Losing South Africans to alleged international paradises of peace and tranquility is tantamount to the painful, but unavoidable, removal of a cancer from the human body. We are left weakened, saddened and worse-off, but with a remaining chance to live a full and happy life.

The current available emigration statistics are reportedly unreliable and sound a lot lower than the anecdotes would imply. In 2001, for example, there were apparently 80 000 South Africans in Australia. These days I feel like I’m hearing about more than that number leaving each week. As I drive through my cosy northern Jo’burg suburb I am assaulted by endless “For Sale” signs that I can only imagine have nothing to do with cashing in on the current real estate market.

So, let’s take it as read that a lot of people are leaving and not quibble about what “a lot” actually means. Too many. And, naturally, a lot of those leaving are white and desirable in the economic sense of the word. I’ve recently noticed articles appearing in the media that mourn the departure of this or that senior executive to a presumably attractive position in Australia or England.

Let me say quite clearly: it’s bad news that these people are leaving. Bleeding skills and losing people who are generating money for the economy is a bad, bad thing. Apart from anything else, these are people who have been educated in South Africa, to some or other extent subsidised by taxpayers money, and when they leave they take it all with them.

That said, expecting these people to stay is also misguided. The reality is that the cancer growing in this country is a cancer of fearful, disillusioned, pessimistic, angry and embittered people who can no longer contribute to the future well-being of South Africa. And like any cancer, they need to be removed. It’s the best thing for the rest of us. And (cancer analogy aside) it’s the best thing for them too.

There are upsides to people leaving: opportunities open up for others who may not have gotten those opportunities otherwise. And the country as a whole is forced to streamline and innovate in order to keep growing. The obvious converse is also true: less competition may mean slipping standards. The wrong, unqualified people may find it easy to glide into senior jobs vacated by those who have left for elsewhere.

I think we can see examples of both scenarios. And in this respect we are in the same boat as many other developing countries, competing in a global market for skills against countries with stronger currencies and better stuff. Yes, we have political concerns and crime problems, but we are not unique in that. And as recent world economic developments have shown, everyone (and I mean everyone) has big problems on their plate.

What’s important for us is to cut or zap or otherwise kill the cancer as quickly as we can so that we can start the process of healing what’s left. It’s going to hurt. And it’s going to screw us up. But unless we can get the most miserable people out of here where they can hopefully be less miserable, and where we can find a more positive spirit for the remainder of people, we are going to keep poisoning one another.

It may sound harsh and it may sound unkind, but it’s happening anyway. I think we need to think smarter about it and try and see a light at the end of the tunnel to Sydney.


  • Jarred Cinman is software director at Cambrient, South Africa's leading developer of web applications. He co-founded Johannesburg's first professional web development company and was one of the founders of VWV Interactive, for many years the premier creative web business in the country, winning numerous Loeries and various international awards. In 2001, Jarred co-founded Cambrient, which has, in its six-year history, built the leading local content management system and serviced an impressive list of corporate customers. Cambrient Contentsuite is also the engine behind Moneyweb.


Jarred Cinman

Jarred Cinman is software director at Cambrient, South Africa's leading developer of web applications. He co-founded Johannesburg's first professional web development company and was one of the founders...

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