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Ian Martin

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Frikkie And Plug Launch The Dismissal Agency

When Plug and Frikkie went to the States it was their intention to sell the concept of Smarty Eugenics to the United Nations. A meeting had been arranged with top officials at the WHO. But on their arrival at JFK four gents in suits, open neck shirts and shiny shoes waylaid them. Claiming to represent the biggest corporations in the pharmaceutical industry, they said they had got wind of Smarty Eugenics and were eager to discuss a deal with the intrepid entrepreneurs from Mzansi. Frikkie and Plug put up no resistance and allowed themselves to be whisked off to The Knickerbocker on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street. Over lunch the men from Big Pharma were forthright.

“Our industry is driven by the pursuit of profit,” one of them said. “Alleviating the suffering of humankind is low on our list of priorities. If it doesn’t involve the purchasing of our products, we have no interest in improving the physical and mental wellbeing of consumers.”

Between them, they made it clear to Frikkie and Plug that they saw Smarty Eugenics as a serious threat to their long-term profitability. If it were to be implemented the population would be reduced and the demographic would be younger and healthier. Youth and good health were anathema to the pharmaceutical industry. What they thrived on was an ageing society, sick in both mind and body. This was why they were prepared to pay handsome bucks for the Smarty copyright in order to mothball it.

“How handsome?” asked Frikkie.

“Twenty.”

“Twenty?” Frikkie was incredulous.

“Yes, twenty million dollars. How does that sound?”

Frikkie was choking on a mouthful of soufflé after nearly falling off his chair.

“We wouldn’t consider anything less than forty,” said Plug, cool as a komkommer straight from the fridge.

“They will settle for thirty,” he told Frikkie, as they stood shoulder to shoulder in the john and emptied their bladders into two of the hotel’s state of the art urinals. “This is standard bargaining procedure the world over. The buyer offers way less than what he is prepared to pay. The seller knows this, so he doubles the figure, and they end up splitting the difference. It’s real dumb, but it gives the impression neither party has lost face.”

Back at the table the offer was upped a little, and the price came down a tad. After more pretence at haggling, the magic figure was finally reached. Bingo! Thirty million it was.

They all showed their teeth and shook hands. Then they drank champagne, which was also part of the standard procedure. In the evening, to further celebrate the deal, they took in a Broadway show that was so expensive there was hardly anyone in the audience. Then they returned to the Knick, the classy girls arrived, and they retired to their rooms for the cherry on top.

$30 million converted into Mickey Mouse money back in the failed state was equivalent to about R360 million. Added to income from their other business interests, this meant that Frikkie and Plug were under no pressure to get involved in any new moneymaking schemes. However, they were now so used to being on the lookout for new opportunities, they couldn’t resist setting up the Dismissal Agency on their return to the glorious republic.

 

“I would poison her if she turned out to be another Constance,” said Frikkie. “Rattex would do the job just fine. Or I could consult Doctor Pillay and get him to prescribe something he thinks more appropriate.”

Frikkie was telling Plug what he would do to his next housekeeper if she turned out to be anything like the previous one, who he had fired and now suspected of being responsible for the burglary while he was in the States.

“You know,” said Plug, “this is a dilemma faced by employers of domestic staff throughout the country. How does one dismiss a worker without risking almost certain reprisal in the form of a break-in that will be undetected by your compromised security arrangements? I am sure a company specialising in solutions to this problem would be stretched to keep up with the demand for its services.”

“Something like a Dismissal Agency, as opposed to a Recruitment Agency? Sounds a cool concept. But, apart from selling poison, what would this company offer?”

They opened their third beer. From previous experience, they had discovered that the first beer made the brain receptive, and it was with the second that inspiration occurred. Development of the central idea took place while consuming the third beer.

“What we will offer is not going to be cheap,” said Plug.

“Peace of mind is worth a lot,” said Frikkie.

“The employee will be fired without warning on the last day of a month, and be paid a month’s salary in lieu of notice, and we will insist on giving her a lift home. It will be made clear that we now know where to find her if we need to speak to her in the future. Meanwhile, our technicians will have been busy changing the locks and arranging with the security company for new codes and remotes. On the following day the perimeter fortifications will be raised by half a meter, and the voltage to the electric fencing will be upped to concentration camp levels.”

“Awesome,” said Frikkie. “And id the client is still shatting himself we could offer round the clock surveillance for the first three months.”

“Good thinking,” said Plug.

“And when we drop her off we can tell the maid that if there is a break-in she can be sure her RDP hok will burn to the ground soon afterwards.” Frikkie said this with grim satisfaction, because he was contemplating a mental picture of Constance standing in the road watching her house go up in flames.

Over the next few days they worked out costs and put together a workable business strategy. A month later the first Dismissal Agency was launched, and the initial response was so overwhelming they immediately set in motion plans for the franchise to be rolled out in every city and town in the country. It was clear they had found a gap that was crying out to be filled.

“For the overwhelming majority of South Africans, socio-economic conditions are deteriorating rapidly,” Plug said to Frikkie as they drove out of Stellenbosch and headed for Franschoek for lunch. They had just officiated at the opening of the 50th Dismissal Agency branch. “The growing tension between rich and poor is resulting in more and more crime. It’s clear from the success of the Dismissal Agency that security is one of the healthiest and most promising sectors of the economy.”

“Are you thinking of us setting up our own private security company? There’s a lot of competition out there.”

“We must put our heads together and look for an imaginative niche,” said Plug.

To one side the unsightly squalor of an informal settlement sprawled towards the horizon, and there was the smell of smoke and unwashed humanity. Then they emerged into picturesque vineyard country and ahead of them was the blue mountain range against an almost cloudless sky.

 

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