Ivan has become
quite a favorite of mine. The material he supplies from time to time is
thought provoking. Without his permission (sorry mate) I'm publishing
a mail he sent to me this week (or was it last week) from a friend in
London. Read it. (In other words, no joke this week) Take it in and think
about what this country does to a person -
A little voice from the dark tip of Africa.
When I am consulted by the confused, infatuated or intoxicated I often
default with a trusted yet very simple response, "listen to the little
Yes, the beauty of this response is that it's confusing in itself.
But that's where the simplicity lies - the inward journey!
Trying to find clear-cut answers for questions that can only be answered
on some kind of endless continuum is a silly starting point and therefore
the medicine must match. Should I be going out with her? Do I believe
in a God? And my billion-dollar question, does South Africa have a future?
All of these questions are often topics of long discussion because they
are only partly factual. Yet, arrogantly I say they are easily and probably
already answered by your little voice, you just need to listen and trust
It's difficult to find a more ardent supporter of the "The sooner
you leave South Africa the better" camp than myself. Ardent and vocal,
I am like the jerk that says you should never go to a casino because if
you play for long enough you will always loose your money. Of course the
jerk is right about loosing your money - John Maynard's rational man would
never put a foot into a casino- but that's not the point. A casino and
a church are the easiest thing in the world not to enter after a strong
dose of logic and rational thinking. But both have stood the test of time.
Making a home in South Africa falls into the same category.
Contrary to popular opinion, South Africa measured in terms of quality
of life is of the lowest in the world - you simply can't take the stars,
the weather, the amazing views, maids, gardeners, and properly boozed
caddies for free. There is a price to be paid and it's that price that
puts us in the bottom quartile of the rankings ...crime, corruption, politics,
aids, unemployment, rape, healthcare and education, all in dire condition.
But is that how we should decide on whether South Africa has a future?
Should we ask questions like is unemployment so bad that crime will never
improve? Will education ever receive the funding and attention that is
needed for the development of a civil society? It's taken me a long time
to realise that these questions are likened to those related to gambling
and religion. The facts remain the same and the rational answers remain
the same but that's not the way we live our lives. The answers depend
on what makes you sleep with a smile. They depend on your little voice.
I have been in London for almost three years now. This unbelievable
city has taught me how big the world is, its effortlessly given me a first
hand introduction to a broad range of nationalities, it's shown me how
they live, how they think, how they dress, how they eat and how they laugh.
It has culture bulging out of its seams, musicals, plays, art exhibitions,
bars and clubs of every possible nature. There is money to be made from
all angles and the weather, taken in its context, is not half as dreadful
as people claim. In fact, to quote Oscar Wilde, "When you are tired
of London you are tired of life!" However, time and time again I
find solace in the menu provided by the country on the dark tip of Africa.
I'm not tired of London, on the contrary, but I think I know where I belong.
To laugh uncontrollably (surely an ultimate daily experience), to relax,
to relate to problems and for people to relate to mine, I more often than
not find comfort in the company of a South African. Three years down the
line and I reflect on the diversity of my friends, but at the same time
I reflect on the meaning of friend. Who do you phone when you are bored
and have nothing to do? Who do you plan your holidays with? Who do you
call when you need help?
While my range of friends stretches across a number of accents, the best
ones share my passport.
Is this enough to make a decision to move back to SA? Can you overlook
the problems, the crime, and the possibility of your wife or child being
raped? No, please don't let me hear that you can get raped or have your
car stolen anywhere in the world - because fact are facts, South Africa
scores very badly on both counts. Every first world country provides a
much higher standard of living - please note I did not say better, only
higher! We have to ask ourselves, if we don't move back, where the hell
are we going to go to? Where else could we find the beauty, the friendliness,
the weather, the humour, the South African way of life?
We have drawn a very short straw - but we have to play on. If you can
find a home with the English, the Aussies, the Canadians or Lord forbid,
the Kiwis, then best of luck to you. To the rest, I look forward to seeing
you in the land of extreme life. South Africa does have a future; it just
depends on what kind of future you want. Exist somewhere else, or live
I leave you with a last thought...
History reveals that some people have had the power to single handedly
transform nations. People like Adolph Hitler, Mother Teresa, Princess
Diana and even closer to home, our own Nelson Mandela have each significantly
impacted a nation. OK fair enough, they are icons in history, but following
the same principle how many people like you will be needed to make a positive
impact on a nation. Could you make a difference to a nation? Could fifty
people like you make a difference?
In the last two years and nine months I have never contemplated moving
back - only because it's never made sense. The country's future has been
clouded by too much uncertainty and that's something I was not prepared
to risk. I have just come back from a holiday to Jo'burg, my former home
and where things are supposed to be the worst. Maybe I have become weak
and fickle, but that place is pumping. Yes it's Africa, yes it's rough,
but I have just realised how much I love it, and sooner than later, it's
going to become my home again.
I am hearing a little voice, and I trust it. The thought makes me sleep
with a smile.