I was reading an article today about how ex-pat South Africans are seen as cowards by those left in South Africa. They talked about the reasons why people left, opportunity and exploring the world along with others. One they didn't mention was safety but I'll come back to that and I want to tell you a little of my experience.
I was young, 11 or so. This really is a story about my whole family. The first reaction when we told people we were moving it was of disbelief. My grandfather to the day he died believed we would return to South Africa, that no where else in the world could even compare to living with Lions and hippos.
Later we had people trying to convince us to stay. My favourite argument was "Why leave, in twenty years all the Africans will be dead from aids." and "What will you do without a maid?" In South Africa wages for manual labour is so cheap that almost everyone had a maid. We didn't at this stage because even though dad had a really good job inflation was getting ridiculous and we couldn't afford a maid or even take the risk of trusting a maid. I should tell you being robbed was a regular occurrence. Not always by strangers either. In fact if you see a fridge made in South Africa they will come with a lock and key.
When those arguments didn't convince us we were down graded to cowards. We were asked why we wouldn't stay and fight. Fight for what? I should tell you that ownership of land in South Africa is problematic. The indigenous people were mostly crushed under the power of European and African migration. No one is more right than others but there certainly have been a lot of wrong been done in the name of being the only one right.
In the end we left and never looked back. Years later most of mom and dad's friends have either left or are stuck in South Africa. We left at the right time. If we had stayed at least one of us would be dead. I swear. South Africa is not safe. Too many people think the world owes them something and they take what they want. The same problem in a lot of places except in South Africa life is cheap.
I realised many years later that those who called us cowards were actually the true cowards. When we left we gave up everything and had to trust we would land on our feet in a strange country where the rule are different. They weren't willing to take the risks so they blamed us for their own inadequacies. I left because I was a coward, yes, I didn't want to face violence, riots, rape and murder. So I am proud I am a coward. That I ran when I could. Those behind can call me a coward if they want.
I did get opportunities here in New Zealand but it was for safety that I truly am grateful. That I can live on my own, drive at night and that there aren't bars on my windows.