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Is South Africa destined to blow it after all?

South Africa’s plummeting image internationally must surely be a cause of concern today. This year things have significantly worsened with such new crises as the xenophobia outbreak, power cuts and continuing leadership vacuum in the ruling party being added to the usual concerns about out-of-control crime, HIV/Aids denialism and failures to confront the Zimbabwe fiasco. What makes things worse is that, with the downturn in the world economy, the most sustained period of economic growth in this country’s history would seem to be coming to an end.

I now regularly receive emails depicting South Africa as a society in chaos, well on the way to becoming yet another African basket case. Many of these originate with unreconciled whites who take some kind of perverse comfort in what they take as further evidence of black incompetence. However, as the neutral media monitoring organisation Media Tenor has recently shown, negative international perceptions of the country today are evident right across the spectrum of informed opinion.

The Zimbabwe issue has been particularly disastrous from a public relations point of view. The international community is not especially interested what the South African government has to say, for example, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notwithstanding the latter’s pretensions of playing some kind of role in resolving this perennially vexed issue. It is definitely interested, however, in its policy regarding what is happening in its own back yard. Here, South Africa’s record has been one of abject failure, and indeed worse than that. Far from merely failing to put due pressure on the Mugabe regime, this country’s leadership has in fact supported it, diplomatically and for all we know economically as well. Struggle-era loyalties have evidently trumped their ostensible commitment to the values of democracy, freedom and human rights.

The implications of a Zimbabwe-style melt-down in this country are dire, not just for the 50 million or so people who live here, but for the entire Southern African region. There’s no doubt about it – if we go down, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland will surely follow. Economically, they are inextricably linked with the fortunes of the South African regional giant. And in our case, unlike those of the countless foreign nationals who have made their way to this country, there’ll be nowhere to run to. It’s a scary prospect, especially when you’ve got young children.

South Africa is still a young nation finding its feet, and the jury remains out regarding its long-term prospects. Yes, we defied the pessimists to broker a lasting political settlement ten years ago, but do we really deserve credit for that? If someone messes up his own house, there doesn’t seem to be much sense in complimenting him when he finally gets it together to clean it up. Anyway, all that is ancient history. South Africans face a whole new set of challenges, and on the evidence of the first half of this year, we seem to be in danger of blowing it.

For a few years, roughly from 2003-2007, emigration levels from the Jewish community dropped dramatically, allowing its numbers to at least remain static for the first time in a quarter of a century. There was even the encouraging evidence of former émigrés wanting to return, and some actually doing so. This nascent optimism, so vital if the self-fulfilling threat of Afro-pessimism is to be overcome, has taken a severe body blow this year. From my perspective in Jewish communal affairs, although no hard data is yet available, there is likely to be a significant upsurge in people leaving when the final numbers are tallied. What Jews are doing will obviously be reflective of developments in the wider society. Over a fifth of qualified, monied whites, as well as many others of other races, have left in the past decade.

I remember a University friend who was a member of a student band. Hardly anyone ever came to their gigs, but he insisted it wasn’t because of their music. Rather, people would arrive, see that there was hardly anyone there and go away. A few minutes later, the same thing would happen. If people had only stayed put for a little while, he lamented, a good crowd would have built up and created its own positive dynamic.

The truth of the matter was that their music was pretty terrible, but he had a good point all the same. Similarly, if only a few gifted South Africans could stick it out and actually prove their worth on home soil, maybe other South Africans would start believing in themselves and begin competing on equal terms with the successful nations of the world. Just because we look good compared with our immediate neighbours doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with second best. What is worse, unless leaders can be found to effectively address the decline, even second best will end up being all but unattainable.


  • David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.


  1. anton kleinschmidt anton kleinschmidt 29 July 2008

    During the 20 year period leading up to 1994 I lived with a constant nagging fear about the future. I decided to stay because I always felt that there were leaders on all sides who would lead South Africa down the path to eventual reconciliation.

    Today I am no longer so confident because I do not see any leaders worthy of the name.

  2. Reinhard Reinhard 29 July 2008

    By all means, South Africa is not going down the drain, despite the many problems the country is facing.

    Any state-of-the-nation analyses done by opinion polling institutes or newspapers are confounded by the fact that the economy is weakening all over the world. So, no wonder the mood in South Africa regarding the future of the country is turning a bit sour at the moment.

