10. The Edge of Oblivion Part 1

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Ride along with us to the edge of oblivion and listen in to a candid conversation between my business partner Daniel Muwazi and I as we relive the journey of the highs and lows of our Parking Management business – from its origins in 2010, to our “glory days” and violent obstacles that stood in our path. We confront these and our biggest challenge yet: Rebuilding ourselves following demolition brought on by the crushing Covid-19 lockdowns.

Episode Timeline
00:00Introduction 2:15Coming up in the trilogy 05:18Personal Background 7:06Origin of Afropark 10:31Building the Business 14:30Disclaimer (I don’t want to get sued) 15:55Historical highlights from an insider’s perspective 23:21Coming up in Part 2 25:03Outtakes


Welcome to this special recording of Technorection – a podcast series documenting the turn around of failing companies – in this case our Parking Management company, Afropark.

My name is Simon Yiga – I started recording this series a year after the 2020 Covid lockdowns when it became clear that the pandemic’s effects on society and business would be here for longer than  everyone hoped. Huge numbers of people got infected, many died. It also took a toll on a huge number of businesses. Many died… forced to close due to the apocalyptic lockdown restrictions – Some Industries fared better than others,– but if you were in hospitality or consumer transportation  or some office/ landlord or related businesses, like ours –  well then you were certainly screwed. Lockdown meant instant zero income . rapidly accumulating losses.

This series was started as a way to document our turnaround in a fair amount of detail – week by week and month to month – I wanted to put in into a podcast and put ourselves out there -so we could hopefully approach the comeback transparently, with specific projects aimed to not just save us as a company from dying, but propel us into the future … in the best possible way.

We’ve been surviving – and by surviving I mean, cut our operations to bare bone with a small staff of 7- still making a loss every month, and absorbing it through generous loan facilities and dwindling reserves… And I think, we’re the lucky ones!

Today I’m going to have a conversation with my business partner  at Afropark Daniel Muwazi – and get to hear the tale of how we navigated not just this covid storm but other existential threats over the past few years.

We initially thought we’d start the conversation by presenting research on the biggest business comebacks in history and perhaps relate them to ours and craft our comeback by  emulating theirs. The examples we found covered famous companies that were not exactly on the edge of oblivion like us – but were on a downward trajectory until their leaders … turned them around – Companies like Apple, Marvel, General Motors, Starbucks and Lego. All interesting comeback stories, but they all seemed…  academic and the details were not very relatable to us a small business operating in a chaotic African city…

So after a few gin and tonics and a few more…

[Please forgive the occasional sound of glass clanging on the table – we’re clearly podcast amateurs!]

We thought instead of just waffling…. about other great companies of the past and present… we should perhaps look internally and literally ask ourselves some basic questions to get to a more organic approach to our own comeback… So we asked ourselves questions in turn – like an interview – and like any tale, we started with the origins – Here’s part 1.


Our origin story feels almost romantic when I think back, however Daniel and I got to the point in the conversation that I now in narration mode need to give a bit of a disclaimer – We were recounting the highs and lows, wins and losses of the past – these of course involve people – small customers, big clients and former employees who have not been consulted about their inclusion by name in this recording. The conversation flowed naturally and listening to it back, there are some parts that either imply or outright declare these former partners’ activities were shadowy or legally ambiguous. Some people discussed were subsequently the subject of criminal investigations which may or may not be ongoing – All of this Unbeknownst to  to us at the time …of course. We didn’t reach out to these people, I didn’t really plan the content, it’s been years – and I don’t want to get sued…  so I’ve had to [redact] specific name mentions of individuals or organizations and also my regrettable littering of f-bombs.

Historical highlights from an insider’s perspective

Back in 2016  Johannesburg was undergoing a major changes at the local government level. These had some profound effects on our business model.

We rent privately owned parking space to the public – whether short or long term. This works great in dense urban areas were the local government regulates the street parking… The government was technically the largest owner of parking space for rent with 10000s bays that were managed through a private outsourced company then called “Ace” – Ace charged regulated rates to anyone who parked in the city center. But even though they were technically our biggest competitor, Their sheer presence is what indirectly created the private market for paid parking to begin with. I know motorists hate paying for parking, but without paid organized street parking – from the government, we wouldn’t be to compete by offering a safer and often cheaper option to motorists… Well, as I said around 2016 /2017, Joburg went through major political changes which ended up scrapping the entire paid street parking system. Again, we only realized how important a supportive business environment was in retrospect

Coming up in Part 2

That brings us to the end of part 1 of this special recording of Technorection. I wanted to keep each part around 20 minutes, so we’ve already gone a little over – the actual conversation was a lot longer and we drifted in out of memory lane – often repeating each other’s sentiments – I’ve excluded most of this from part 1 and you’re welcome to skip to the next part now without missing any relevant bits.  

But if you have the time, you’re welcome to keep listening to a few “outtakes” – as they call them – right after the sound bytes from part 2:  Thank you for listening.