Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Should I stay in / return to South Africa?

So I followed the homecoming revolution ad campaign to the website: homecomingrevolution.co.za. It was quite a sad experience.

The message boards are clogged with messages from embittered South Africans who have left or who want to leave. Which contrasts drastically to the many positive things I have heard over the past few weeks. In the last week I have heard from three friends coming back to South Africa. I heard Sven Koenig talking during a break during the cricket about his impending return (cutting short a Middlesex contract by two years). Why are all these people coming back? They talk about the amazing positivity, the national pride that has developed.

Most of those that have left / are leaving, and have posted on the site, talk about crime, AA / BEE, standard of living and standards in general.

Sadly, I think things have been inflamed by polarised views. I think that polarised views inflame many things in South Africa / about South Africa and always have done. Most times when confronted by opinion, I remind myself that the truth almost undoubtedly lies somewhere between my opinion and the other person's.

I chose to stay in SA and continue to do so despite the fact that most of my friends left SA after varsity. I am now 31 and continue to make my life here. Some friends have since returned and further friends (and many family) have left.

I am lucky enough to have worked in London, New York, Paris, Stockholm and Jakarta. I am as qualified as some to have an opinion on the pros and cons of SA versus other countries and less qualified than others.

I may well leave sometime next year, but that decision will depend purely on career motives rather that country ones. And the move is likely to be a 2 year sojourn.

But I digress. I am always left sad when people feel they need to convert the world to their opinion. Whether that opinion be to come back to South Africa or to leave. Which begs the question, should FNB be setting up the site? No doubt they see a business opportunity in servicing returning South Africans, and an opportunity to exercise some of their social responsibility. Anyway, I'm not sure the site is a bad idea - I'm not sure their intention was to say to expat South Africans, "You should be coming home" - it shouldn't be. Sometimes they do and they need to be careful of that - the message boards are clogged with backlash.

Of course living in SA is about a deeply personal choice. In the heat of argument over that choice many make the rationale for their own choice the reasons anybody else would be mad to stay or go. And they tend to get a good few facts hopelessly confused for good measure. It is easy to peddle stats to make your opinion sound factual and correct. South Africa has such volatile numbers, that you could use them to make whatever point you liked.

Many postings talk about crime. Like this one:

Date Posted: 2004-12-25 20:50:24 Not Again
My GF and I arrived home at about 11pm on night to our flat in Rondebosch CT. As we arrived 4 men ran to our car and one of them put a gun against my window and ordered me to open the door. At the same time on of the other hi-jackers ordered my GF to open her door. When both doors were open they ordered me to get out, when my GF tried to get out they told her, "no; you stay!" She still tried to get out and then THEY SHOT HER! I then went crazy and wrestled the gun from the one assailent and told my GF who had fallen out the car to scream. The vermin then ran and I returned fire with the gun. One of them was hit as blood was discovered. The ambulance arrived and took us to Hospital. The next morning the cops arrived at my flat and wanted to charge ME for attempted murder. What kind of fucked up law system is this where the victim has less rights than the perpetrator. Almost 2 years later and not a word has been heard about the case. I must be mad to think thatthis is a country where I want to bring up children. I will not let myself, My GF or any member of my family go through that again.

South African crime is frightening. I don't blame anybody leaving because they feel unsafe to the point of living in fear. My cousin shot and killed an intruder in his bedroom. As they wrestled with the hell afterward I urged them to leave. Who cares if nothing else would ever have happened to them. It was important that in their minds they were safe. And if living overseas gave that to them, then psychologically they were right to go. I hope and prey that nothing ever happens to my mom, girlfriends, etc.

Most of the postings go like this one:

Date Posted: 2004-12-27 20:39:31 daft to come back
Why should the Whites come back just so that can be unemployed because of a new racist practice called affirmative action??

They make me mad because they are so wide of the mark. For reasons why, come back later when I talk through some of the crap people dig up on AA / BEE and how my company has made things work.

But then just before calling it a night, I read this one:

Date Posted: 2004-12-27 23:47:15
Wena uphumaphi? (Where do you come from?) Me well let me tell you my story if you really care. I was born in a small mining town. My parents never earned alot of money, but I can say that I got everything I needed. When it came time to go to high school, I had to travel about 47km each day to school by bus, it was to far for my parents to fetch me after school so I could not do after school sports etc. But I enjoyed it 1994 elections came and I remember being escorted to school by a casper, because the our school was one of the first to open up to black pupiles the AWB wanted to bomb the busses? I mean a school bus full of children. However we had afrikaans speaking people on the bus to and the ANC wanted to bomb the bus. Having a bomb scare at school was a regular thing. Being beaten up in primary school by high school afrikaaners because A I was english and B I stood up for my black friends was also not uncommon. During High School I wanted to study computer science, well the school I went to did not offer it. Instead I had to travell another 30km to a school that did. May parents arranged transport and some nights I would only get home after 9pm. But it was worth it. I got a matric in CS (the first in my school) I went on to do a BSc at TUKS (that I had to pay for myself because my parents did not have money.) I leant Java 1997 (BTW java was invented in 1995 1 year after democracy) It grates me when people I know battle to find jobs, it grates me when white and black hate each other. It grates me that Java Positions are AA when any Java developer should have had equal opertunity. It hurts when I see black schools getting PC's and my school does not. But such is life. I spent over a year in the UK on business, and I travel alot. But I can tell you one thing when that plane lands at JHB I want to cry. Because I love this country I love the people and despite the negative views on this page (for those people you have no clue) I believe that we (South Africans) will be the greatest nation on the planet. I really do. Maybe not while I am alive but maybe for my children. And for the comments on 2 years behind in IT ha ha ha. That is why I get sent to the UK to fix issues? Me a South African that is 2 years behind the rest of the world. Its a great country, believe in it and its people.

I may be white but I am by no means a European. I am an African.

That brought tears to my eyes.

I posted the following:

Date Posted: 2004-12-28 03:57:47

I can't believe some of the rubbish on this site. Then I read your post. So much rubbish is the stuff on this site (about AA and BEE mostly) and so genuine is your post, that I want to interview you for a job. We have made equity numbers a non-issue. We're a major company and a people business - management consulting. We care about people with the right attitude. Academics, career experience are tickets to the game - we only employ top performers. We would never turn down a candidate and tell them "Sorry, its AA" - we just look very hard for top black performers. You seem to have the attitude - if you're interested in being put into our recruitment process and think you could crack it on the academics, career experience side, reply to this post and I'll figure out some way of getting my details to you without this whole damn site spamming me.
Message to all the BEE / AA moaners: if you accept this country has to radically address its past, you can be part of its future.

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