    Wait for a recovery of the global economy and run an opinion poll afterwards to see how things are in this country…

  3. Cool Down Cool Down 29 July 2008

    There always has been a saying in the rural
    Afrikaner communities ,’if the jews are packing
    up you know it is time to go’.And believe
    it or not economic decline for small rural communities was just around the corner as soon as the jews started leaving town.Urban legend,you decide.

  4. Vapour Vapour 29 July 2008

    Oh I don’t know about that. In the absence of statistics from Investec even government officials have resorted to quoting immigration vs. emigration stats as announced by that world leader in statistical analysis company, Stuttaford Van Lines, who have placed on record that for every South African they are moving out of SA, one and a half are returning. Which of course, depending on the extra half that is returning, might mean that we are brain drain negative or brain drain positive.

  5. Alisdair Budd Alisdair Budd 30 July 2008

    YOu dont need leaders, and that thought is probably wha is wrong with SA.

    You need to start doing something yourselves and being supported to have an effect.

    Like the prostitutes who went back to complain to the police station they were raped in, and who were ignored.

    You have to start helping all the little people who are tryig to get something done instead of waiting for some Mystical Leader who will come along and wave a magic wand and then retire.

    Unless you think there is a second Mandela waiting in the wings and think he managed to acheive it all by psychic project from Robbin Island all on his tod.

  6. Po Po 30 July 2008

    While all things point to a bad time in SA, we surprised the world once by pulling off a civil war-free democracy. Maybe we can achieve the impossible again and pull through this time. I hope so.

  7. Madoda Madoda 30 July 2008

    These doomsday scenarios that minority groups always paint prior to the leadership changes in South Africa are nothing new and is an exercise in irrational hallucinations. I recall publications entitled “After Mandela goes” before Mbeki became president. Prior 1994, Mandela was a ‘terrorist’in the eighties when I was a teenager. As a member of the majority group in this country, I feel insulted when people who want to leave the country, call it a brain drain. This implies that they are the only ones with the brains in the country. The people who were born here and would die here don’t have brains. They also speak of our country going down the drain when for the majority the country is emerging from the sewer of oppression, isolation and economic stagnation. They acknowledge that SA has seen the most sustained economic Growth over the recent past but they still forecast that we are going down the drain. I am not a futurist or a prophet. I only understand that there will always be challenges. They might be crime, HIV, Zimbabwe etc today, however for there will always be opportunities. To torture oneself with irrational and gory future hallucinations of brains being drained and countries going down the drain is sewerage thinking.

  8. Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder 30 July 2008

    Rather a sobering point of view, perhaps its just not possible for SA to escape the weight of its turbulent and inhumane history of the past few hundread years. Of course the key weakness of your positioning and those of us who are largely in agreement with you. We continue to see & filter all events & pronouncements through a particular social and cultural lens. Whether we lean ‘pale’ right, left or centre.
    But yes, its a very violent society in essence and it will not take too many shocks to ease us into an abyss Zim-like. Though we are more likely to bump along a ‘low road’ process for many years before the cart tips over. But the milestones we cover as the years tick by are not terribly promising, so yes, emigration will continue. Afro pessimism pervades in the ‘paler’ communities – which in most cases is tinged with, racism, guilt,powerlessness and airs of superiority.

  9. Paul Paul 30 July 2008

    Its tough to be white and you know what you probably wont outgrow your socialisation that Black will lead to trouble one day or the other. The Eskom crisis has its origins in apartheid planning, any one who doesn’t know that is not worth trying to convince, this government made the mistake of prioritising other things, agin because of apartheid. Why does South Africa get condemned about Zimbabwe and not about its views on Israel/Palestine. That is actually your answer, Zimbabwe struck a fiercely painful blow to white hegemony internationally, what Mugabe did (and I hold no brief for the man)has never been done in the colonies before. It might set a precedent in all the former colonies and that includes Australia, Canada, USA and New Zealand! But the point of the matter is that Britain is still culpable in Zimbabwe and broke its own accords and now wants the world to believe that the government of Zimbabwe has no case. No matter, the actual point of this mail is to say the world status in which the Anglo-Saxon in particular and white people in general control the views of the world and the way right and wrong is interpreted will come to an end as surely as day will turn to night. South Africa tries very hard to straddle the two worlds, the mainly Black formerly disposessed, internationally voiceless peoples and the mainly white Anglo-Saxon dominated world. In doing so it pleases one or the other at different times and is so praised but when it comes to the crunch it will always be seen to be a Black government and will be squeezed and condemned for that and if we go too far as South Africa to really push for the interests of this Black naation, in the UN, in the WTO, in what will one day be a clash between China and the West we will be ostracised and ‘made’ poor as Zimbabwe is, for make no mistake if they want to make you poor, these guys who run the world will!

