If you can, and if you can bear it, leave

I seldom speak out about South Africa, but as my children approach adulthood, an option for them is going back to live there. Probably my main reason for leaving was that I felt every white person leaving, leaves an opportunity for coloured folk. It may be a brain drain, but as long as those white brains stay, the lack of candidates with the right training and abilities among the coloured population remains hidden. The brain drain is a necessary crisis, because I see no other way to force society into looking from birth to adulthood at the development, education and training available to the coloured majority. Opportunities and services in these areas are still woefully inadequate, woefully weighted in favour of whites.

To every white South African who has the means and opportunity (such as dual nationality, or skills that are in demand overseas), I would say: consider leaving. Consider it strongly. However, you need to be realistic over whether you can bear it, too. There are white South Africans whose souls are intertwined with the country to the extent that a separation would break them. If that is you, don’t go. There is so much good you can do right where you are.

Emigration takes more mental strength than anyone can imagine until they go through it. It’s the best but also the most trying experience of my life. If you’re like me, you will develop a complex identity that transcends nationality or ethnicity, and takes great mental strength to accept and become comfortable with – like becoming a seafarer rather than staying on solid ground.

It also costs a lot of money. We would likely have lived in comparative luxury, had we stayed where we were instead of moving to Ireland. Yet I am happy with my life, my shabby home.

My decision to emigrate was not rooted in only one thing. I wanted safety, I wanted opportunities for my children, I wanted a certain lifestyle. Yet undeniably, I also considered whether I was serving my birth country best by staying, or going. I believed going was best, and made the sacrifice. If you are considering the option of leaving, above all the other reasons you may have, you should also add to the decision scales whether your staying or going would best serve your country.

Best of luck, whatever you decide.


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