I’m Emigrating

I used to roll my eyes whenever I heard the somewhat infamous line: “I’m emigrating”. I thought people who said that were most likely racists, blaming all of South Africa’s ills on our current democracy and the fact that more and more black people were moving into higher ranks of leadership. Albeit, with the exception of a few who were moving abroad for other reasons. The most popular reason, when asked “why are you leaving SA?” was: “the crime rate is too high”. Indeed crime is high in South Africa, however I always thought they were trying to escape to an illusive Utopia and would be disappointed to find that crime exists everywhere in the world. I believed people who fled to Australia, the UK and everywhere else were cop outs, until I actually had the opportunity to live in another country. I’ve always had a keen interest in traveling and exploring different cultures, so I jumped at the opportunity to live and work in South Korea for one year- as a new experience, as opposed to an opportunity to flea. However, when I arrived in South Korea I was completely taken aback by the drastic contrast between my temporary home and the home where my heart resides. I can walk around freely in any neighborhood in my city at 2am alone and actually feel safe. I can leave my bag on the table at a restaurant or bar and still find it there when I return an hour later. The strangers I have met have genuinely assisted me in finding my way; offered me food that I can eat without the fear of it being laced and I do not have to clutch my handbag and hide my cell phone when taking public transport. Certainly this is not Utopia and I have heard of a few incidents, such as domestic violence and various other assaults. However, I have come to appreciate the quality of life and drastic lift in peace of mind. I still glance over my shoulder once in a while and ensure my doors are locked before I sleep, but this experience has highlighted just how bad and unfair the quality of life is in Mzansi. We’ve come to accept that we will all experience some level of crime at some point and we all know someone who’s experienced a tragic or near death attack in SA. We learn to be constantly alert and almost always consciously prepare for an attack- while you’re driving; while you’re walking; while you’re out with friends; while you’re at home sleeping. One can argue that South Africa is a developing country with high poverty and unemployment rates and hence one would expect a high crime rate as a result. However, when compared to other developing countries – South Africa’s crime rate far exceeds that of several African countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania, particularly in cases of rape, murder and violent crime. What is the solution? Some say that security guards, traffic officers, police officers and domestic workers should get paid more in order to reduce the temptation of corruption as well as insider crime. But how much is enough? Even if police officers salaries were tripled, they could still make more money through corruption. I believe we need to learn from other countries and systems that have worked elsewhere, modify these solutions to our local context in order to achieve significant improvement. No, I am not emigrating any time soon. No, I have not given up on South Africa or Africa at large. Yes, I will continue to travel and explore. Yes, I believe we can reduce crime, corruption and poverty. Yes, I choose to be part of the solution. Yes, South Africa still has so much to be proud of, it’s a beautiful country and has come a long way- however, we need to work to ensure we improve the safety and quality of life of all who live in it.
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Feint & Margin

Feint & Margin is a weekly, online, Pan-African publication featuring writings and thoughts from Ordinary Africans who have Extraordinary minds. We represent the True Voice of the African Citizen.

4 thoughts on “I’m Emigrating

  • August 4, 2010 at 4:18 am

    This is such a well expressed piece. It actually moved me inside. I totally agree with your findings about how low a quality of life we live in South Africa as a result of the crime and corruption. I have always thought that its a bad mental state that some people are in. That someone will stop at nothing to ensure that they better themselves at the expence of another who might have more. Jealousy of a strong nature comes to mind and its just so sad… how do you fix that? People need to feel a sence of ownership of their country and want to preserve its goodness.

    • August 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks Mache. Indeed, it is a deep seated issue and a sense of ownership is certainly a step in the right direction.

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    August 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    “I believe we need to learn from other countries and systems that have worked elsewhere, modify these solutions to our local context in order to achieve significant improvement.”

    Thandi – I’d be interested to hear more about what those systems and solutions entail? Can you point me to some material I can read up on?

    • August 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Hi Ibhunu

      Thanks for your interest. I’m certainly happy to share some examples/ thoughts and possible references with you. These are merely examples and systems off the top of my head.

      There is a video, entitled “The Story of Mauritius” (if my memory serves me correctly) that highlights key contributors to Mauritius’ success- drastic improvement in literacy rate, employment rate and so forth. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find it on the net. However, I believe “The Mauritian Success Story and it’s Lessons” by Arvind Subramanian is a useful source.

      You can also read up on “An African Success story: Botswana”, by Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson

      While writing this article the following countries came to mind- Singapore, South Korea (South Korea had the same GDP as Ghana 50 years ago and now they are a first world country, despite having no natural resources), Rwanda (some of the methods Paul Kagame used which doubled Rwanda’s GDP)

      The examples above may help us strengthen our economy, improve healthcare, public relations, employment levels, quality of life etc. which would indirectly reduce crime. However, with particular and direct reference to crime and the psychology of it, one would need to do specific research into various programmes that have worked well internationally. It does not need to be a country per se, but perhaps a system utilised in various Rehabilitation centres. It could be a system that has worked well in a small community. We all need to be on the look out for these success stories and apply them in our sphere of influence. Be it in our homes, our schools, our offices, our neighbourhoods etc.

      These systems/ lessons could even come from a colony of ants…the bottom up approach. You could listen to a brilliant session on this concept on http://www.radiolab.org entitled “Emergence”


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