Emigrants deserve a better life

PREMIUM


One of my nephews left SA at the weekend.
He took his wife and small children, and emigrated.
He is not the first child of a sibling who has left SA, and whom I encouraged to go out into the world and leave behind the country of their birth.
My reasons for supporting them are simple.
Unless your last name is Mpofu-Walsh and your father is a multi-millionaire politician, a mixed-race SA child bears post-apartheid’s re-imagination of the mark of the beast.
You are condemned to being a second class citizen.
The democratic government, once the elite realised the pecuniary value of a racial sliding scale, has retained the legal fount and matrix of apartheid.
This has been enshrined in the constitution.
And nobody in their right mind wants to discuss or consider this in all seriousness, and any suggestion that it is iniquitous is met with derision or accusations of racism.
The reduction of mixed race or “non-Africans” to second class status may be the least of the problems.
Wherever in the world they may go, as mixed-race – or as “brown” – people they may face discrimination.
What affects all children of hard-working or unemployed parents is the state of healthcare, education and community safety, the scourges of unemployment and poverty, and general political economic uncertainty.
The facts are that the quality of SA’s healthcare provision for the poor has declined and the better-off have to pay more for private health care.
That is not where the problems end.
Given the increased radicalism of political parties – notably within the ruling party who feel the heat from the EFF – there is an apparent drive towards autarchy, more rapid xenophobia and a dreadful, inconceivably bad idea of “decoupling” SA (and the continent) from the global political economy.
Taken altogether, and given the importance of the exchange of scientific and technological advances in medicine, and soft glowing romance around “decolonising science”, the future of medicine in SA seems bleak.
The public education system is probably beyond rescue – for at least another generation.
Of course, when it does stabilise, the bar for achievement and success would have been set so low that a single-point increase in pass rates may be celebrated as progress.
Imagine an economy recording, say, 10% growth for a generation.
Then it collapses.
It toddles along at 2% for a generation and then there is an uptick to 3%.
That is a whopping 50% increase.
It is at that point when politicians and public policymakers will pop the champagne.
There is no crime and nothing unpatriotic about saying that SA is a very violent country.
Unless we are expected to be peacetime martyrs (or Panglossian), there is really little reason to continue living in SA – and those who can, can be forgiven for wanting to leave.
Consider this random comparison of civilian deaths in war-torn Iraq and SA in 2016.
In the 21 months up to March 2016, there were 18,673 murders in SA.
That year, 19,393 civilians were killed in Iraq, according to the Statistics Portal.
By last year, deaths in Iraq declined to 3,319.
Statistics SA estimated that at least 16,809 were murdered in SA in 2017-2018.
There are any number of statistics and measures that would confirm the somatic dangers of living in SA and as many structural (psychological) dangers.
People who stand out because of admixture – lightskinned or dark-skinned people – face the most horrendous forms of persecution.
One of the earliest, most offensive terms we had for people from north of the border was “mZambia” – who were identified by their dark skins.
We may recall, also, how Tito Mboweni’s son, Tumelo Mboweni, was pulled from a taxi and threatened with deportation because he looked “too black”.
In fairness, like MpofuWalsh, the name “Mboweni” probably means he has greater opportunities that await him.
Most of my family members don’t have that privilege.
Several months ago, when the EFF decided to go on a rampage through a mall on one of its violent tirades – reminiscent of the way that Benito Mussolini’s fascist youth consolidated his power in the 1920s – they attacked one of my cousins and told her to “go back to Dubai” or wherever it was that she came from. She is South African.
In our extended family we have people who were once slaves of the Dutch empire and indigenous South Africans.
We have deep roots in SA, but geography is not destiny.
And anyway, it is up to the ANC, the PAC, Azapo and the EFF to decide whether or not we belong in SA.
I wish my nephew and his family well, and would continue to encourage anyone who wants to leave SA to do so. There is only a single caveat. A better life is not guaranteed, but it cannot get worse than it is for young mixed-race South Africans today – not unless your name is Mpofu-Walsh and your father is a multi-milionaire politician.

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