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Global Quest For Local LETS
Copyright � James Taris

28. LETS Groups In South Africa

My audience for the SANE evening presentation.

There are no LETS groups in South Africa. There used to be one (or two) several years ago, but they were very short lived.

So I knew that my visit to Cape Town would be very different to my previous 10 weeks spent in Europe. I wasn't wrong.

When my emails went out seeking interest from European LETS groups who wanted me to speak to their members, the very first email I got back was from the South Africa New Economics (SANE) Network.

Thanks to the persuasive email sent to me from Laura Bishop regarding the need for LETS systems in South Africa, I was pleased to be able to add Cape Town to my long list of speaking engagements. And speak' I certainly did!

Instead of giving just one LETS presentation as I'd done in each of the European countries, I was given a daily speaking schedule something akin to what the President of America is used to. Every day there were 1 or 2 speaking engagements for 4 days running, starting from the very first day of my arrival. There wasn't going to be any time for mucking around here! But I savored every minute of it.

Tuesday, October 15, 7.30pm
I gave my "9 Part LETS Presentation" to a room full of curious locals from the poor South African town of Mitchell's Plain (25 kms SE of Cape Town). And two hours later, after being shown how LETS could help them improve their lifestyles and build their self-esteem, these people had selected a core group committee and organised a follow-up meeting with the aim of launching the first LETS group in South Africa. Ten of them said they'd join.

Rev. Keith Vermeulen, of Restorative Justice Initiative (and pastor of the local Methodist Church) hosted the meeting and with the help of SANE, will oversee the development of the group as it progresses.

Wednesday, October 16, 10.30am
I met the director, Trevor Edwards, and key personnel from the Ocean View Development Trust (in Ocean View, 40 km directly south of Cape Town) who were also curious to see if, and how, LETS could help the underprivileged people in the area. I was made aware of the fact that of South Africa's 43 million population, about 50% (yes, 50%!!!!) were unemployed. And their main interest in LETS wasn't for lawn mowing or massages, but for getting some food on the table. Could I help?

By the end of the meeting, which was a lot more formal than I was used to, two people in the room said they were ready to start their own groups. In fact, I was given a great compliment by Russell Bishop who said, "Before I heard you speak, I knew exactly how I was going to start a LETS group. But after hearing what you had to say, I now realize just how much I didn't know. So I'm still going to start my own group, but now I'll do it differently."

Thursday, October 17, 10am

'Cape Talk Radio' is one of Cape Town's most listened to radio stations. And SANE had managed to get me a spot on the late morning show.

"How long will the segment be?" I asked.

"20 to 45 minutes, depending on audience response," was the reply.

The show went the full 45 minutes, and was a great hit with several live calls taken from radio listeners. And my evening presentation got a very valuable 'plug'.

Thursday, October 17, 7.30pm
SANE arranged for me to talk to its own membership. Therefore, much promotion had taken place before my arrival. And they did such a great job that the room was packed to the rafters, with people sitting on desks and standing at the back of the room. This was the largest audience SANE had managed to attract to any of their events. Some people had also come because they'd heard me on the radio earlier that morning. In fact, I was told that the SANE phones ran hot as soon as my radio interview ended.

But then we had a major crisis. At precisely 7.20pm, there was a total blackout in the area, and the multi-story office building we were in was pitch black! So just to make everyone feel a little more comfortable about being in darkness, I announced, "It's OK. I can do this in the dark!", all the time hoping that I really wouldn't have to.

Thankfully, twenty long minutes later, the lights went back on.

Again, it was a great evening, with much audience interest leading to many how to questions. Then Margaret Legum, the MC for the night (and my LETS host in Kalk Bay where I'd been staying) suggested that the audience form small discussion groups of 4-5 people. Watching the buzz around the room for the next 30 minutes was very inspiring. And after listening to the ideas they'd come up with, it was enthusiastically agreed to form a core group committee to begin a LETS group with the help of SANE.

Friday, October 18, 9am
Aart De Lange, founder of SANE and my LETS host for the latter part of my stay in Cape Town, arranged for me to meet with Tim Jenkin who was working on a LETS operating system which was internet based. So any LETS group in the world could use the system. After seeing his preliminary work, I was suitably impressed and agreed to promote it on my LETS-Linkup web site once it was ready for operation.

Friday, October 18, 11.30am
Laura took me to Gugulethu where I gave another LETS presentation to a small group of 16 people in a local church. These were all members of a self-funded AIDS Awareness Group. So how do a group of poor locals fund themselves?

"Sometimes you just don't miss 10 Rand here and there," was my reply.

The end result was a unanimous decision to form a core group committee to start their own LETS group with the help of SANE. And this wouldn't be too hard because they were already trading amongst themselves. Forming a LETS group would simply be opening the door to other people outside their existing group.

Friday, October 18, 7pm
My farewell dinner! Margaret Legum had generously opened her home to anyone interested in seeing me off. And it was good to see many familiar faces from last night's audience. It was very humbling.

But my greatest pleasure was when I shared my Bat Joke with the guests and got my first laugh in 11 weeks! Apparently it loses its 'punch' when it has to be translated.


There were 2 bats in a cave. And it was freezing cold outside. Lots of lightning, thunder, storms ... the works!

One bat turned to the other and said, "I'm starving. I haven't had a feed for 2 whole days. I can't stand it any more. I'm going outside to find myself a meal."

Then his friend said, "Don't be so foolish. Remember, we're Vampire Bats. We need blood. And you won't find any animals out there. They're all in hiding just like we are. In fact, if you're out there for more than a minute, you'll freeze to death. So just be patient until the storm dies down. You're much safer in here."

But the first bat wasn't convinced. "I said I'm starving, not stupid! If I don't find something to eat straight away, I'll be back here in less than a minute."

And with that parting comment, he flew out of the cave.

Sure enough, 58 ... 59 seconds later, he was back in the cave. And his friend was amazed to see a tell-tale trickle of blood coming from the corner of the first bat's mouth. So he asked, "How did you go out in such treacherous conditions, find yourself a meal, and get back here in less than a minute?"

"Come with me," the first bat said, "and I'll show you."

So they went to the mouth of the cave and the first bat said to his friend, "Do you see that pile of rocks over there?"

"Yes," replied his friend.

And the first bat confessed, "Well, damned if I did!"

This article is taken from the ebook,
Global Quest for Local LETS

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