  10. SJ SJ 30 July 2008

    Yes David, an accurate analysis of the current picture.
    It is becoming more apparent at how SA citizens are almost begged to “stay and make a difference.” Is this just substantiation of the fact that we cannot simply rely on the current government to make a difference. The word “leadership” comes to mind so many times.
    Emigration is simply an indication that people have given up hope. People don’t wake up one morning and say “I am going to emigrate.” They ponder over it for a long time, give things a chance, and when they realize reality, they go.
    One of man’s greatest duties in life is to provide safety and security for his family, and if he is not guarenteed that from his country’s government, he will have to take the steps of moving to a country where safety and security actually exist.

  11. Perry Curling-Hope Perry Curling-Hope 30 July 2008

    If one enjoys living in a new African style old hard line Marxist/Leninist one party totalitarian soviet then the future is pretty bright, because that’s where we are inexorably headed.
    I suppose one’s future in this country depends upon ones’ party connections, as they seem hell bent on owning everything and ‘regulating’ everything and everyone, including the judiciary.

    We now face the prospect of living in an eternal ‘revolution’.
    Who wants to live under a revolution all the time anyway?
    Those things are neither civic nor pleasant, and are no respecters of individual civil liberties

    Woe is he who tries to live outside the favor of the party, for such is to risk the branding of ‘counter revolutionary’

    The old adage “those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it” applies here. Perhaps personal riding on the crest of a wave of power and privilege as the political elite is all that’s important to our ‘leaders’.

    By the time the wave breaks these fellows will be well away!

  12. Geri Geri 30 July 2008

    Sober point of view? More like a drunkard mentality of “someone help me back on to my barstool or I’M LEAVING!”
    Please feel free to stay on the floor and complain bitterly, while the rest of us help ourselves, our country… and inevitably, you!

  13. Chris Marais Chris Marais 30 July 2008

    Rich white South Africans will always leave a country once their fancy lifestyles are threatened and they have to live a single-ply life for a while. They prefer the regulated yawn of bland, blonde suburbia where very little happens to a bit of social chaos. What did we think, post 1994? When you lance a big boil, bad stuff has to come out for quite a while before the healing can begin. I’ve seen the world out there – it ain’t all toffee and hot pies, good coffee and blue skies. South Africans are great people – right across the demographic and racial lines. As long as we learn a little compassion, grow up a little tougher and stand up for our rights we’ll be OK. One day we’ll be far beyond the race thing. One day we’ll all be so intolerant of poverty that few South Africans will grow up brutalised. One day a nurse, a police officer and a public official will be well rewarded and encouraged to take the job seriously. Right now it’s kids in a candy store – early days. Nothing you can throw at me now can ever be worse than the humourless days of “Snorre en Vasbyt en Die Rooi Gevaar” – that time was the closest I ever came to buggering off. Hang in there, guys. Learn how your fellow South African lives across the highway in Alex. Score an invite to a shebeen. You will discover that White Suburban SA is probably the least interesting sector in this country. Yeah. That’s right. We’re actually quite boring, with not much new stuff to say to each other and the world. Alternatively, come south to the Great Karoo. Another kind of South Africa awaits you. It’s not always pretty, but it’s a turn-on of note. And one last thing: if you’re going to take the hard decision to emigrate, please don’t bad-mouth us all once you’re safe and sound across the ocean. We respect your decision to live elsewhere – respect ours to stay put…

  14. Larry Larry 30 July 2008

    You fail to address South African representation in the U.N, which in itself is a disgrace. The protection of Mugabe, Bashier, the Myanmar military Junta, etc, sent a message that South Africa is hardline Communist. The disbanding of the Scorpions will put the usual culprits above the Law, then we will be controlled by Selebi’s, Mc Brides and other running Dogs of the ANC.

