Forget Race, Retain Necessary Skills Says Leon

Citizen.co.za, October 10, 2006

Cape Town—Government needs to take a hard look at its “race-fuelled myopia”, and find ways to retain the skilled citizens needed for economic growth, the only way to reduce poverty and create jobs, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said on Friday.

Recent reports emanating from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) indicated about a fifth of white South Africans had emigrated over the past ten years, he wrote in his weekly newsletter on the DA website.

“There is no doubt that we can ill afford to lose such a substantial number of our citizens—regardless of their race,” Leon said.

All concerned South Africans should be worried by the steep rise in white emigration.

The figures confirmed a distinct trend, whereby large numbers of productive and skilled South Africans had chosen to leave their homeland for good.

“An overarching question suggests itself: why have they chosen to do so, and what are the likely consequences for the country?” According to the IRR report, the main reasons given by emigrants were crime and affirmative action.

“I would like to add a third, which at a deeper level—the level of citizens’ emotional stake in the country—explains why the other two reasons, instead of being issues worthy of debate and contestation in the public arena, become definitive,” Leon said.

This was the ANC’s disturbing attitude towards minorities, and the consequent perception this fostered among whites that their citizenship was undervalued.

“Put bluntly: the ANC government is not merely indifferent to the lot of minorities, especially whites, but in many instances has frankly expressed hostility to their interests.”

While Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka recently admitted the skills drain was costing the country dearly and expressed her desire to lure South African emigrants back from overseas, the attitude deriving from the highest office in the land was disturbing.

After initially taking care to present himself as a racial reconciler in the admirable mould of ex-President Nelson Mandela, President Thabo Mbeki—as well as his closest political associates—had in recent years continuously called the bone fides of the white community and their commitment to change into question, Leon said.

“This obsession with whites’ so-called racism is pursued with a relish and determination that can only be described as racist itself.”

There was a disturbing message from government—minorities, tolerated at best, actively resented at worst, should either put up or shut up.

“Is it any wonder that many South Africans, feeling excluded from our common future, have voted with their feet and departed for destinations where they feel wanted?

“Unpleasant as government’s racial slurs may be—both the direct brickbats and the more subtle innuendoes—the truth is that we as a nation cannot afford to lose skilled and hard-working citizens of whatever hue.

“South Africa stands poised for massive investment in our economic infrastructure in the near future, such as government’s Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative and the 2010 World Cup,” he said.

At the same time, as Mlambo-Ngcuka conceded, South Africa was experiencing a chronic shortage of skills necessary to drive and harness these developments.

“Rather than allowing skilled citizens to vacate without a murmur, we need to retain their expertise to sustain the growth our citizenry as a whole so desperately needs.

“We have generated capital to spend on investment, but we don’t have the people to spend it effectively.

“In fact, the pursuit of transformation at all costs, especially in the public sector, has incapacitated the state and seized up its machinery at the very point that most is expected of it,” he said.

“Given a globalising world in which skilled individuals as well as capital investment are more mobile than ever before, and are maximising their careers by moving elsewhere, government needs to take a hard look at its race-fuelled myopia, and create the conditions that encourage productive South Africans to stay and contribute to growth – which in the longer term is the only real answer to joblessness and poverty.

“In short: government needs to reassess its message so that all feel included and valued.

“Foot-dragging at best and vindictiveness at worst undermines all of our futures—most especially those South Africans for too long disadvantaged by our apartheid legacy and whose interests the ruling party professedly wants to advance,” Leon said.


Witness to a decade of crime and decay

I was reading today’s newspaper and I felt so disheartened. I hate the crime and the general downfall of basic things. I hate it that we, as South Africans, have to accept things because ‘this is Africa’. Because that is not a good enough reason for me.

It brought back a conversation I had about ten years ago with a woman who was ‘packing for Perth’.

She was South African-born and had lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I was sad she was leaving; she had been a good friend to me. So she sat with me over a coffee, we talked about the future, and she had this to say:

“Shaz, Let me give you a look into the future. You will see things change over the next few years here in South Africa. First, the roads will not be upgraded and you will have to avoid potholes on all of the roads. Don’t even expect new roads to be built because they won’t be and traffic and hold ups will become the norm.

“There will be power cuts and it will happen more and more. Then grass won’t be cut on the roadsides and parks will go to waste, while litter blows through the streets like tumbleweed.

“Streetlights will break and never be repaired. Buildings will be allowed to go to ruin and no one will care. There will be ‘no-go’ areas and places that aren’t safe for black or white people.

“The health system will start to fail the people and good doctors and nursing staff will leave for greener pastures.”

She said fraud and corruption would start to eat away at the police and traffic departments. Crime will become just too terrible and lives will be lost. Innocent people will die.

“You will build up your barriers slowly over time, higher and higher and you will accept all of these things. You listen to me now and in 10 years time, Shaz, I want you to contact me and tell me how things are for you in Johannesburg. I have lived through the same thing twice and I refuse to have my heart broken again by a country’s gradual downfall.”

I was a little angry with her at that time, as I had hope for this beautiful country. I wanted to prove her wrong. I was not going to leave a place I loved so much it was running through my blood.

Then I drove through town this morning, it was full of rubbish, and I started to feel so sad. I came home to a power cut for a few hours. Then I sit and read the newspapers on the filth and crime that is going on in our country.

And you know what?

I still see that Johannesburg skyline everyday and I have hope that it will change.

However, when 60 children a day are raped, that becomes 21 900 in one year that are walking around with evil on their mind. I haven’t included the women that are raped, beaten, and abused. I don’t need to include the murder and armed robbery and housebreaking, hijacking and cash in transit heists.

How many thousands of South Africans have actually lost the plot? What are they thinking when they get up in the morning: “Oh today I am going to rape and shoot someone, maybe I will kill them maybe I will let them live.”

It’s not about poverty anymore and it’s not about lack of education, so please someone tell me what exactly, is it all about?

What has happened to decent people with morals and values and most of all, heart? When the criminal looks in someone’s pleading face and they are begging, ’Don’t shoot me, rape me: take my money, take everything, but please don’t kill me’. Are they laughing, are they having fun? What is wrong with them?

How many are there walking around amongst us, that have evil on their mind. I am beginning to wonder if my hope is only false hope. I don’t want to make that call to her but I think she is right. The country that is running through my blood is now spilling it all over onto the filthy, rotten, putrid, evil smelling, crime ridden, corrupt streets.

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