When you mention the words untapped resources a vision of gold or platinum, a bottomless well with the freshest water on this earth or vast acres of land where limitless oil lies just waiting to be discovered comes to mind.

Resources are constantly judged in terms of what the planet can spew up for humans to make money.

There is always a component of greed attached to the word resources.

I would like to tell you about the untapped resources we have, the virtually unidentified resource that lies not far from where we are.

Black and brown people have for years held untapped resources.

Have you gone into a township and looked for a mechanic? I knew a guy who just by listening to a car could virtually tell you what was wrong with it. He was so confident in his ability to fix mine that he promised me his car if he was unable to fix mine and within the space of a few hours he did, and he did it in the rain with the bare minimum of tools available. He had no paperwork stating that he was a mechanic, so he was never employed as one.

You need a dress made for an occasion and someone can point you to a dressmaker who can make you a dress that rivals the brand names in the industry. But she has no paperwork and so was never employed as one.

If you need your hair and nails done there is someone who can do it better than some hairdressers but there is no certificate to say they can and so they were never employed as a hairdresser.

The same can be said if you need help with plumbing, electrical work, building, teaching, reading, and accounting and banking (stokvel).

The list is endless but too often black and brown people are asked for their paperwork.

Paperwork that says they are capable of doing a job even when they know they can, and they are doing it sans the required paperwork.

I am by no means advocating education is unnecessary. Of course, it is necessary but most people in townships simply don’t have the funds to acquire the paperwork. So, they end up in jobs that do not enhance the natural talent and skills they have.

That makes no sense to me. Surely, this would mean that often you are missing out on so many people that could be employed and get the paperwork whilst they are employed? Further studies could be a condition of employment.

Companies can’t with absolute certainty say they’re getting the best because the choices are limited to those that have the paperwork to prove they can do it.

If black and brown people were and are marginalized and couldn’t afford to send their children to higher education institutions, then there’s a dishonest factor to “getting the best” man for the job.

There’s a wealth of untapped resources that are human resources. Those that perish away at jobs, not careers designed to not fulfil their desire and enhance their natural abilities. Lack of funding is more than just the inability to pay monthly fees, it’s also the accommodation, the traveling, the food, the laptop and so on that these children need to move forward and of course the clothing to wear. It may seem impossible but where I come from people had one pair of shoes and an outfit for church or an interview. If you needed more, you asked your neighbours.

So, it’s often more than meets the eye.

My son could count and be reading newspapers at the tender age of 4 years old. Yes, he is exceptionally intelligent there’s no doubt about that (I know all parents think this about their child in his case however it’s true), but his intelligence was discovered by our domestic worker who taught him to count and read and write. She, (may her soul R.I.P), was forced to leave school in Grade 5. That would be at the tender age of 12 years old to start working after her mom passed away. You have to ask yourself how she, who was barely literate, could teach my son in a language that wasn’t her home language.

She is another or rather was another untapped resource. She loved children and taught my children with patience and understanding. How far could she have gone if maybe she was a teacher? But, alas no paperwork so she and so many others like her fall into this deep vacuum that sucks them into a whirlpool of “just another black and brown person,” a nonentity. Someone who doesn’t matter because they don’t have paperwork.

It makes me think of the undocumented immigrants wasting away behind closed doors because there’s no paperwork.

The only difference between them and those in the townships is the prison cells are bigger and the gates are sometimes invisible to the naked eye.

Our wealth lies in our people, in their untapped resources that don’t need to waste away if we acknowledge them.

This country and so many others were built from the ground up by people with no paperwork and historical sites are still there for all to see.