.
In other words, your social analyst must truly understand your business. The kind of sophisticated understandings and insights you are requiring in this field mean you don’t simply look for a data nerd, but for someone who truly understands the dynamics and mechanics of social and who has an advanced understanding of analytics, particularly marketing analytics driving your business imperatives. She said there is a natural entry point into digital from those who have worked in database and direct marketing, and many in the US have made this particular transition or addition (since it is clear that the more you can relate the online world to the offline world, the more effective your marketing will be). 
Within the US, while some marketers are still unclear about ROI and social, there are some companies that are clearly defining their ROI in terms of social media, people are being held accountable in terms of their performance in this regard, and there is a clear rise of the social analyst operating within this digital marketing niche. Adobe itself has a social centre of excellence, staffed by social analysts, whose job it is to enable specific products, and again, while you may have someone who looks after the entire range, many are assigned to a single product only.

But while some companies are looking for loyalty and engagement through their social media presence, with a focus on high-value, repeat customers only, others, with a broader reach, would look to see measurements around brand awareness increase.

In other words, on the one hand,  it’s complicated given the multiplicity of various platforms and the fact that you can reach differing audiences with a variety of content in this platforms, on the other hand, it all becomes very simple if you know what your key business imperatives are, and set up your monitoring and reports accordingly.

Kathryn Kure
Data Myna
Tel: +27 (0)31 7645094
Mobile: +27(0)83 252 0992

About Kathryn Kure:

Classically trained at the HSRC in human sciences research and analysis, Kathryn loves to provide practical solutions to real-world problems, particularly if these are at the intersection of  technology, people and marketing. She particularly enjoys analysing what factors hinder or facilitate people in decision-making processes, and what practical implications these has for marketers.  

As an applied researcher who loves bleeding-edge technologies, she has often touted new technologies (and was, for instance, one of the first to use GIS for marketing analyses) and has worked both in marketing research and as a marketer in business innovation. Most recently, she translated her findings on SEO from analysing her blogs using Profile Analytics into success in social media and has over 52 000 followers on Google Plus and over 3.8 views. 

About Data Myna:

Over and above the obvious riff on 'data mining',  the Indian Myna is highly articulate, curious, adaptable, innovative and successfully out-competes other birds in its niche, which Data Myna argues is precisely what you want from your marketing intelligence.

Copyright and Her Limits Go to the Creative Commons

Copyright and Her Limits Go to the Creative Commons A Play in Two Parts   by Kathryn Kure     This work is licensed under Attribution 4.0 I...