Monday, July 28, 2008

Whites return to South Africa

(click image to enlarge)

I have always advocated on this blog that one must not put all one’s eggs in one basket.

Leaving your country is a traumatic experience and most people that leave South Africa do so because they cannot see another way forward.

I prefer to view leaving and establishing oneself elsewhere as a backup plan. I have somewhere to go if it goes belly up in South Africa.
I don't believe we are at that stage yet. My backup plan is in place but my home is South Africa.

My kids definitely have a secured future (Australia) but in the meantime, I choose to make South Africa my home. Many will disagree with me but that is my choice.

I also choose to not ignore the history of Africa where minorities end up with the sharp end of the stick. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude.

It appears a lot of the returnees have done exactly that i.e. set up shop elsewhere and returned with a get-out-of-jail card. That, I believe is the prudent thing to do if that is what your intentions have always been. Those that choose to leave and stay gone, well, good as well.

On the matter of more returning etc, there is no direct evidence to suggest that returnees outnumber those leaving and the figures are based on assumptions and anecdotal evidence. To enquire with estate agents and removal companies is unreliable. Many people leave
without containers or using removal companies or telling the government they are leaving.

A better gauge would have been to ask migration agents,
those catering for incoming and outgoing. I have a personal friend that says his business has never been busier for people coming to Australia. To quote him “it has absolutely gone mad”, so much so that he cannot keep up with the enquiries. Whose figures do we trust?

Also, I reckon it depends which countries the returnees come from. Click on the image above and notice the trend. Those in Australia were the lea
st likely to return and those in the UK were the most likely.

Understandable since Australia has thousands of Brits coming to its shores as well which leads me to assume the UK must be a pretty crappy place to be (isn't a socialist party running things there?).

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When South African native Nicky Prins lived in London, there was one television advertisement that always touched her heart. As part of an effort to encourage tourism, the South African government ran a commercial showing the country's dramatic landscape, coupled with emotive music and excerpts from President Thabo Mbeki's famous "I am an African" speech.

"Sometimes I would cry when I watched it. It sort of brought on the emotions to a head, and you would think, 'I really want to go home,"' said the 34-year-old Prins, an economist who left South Africa eight years ago for better career opportunities.

A few months after she first saw the ad, she packed up her bags and came home. Brain drain has plagued South Africa since the unravelling of apartheid in the early 1990s. Affluent, accomplished South Africans of all races, but whites in particular, still flood out of the country in search of adventure, better opportunities and an escape from crime.

But now some - like Prins - are returning. Moving companies, real estate agents and non-profit groups say more and more white South Africans in their late
20s and beyond are returning to South Africa. Hungry for their own culture, eager to raise children near their own families and encouraged by their country's economic potential, these adults are leaving their successful careers abroad for an uncertain future at home.

"We've been happy and enjoying ourselves ever since the day we've been back," said Prins, who moved to Johannesburg last October. "I felt like my quality of life improved dramatically." Prins and her boyfriend Mark Kirkness, a civil engineer, may not have made the decision to come home if weren't for the Homecoming Revolution, one of several South African organizations dedicated to persuading expatriates to come back.

Kirkness received a job offer after attending a career fair put on by the group, which also provides candid information about the South African ec
onomy, security conditions and crime, and hosts networking dinners and other events for those who have returned.

"We've certainly seen South Africans returning," said Homecoming Revolution manager Martine Schaffer, whose website draws 17,000 new visitors each month. "At the beginning of this year, I think we have more people returning than leaving."

The South African Department of Home Affairs says it does not track South Africans who move abroad and then return. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicates more South Africans have been returning to the country since the late 1990s. A spokesman for Stuttafords Van Lines, the largest moving company in South Africa, said that for every person the company moves out of South Africa to the United Kingdom, it helps another 1.5 return.

And the Come Back Home Campaign, a largely Afrikaner-run initiative similar to the Homecoming Revolution, says it's seen a rise in the number of white South Africans looking for help with career advice, immigration papers and other tasks associated with moving home.

But in moments of national insecurity, like during South Africa's power cuts in December and the xenophobic attacks in May, the consistent flow of immigrants turns into a trickle. "There was until about six months ago a very large influx of returnees," said Brent Townes, CEO of Sotheby's International Reality South Africa.

"It was the soccer World Cup that got their attention. We had quite a few sales." White South Africans, who make up only nine per cent of South Africa's population, leave the country for various reasons.

Some seek professional opportunities, believing that their careers won't advance as quickly in South Africa because of affirmative action policies meant to redress decades of discrimination against blacks. Others go looking for a short adventure and end up staying for years. South Africans flock in the largest numbers to the United Kingdom, where many of British descent are eligible for ancestral visas.