  15. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 30 July 2008


    It is called the “brain drain” not because only people with brains want to go, but because only people with brains are accepted by the developed countries.Those who don’t qualify try crossing the Med in leaky boats instead.

    The whole world has had an economic boom – SA has done a third as well as China, but then China does not have BEE, and half their new industies are developed with money from foreign investors.

    SA in now in what Allistair Sparks calls a “bad neighbourhood”. Like no-one wants to buy a house in a ‘bad neighbourhood’, no investor wants to invest in a “bad neighbourhood” country.So our balance of payments is getting worse every day.

    How is Britain culpable?

  16. Steve van Niekerk Steve van Niekerk 30 July 2008

    In my opinion we are turning our racial diversities into our weakness instead of our strength.The fact that we are a diverse country is a reality that cannot and will not disappear.
    The white NP government tried to address these diversities through the policies of apartheid – with disastrous consequences.The new ANC led government is trying to address them using affirmative action and transformation with equally disastrous consequences.
    So maybe we should scrap all racially based laws
    and policies ,fire all the politicians and allow the people themselves to find the solutions.What can we lose – we certainly can not fare worse than the politicians.

  17. Alan in Botswana Alan in Botswana 30 July 2008

    “Just because we look good compared with our immediate neighbours doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with second best. ”
    Some of your immediate neighbours would take issue with this comment. In Botswana we regard ourselves as superior to RSA in many ways. Our police are unarmed, as are most criminals and we have a comparatively low crime rate. We have a powerful Directorate of Economic Corruption and Crime which is tackling high profile corruption cases. We have the most advanced, free HIV/AIDS treatment programs in the world. We have never had a political prisoner in our goals. We have leaders with vision and humility. We are not abandoning our country because of a downturn in the economy. We love our country and respect one another. We are appalled at what we see coming out of South Africa and guard against ever becoming such a sad lost nation.

  18. Sipho Sipho 30 July 2008

    I am of the opinion that people should be free to seek a better life anywhere in the world.There is no plausible reason why people should stay in South Africa if doing so jeorpadises their personal interests. If there were prospects for me elsewhere I would have long gone. Unfortunately I don’t have the portable skills that would earn me a work permit, so I have to make best with what I have. I suppose everyone is affected by crime including the criminals and their families.
    Whatever reasons people give for leaving are immaterial.There are more than 100 countries in the world, and it’s no accident that people find themselves in South Africa. This country once promised a great lifestyle, underwritten by apartheid off course. The demise of apartheid brought its own dynamics to the promise.Things are not as easy as they used to be in the past. Indeed there are pockets on incompetency within the public service, but this is not new in South Africa, it therefore cannot shock people into living. Personally I hold no grudges for people who leave, infact I appreciate their pioneering spirit.

  19. Bongs Bongs 30 July 2008

    I’m not surprised that those who left our country have a lot of negative things to say, but I know that this country is no different to many so called Promised Land. It is really amazing when people hail the likes of the US, New Zealand and other of being the safest countries on earth, while they forget that RSA does not go around the world killing innocent people in the name of democracy. You just need to look at the do hour rounds , why are these so called very good countries publicly believe that the poor must stay poor , but yet our lovely white South African run to the same countries and hail haven.

    The Bush of this world does not concern them, simple because the whites are protected, but come the malema’s of this world and pronounce that the will defect this democracy even if they have to kill. Then we hear we are packing up and going , but when the worst happen and the so called haven go out and actually kills , we run to them and sing praises.

    Something is really wrong here or it’s just me!!

    Yes we do have challenges, but I’m not, yes I’m not leaving this wonderful country.

  20. Oldfox Oldfox 30 July 2008


    The term “brain drain” which is used around the world, negatively affects many developing countries, and practically all African countries. For example, by 1985, 21 000 university trained medical doctors from Nigeria had emigrated to the USA. The term is used for skilled workers (e.g. artisans, crane drivers) and professional people such as teachers, nurses, engineers, accountants. The brain drain is more problematical when not just recently qualified people emigrate, but highly experienced people with 10 – 20 years working experience.
    South Africa is losing more experienced skilled/professional people than we a training or receiving through emigration.
    In other words SA suffers a NET LOSS of experienced skilled/professional people.

    SA trains very few people in the first place, for example, around 1500 artisans a year last year, compared to 30 000 artisans a year in the early 1970s.
    Fewer engineers graduate today, than did in the mid to late 1970s. Turkey has 50% a higher population than SA, but graduates 3000% more engineers than SA.
    An economy cannot grow significantly when there are too few skilled and professional people.

    The significant brain drain SA has been experiencing over the past decade or so certainly is one of the most serious problems the country faces.

  21. Oldfox Oldfox 30 July 2008

    Two typos in above: the sentence should read “..than we are training or receiving through immigration.”


    Is The ANC bothered about the white emigration? I doubt it.

    “South Africa” will survive. It has valuable raw materials and these will continue to produce revenue.

    How many South Africans will survive, however, is more debatable. The vast majority are not in a position to leave and as a result they will have to continue to take their chances amidst the economic chaos and random violence.

  23. anton kleinschmidt anton kleinschmidt 30 July 2008

    It would be wonderful if we could say the same sort of things about South Africa that Alan says about Botswana

  24. Madoda Madoda 30 July 2008

    Old Fox

    Just because the word brain drain is used elsewhere to describe the emigration of skilled workers to better opportunities does not remove the offensive connotations that I find offensive as a member of the skilled majority in SA.

    I believe that when people leave to work in other countries it may also have an upside for the home country as shown by the skilled Zimbabweans working in SA and the UK. They constantly send their savings to their home countries (Export). Furthermore, some of the skilled emigrants come back to plough back in their home countries. The same thing happens in the case of people emigrating from Mexico to America. However, I have never heard the discussions around “skilled emigrations” being referred in offensive manner as “brain drain” except as you stereotypically provide examples of African countries only. I am skilled person -as well as a vast number of the growing black middle class. If few equally skilled colleagues of mine choose to emigrate, I don’t feel that my brain is drained. In soccer, when Beckham chooses to play in Spain or USA, no one in England has ever called it a “leg drain”.

    My point is why use offensive terms to those that are skilled who choose to stay when a minority of skilled people choose to leave SA. The skills shortage is a global phenomenon even in developed countries. In the UK they cannot produce enough nurses for their current demand. Basic movement of skills can be explained by economic models of demand and supply. Skills will always go where demand and price is highest. Let us not frame the problem by defining it in offensive terms.

  25. Joe Joe 30 July 2008

    As long as we continue to support the likes of the Zimbabwe and Sudanese regimes our international image will continue to plummet.
    The limited UN sanctions against the Zimbabwe are vetoed by Russia and China. The president of Sudan is indicted for genocide and who stands up and shouts that he must be left alone to continue his murderous ways; Russia, China, South Africa and Libya. Ask yourself the question; what do these countries have to gain by these acts?
    The company we keep along with who and what we defend will influence our standing in the international community

  26. Etienne Etienne 30 July 2008

    Bongs,i agree to a certain point.In fact i wrote a very similar letter to what you wrote to a Afrikaans newspaper.But,white people with whom i mix don’t like Bush.We also don’t like the inequality that Europeans force upon African countries.What really makes us so negative is the fact that there seem to be no hope for things to become better soon in this country.There is millions out there voting for a government out of sentimental reasons.Those same millions you promise anything to,to get the vote.Those same people that you sweep up with words like;”Kill,kill!”And the long and the short of it is logical debate,informed decisions etc means nothing!The masses vote for the party that plays the hippest music.You wouldn’t run a company like that!Even a business with a responsible ethical rudder won’t make their decisions like that.That’s why we seem a bit pessimistic!Will i leave the country?No.


    We are most definitly on the brink of calamity in the world and in our national economy. However, as history has shown, we are just on the brick of some sort of revolution (maybe even evolution, just give it a couple of billion years!). Wether good or bad is debatable, but non the less that is the case. Now if you consider the concept of revolutions, it is usually caused when some group or nation is under some form of pressure and that same group or nation led by some form of leader/s bring about the revolution. The point I am trying to make though, is that the “leader/s” are normal men or women that just had enough and decided to do things their way (whether good or bad is ultimately dependend on them). So who will be the next leader? The people of SA that just had enough!

    In actual fact, every South African has the opportunity to make a difference! Whether small or big or enormous, a difference can still be made! All it takes is the will to do something positive.