Others travel to Canada, the United States and Australia in smaller but significant numbers. Many of those who leave want to return eventually. Gregg Anderson, 41, returned to South Africa from the United Kingdom a month ago. He originally wanted to stay away for only a few years, but found it hard to leave as his career in investment banking and the telecommunications industry picked up.

Twelve years, a marriage and two kids later, he realized he had to make the move, even though it meant starting over with his career. "I've had children and my perspective on life and my needs in life have changed," Anderson said. "I wanted a different way of life - the quality of life that the U.K. couldn't afford me."

"The lifestyle here (in South Africa) is completely different. You've got vast open spaces, you've got scenery that you don't get in the U.K., and the weather is a major factor."

The South African government recognizes that white South Africans like Anderson have valuable skills, and is trying to persuade successful expatriates to invest in their country, even if they don't come home.

The government has launched a program called Global South Africans to encourage talented South Africans expatriates to share their skills and knowledge with their fellow citizens. And the office of the South African deputy president has launched similar initiatives to inspire South Africans to share their skills or return home.

But not everyone is receptive. Louise Gardiner, a 31-year-old International Finance Corporation officer living in Washington, D.C., says she often takes trips back to her native Cape Town, but that the "general despondence" of friends and family has persuaded her not to return. "Up until a year ago I thought I would eventually move back," Gardiner said.

"But the violent crime, energy crisis, and just all around feeling of things getting worse made me think again. I love my country, but I don't see a future there anymore."

Schaffer says South Africans have created their own image problem, and she believes getting accurate information to people can help. "Many of the issues in this country we have invented: that political instability doesn't happen anywhere else in the world, that racism doesn't happen anywhere else in the world," she said. "We need to look at these things and put them in context.

We're an emerging market and that should make us exciting. We have a wonderful country and we have to fight for it; we have to stand up for it."

Many of the people the Homecoming Revolution helps return to South Africa are shocked to find it's not the same place they left years ago. Prices are higher, and some jobs in some industries are scarce. But for the most part, Schaffer says, most who return home are thrilled to be back.

"I've been back for a month now and I find it exhilarating," said Anderson, who is now trying to start up his own business in Cape Town. "It's a beautiful country and there are immense opportunities here if you are patient and you just look around."

4 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

Doberman, with respect, you say "if it goes belly up in South Africa, I have a back up plan"

Has it not already done so?

Why are those that are left (and especially that CAN leave) still clinging on? If you have no choice, no hope, if you are just a wage slave to BEE, clinging on to the last vestiges of a hope for a pension, I agree, you have no choice. But why wait around when all around is turning into a hell hole and bluffing yourself that it is not yet belly up?

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon
Yep , it most certainly has already gone belly up. I suppose there are a number of reasons to hang onto a sinking ship before it is completely submerged. As long as you do realize that this is going under and have the balls and foresight to plan your departure. Timing is of course the real trick. I believe some folks will hang on too long and lose more than they bargained for. House prices are surely not going to recover and the value of the timeshare in Plett will go down the toilet.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 05:58..

I don't believe it has gone totally belly up ..yet. There is still a smidgeon of hope, as hard as that sounds.

The reason I have to stay connected is because I have family and friends and professional attachments to the country so I don't have much of a choice. I wish it wasn't like that, that all my loved ones were out but until then I must stay connected and wish for the best while putting my own self and family out of harm's way. You'll understand when you emigrate one day.

Anonymous said...

We were amongst the first ones to leave SA way back in the 80's. At that time people would still look at you as being unpatriotic. On our regular holidays in SA we often got the feeling of wanting to go back to the good old SA.
After 15 years in Europe we did in fact go back with the intention to stay permanently.
We had very good conditions, a good salary and could live comfortably but after a few months we already realized that it would not work for us.
After 15 years of freedom and civilization it is impossible to adapt to burglar bars, security guards, high fences, nowhere to go for a walk in nature or a park, constantly being alert and permanently hearing about crime around you and even hearing gunshots in the neighbourhood.
Add to this the dangerous roads and general lack of law and order and safety and security. The collapse of the public service and the attitude of the government that simply because you are of European origin you are to blame for all that is so terribly wrong in SA.
NO THANKS, to the new SA!!!. Everything that is so normal here in Europe that makes for a good quality of living is missing in the new SA.
After two years in the new SA we were glad to step on the plane again and without any doubt, this time for good. I even consider a holiday in SA as too dangerous, why take the risk the world is big and there are lots of even more beautiful places in civilized countries all over the globe.