    I myself will never be able to leave this country as I am born here, Africa is part of me and so it will be until my bones turns to dust! So for the sake of my motherland, my home and my life, I will do as much as possible to make SA and ultimately Africa a beter place. However, what are u doing?

  28. Rory Short Rory Short 30 July 2008

    Racism has been at the root of our problems for centuries unfortunately it continues under our apparently non-racist ANC government and as is to be expected it continues to damage the country and its people.

  29. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 31 July 2008

    The brain drain is not only white – in fact MORE blacks are leaving now than whites! Not surprising considering whites are only 8% of the population.

  30. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 31 July 2008

    Even more fascinating is how all the African dictators have their children in the West. Why? The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zim has his children in Australia, and Lybia is now throwing its toys out of the cot at Switzerland for daring to stop Gadaffi’s son and his wife abusing their sevant/slaves!

  31. Ali Ali 31 July 2008

    @ Chris

    I quite like the spirit of your reply.

    However, I prefer the quiet suburban lifestyle. Most people with two or three kids do. Hey, even some black people seem to like that kind of security. I’ve had my fair share of shebeen visits and I’ve reveled in the chaos on occasion, but in the end I prefer to go back to my three bedroom, one bathroom, single ply lifestyle from where I can watch the Boks and visit the Kalahari. That is just who I am.

    I fail to see why the fact that people don’t have street parties and shebeens and broken sewerages and stokvel’s should have anything to do with how much they have to say to the world and each other and how interesting they are. It is a gross generalisation.

    I’m not getting the freak out of this country since I’m happy with one-ply, but I think it is unfair and very idealistic to pooh-pooh people’s concerns about the country. There are very scary and real problems in education and training and maybe we won’t have nurses one day to encourage since they will all be changing bed-pans somewhere else.

    But, yea, I also don’t want to go back to Snor country. Problem is, the ruling party is starting to resemble the previous ruling party more and more. I smell a rat.

  32. PM PM 31 July 2008

    Agree Ali, the ANC are just chocolate coated Nats.

  33. Oldfox Oldfox 31 July 2008


    The term “brain drain” was probably not invented in Africa, as university graduates probably emigrated from other developing countries (outside Africa)first. It is used in Ireland, India and Turkey to name just a few countries countries.

    The problem with many developing countries, is that the emmigration of skilled/professional/degreed people is high, relative to those currently being trained, and/or working in the country.
    It has often been stated that there are more Malawian medical doctors in the UK city of Birmingham, than all the Malawian doctors based in Malawi.

    I think its pointless debating whether the term “brain drain” is or is not offensive. The term is used universally and also by SA govt officials, some of whom are trying to stem or reverse the brain drain.

  34. Hand in Glove Hand in Glove 1 August 2008

    David Saks confirms a trend I’ve noticed on recent travels: “negative international perceptions of the country today are evident right across the spectrum of informed opinion.”
    I spent Christmas and New Year in Sweden. Only two reports on SA made the TV news, one on Zuma and one on Selebi, both extremely negative. But it was the footage that made the worst impact, especially Selebi, perfectly turned out at some official parade. Leather gloves, epaulets and decorations, he came across like a junk heap despot, all style and panache but behind it, a zillion dirty secrets? I tried desperately to defend this radiant metonymy to my Swedish hosts. “It’s not like that at all,” I might have said, probably unconvincingly, there are many wonderful things happening in the country. I don’t recall. Whatever, it was a shocking jolt of horribly mixed feelings. Perhaps this Stasi image of our Police Commissioner standing in front of his men is close to the truth? Worse, perhaps I’ve been shielded from seeing things as they really are? Actually, some part of me saw a Nat politician! (Anyone remember them?).
    This is really sad when I think about how I used to trumpet the change of heart in our country in the early 1990s. What do I say now to the folk abroad to whom I confessed my heartfelt hope (and my darkest fears)? Because what happened in 1994 was a miracle…and I am not about to leave South Africa. Bollocks, good luck & bon voyage to all of you who are.
    However, I think Alan from Botswana is right on the money. I can see how that country sees us. I’ve traveled the length and breadth of the sub-continent and had the pleasure of living in Lagos, Nigeria (and not Victoria Island or Lekki or any other insular, bourgeois Lagos suburb, mind you).
    It was a revelation. I felt nothing but compassion, support and generosity from ordinary people, and it’s the same elsewhere in Africa. I am white and male and middle class so I had to slap myself in disbelief. How could this be? South Africa is the success story of our age, where black and white have made up? Not so? On my return to South Africa, I was dumped ‘back to reality’ by the almost unbelievable routine disparagement of Nigerians and other Africans, across the board.
    Here for me is the crux of our troubles.
    We have a deeply negative national complex: we are colonialists, all of us, and we have not shaken the yolk. This mindset permeates our thinking. It manifests in our institutions, and in the fibre of our personal and social relations, and in our domestic political behaviour.
    South Africans need to catch a wake up.
    We need to acknowledge that we are really quite ugly people – we pretend we are not but we are. We are petty, self-righteous, entitled, reckless, mean, naive, unsympathetic, boorish, childish, violent, intransigent, xenophobic… the list is endless. We live in constant fear. Of what? Ourselves? I believe so. We are ruled by fear. Like all colonialists we fear that one day we will lose what we have because deep down we know we acquired it through fear and brutality. So naturally it is not really ours. We doubt. We, black and white, see ourselves in the colonial paradigm, as visitors or as displaced, because we have chosen at every turn to focus on what we have been denied. We very seldom look forward. So we surround ourselves with junk fear-based thoughts that breed inertia and apathy. Even our lampposts tell us that our world is just one cesspit of terror, hatred and devastation about which there is nothing anybody can do.
    Someone recently wrote that we have seen the ‘high schoolization’ of the world in these times. With international bullies like the US running amok, sensitive and compassionate countries run for cover and unyielding ones are brutalised into catatonic submission. Perhaps, since 1994, we have seen the ‘kindergartenisation’ of South Africa. Like pre-lingual idiots we are running riot, unable to explain how we feel or able to control our urges, we grab anything in the name of survival. What a miserable uncreative place to be. It seems we have lost our moral purpose, our sense of appropriate and inappropriate action. It feels like we are all walking around with the shocks, like a bombed out panzer-division at El Alamein or survivors from a cataclysmic bus accident. It’s like there was a kind of moral compass and somehow it’s been lost in the post-traumatic disorder.
    Well, guess what people? I’m staying put because I know there is work to be done.
    The sooner we start, the sooner we will radiate well-being and the sooner international perception will change.

  35. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 2 August 2008

    Hand in Glove

    In a nutshell – South African blacks are anti-white racists, and the rest of Africa is not. Blame Mbeki. He was even warned in the Peer Review Report, that got buried for months and months, that he was marginalising his whites and that Xenophobia was also growing.

    When has Mbeki EVER listened to ANYONE?



    If all the whites left tomorrow, there would be few ANC tears. Govt attitude is “you can stay, but please shut the “f” up.”

    I suppose it is one of apartheid’s legacies.

    I agree that South Africa’s international “Western” reputation must be plunging on a daily basis. But that excludes views from the rest of Africa, Russia, China and the Muslim world.

    Perhaps the “non Western” world will help SA to prosper?

  37. Richard P Richard P 6 August 2008


    “Perhaps the “non Western” world will help SA to prosper?”

    You get all warm and fuzzy about the prospect of Russia and China holding out the hand of friendship and support?

    Dream on.

    I have visited Russia four times and the Russians are as racist as you get. I understand that the Chinese are not overly fond of Africans either. Think Eugene Terre’blanche and multiply.

    And all either country will do is rape SA given half the chance.

    I would focus on the much-maligned West. We may not be perfect over here (I am a SAn living permanently in the UK) but we are one helluva lot better than the alternative.

  38. Sipho Sipho 7 August 2008

    Not all black people are having a time of their lives under the majority rule of the anc. But then again our white parties did not cover themselves in glory in the past. Even now, their utterances reveals that they are yearning for the good old days.

  39. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 8 August 2008


    Actually the browns long even more for the good old days. They have been marginalised twice.

    One of my friends was canvassing for the DA in a “brown” area. The lady of the house asked her:

    “Are you going to bring back apartheid?”

    To which she replied that bringing back apartheid was not on the DA agenda, and got the door slammed in her face after this pronouncement

    “Well if you are not going to bring back apartheid I won’t vote for you. Under apartheid the schools and the hospitals worked!”

    True story – believe it or not!

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