I have recently had my positivity and that of this blog challenged in a very rational and structured way by a gentlemen calling himself “Preacher”. I have my opinions about his point of view and I will respond to his comments below:
I continue to grow incredibly frustrated with fellow South Africans who seem to share this mentality where a poor attitude is one of the biggest challenges facing the average disgruntled South African. Being positive about the situation in South Africa is one thing, being absolutely blind to the reality of the situation is another thing altogether. Every time you raise the issue of crime, poor service delivery or rising living costs, you get the same response. “Get off your behind and do something about it!” What most people fail to realize is that by paying your taxes and being a good citizen, you are doing something about the situation. You are making a positive contribution.
I am a white male aged 28. Being the indirect benefactor of Apartheid has automatically made me the villain, nothing more then another pale face who has to pay for the sins of his forefathers. Enough about my past though. I wanted to get that out of the way so that you could automatically put me into whatever box you put people like to put me into. Im sure you have a label for it. We South Africans love nothing more then to label and classify people.
Lets, however, rather look at my present situation and possible future. One that is shared by quite a few South Africans of which a fair percentage are beginning to feel the way I do. Perhaps the positive South Africans would be able to elaborate exactly where I am wrong in my cynicism and highlight exactly why I should change my attitude to that of a positive South African. I need examples here. After all, it seems that negativity is almost as big an issue as crime, HIV and unemployment. It has to be. I mean, every time you dare complain about the state of the nation you are called a negative whining spoilt brat. Perhaps once I have been enlightened my perception of the current challenges we face will be accepted with glee instead of the growing frustration I face daily. Im not quite sure. Making an informed decision alone just does not seem to cut it.
Being a white male graduate, I have to contend with Affirmative Action. Sins of the past may be political justification for the policy but the government has gone to great lengths to make me difficult to employ, regardless of my skills and career record. I would love the opportunity to start my own business, but BEE has made opportunities to do business, particularly for white male graduates with an Afrikaans surname, very difficult indeed. Unless I am prepared to gift someone 26% of my business I will have to face the reality of not being able to do business with a large portion of listed companies, larger private companies and government itself. Not only has the government made me difficult to employ, they have made it difficult for me to employ myself. I have been marginalized from participating in the economy as a result. My contributions are not limited through lack of intent or desire. They are limited by legislation. My attitude and outlook cant change the law.
Fortunately though, I do have work at the moment. Unfortunately, I have to pay almost 40% of my salary in tax. So I donate a fair whack of change every month to the Government. I call this a donation for good reason. These taxes offer very little in the way of the basic services one would expect from a Government that takes 40% of your salary in the first place. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but being from a privileged background, I do understand that my contribution has to be a little greater then the majority. However, the lack of basic services means that there are the indirect taxes that we all have to pay over and above income tax. The fact that the government cant provide me with decent health care, a capable police force and schooling for my children one day, means that I incur the expense of a medical aid plan, investment funds to cover tuition when they my kids need to go to school, security companies that I pay to protect my house and tracker systems for my car. Before I have even paid VAT, I am taxed almost 60% of my basic salary.
The remaining 40% or so of my salary has to cover the major expenses of a house, car, food and my “excellent” South African lifestyle. I lived overseas for a while, so I missed the property bandwagon. To buy a decent house now is going to cost me almost 1 million Rand. At the current interest rate, I am looking at repayments of almost R12 000 a month. All of a sudden, as a percentage of my income, housing in Australia and Canada does not seem so pricey. With their interest rates, its not only affordable, but an actual possibility.
Am I being negative when I complain about car prices? The simple fact that we don’t have a public transport system means I have no choice but to buy a car. Obligated to buy a car in a country where government levies and manufacturer margins are so high we are probably one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to buying a new car. Perhaps there is a positive spin we can put on this complaint? Perhaps the cost of insurance is a positive? I consider this being held to ransom more then anything else, but a positive spin on this would be appreciated to.
As for safety? We live in a country where I look over my shoulder constantly. I have come to accept the fact that my children wont be able to ride their bikes to school.My future wife is going to have to deal with constant calls from me to make sure she has reached her destination safely. The police cant protect me and seem incapable of doing so when you look at our soaring crime statistics. I did join the local neighborhood watch, but when government passed legislation that makes gun ownership difficult, I had to throw in the towel.
Lets look at the rest of the situation as it stands at the moment. The ones that don’t affect us directly, but will have an impact on all of us in the long term. We are losing the battle with HIV, deciding to fight the pandemic with garlic and an exercise program rather than education and anti retrovirals. We have illegal immigrants pouring into South Africa, which is only going to further drain social services and lead to more crime. The majority from a country that continue to inflict human rights abuses on its own people daily, with the complete support of our current Government when you consider their silence.
We hear stories of corruption in government and municipalities almost daily. The standard of education has been dropped to accommodate poor standards of schooling and a Government that is more worried about the number of matrics its churns out instead of producing matrics with a solid education. The skills shortage has been amplified by the droves of people leaving. We have different university entry requirements for people of different races. Infrastructure is struggling to cope because of poor management.
I am being called a pessimist because I complain about discrimination that limits my involvement in the economy, an economy that taxes 40% of my salary, an economy driven by me purchasing services that my taxes should cover. For that luxury, I have to deal with soaring living costs where property, transport and daily living expenses are starting to rival first world countries. (I should know, I was abroad for two years. The “South Africa is CHEAP” argument is flawed). To complement the soaring living expenses, I also have to deal with the constant fear of violent crime that I may have to experience.
What exactly is keeping me here? What is keeping you here? Other then family and friends, South Africa has absolutely nothing left to offer me. It may be my home, but its no longer a country I feel welcome in. If I am not being made to feel like a second rate citizen through legislation, I am being made to ask forgiveness constantly for a system my grandfather voted in.
Before you suggest it, I have already made my decision to emigrate. I have heard it all before. Pessimists like me are not needed in South Africa. You don’t need cynics in South Africa, you need people of action. So Ill take my skills, my tax money, my education and my savings I have accrued elsewhere.
There are four types of “positive” South Africans. The trapped, the blind, the very brave and the insane. To those that are forced to stick it out, I wish you all the best. To the very brave ones, I commend you. I hope the gamble pays off. To the blind ones, I implore you to become a little more aware of your surroundings and maybe read a newspaper from time to time. To the insane ones, please let the rest of us know what we need to do to get a job in Government. It seems to pay quite well.
OK! That is one helluva comment that was posted on this blog. I have emailed Preacher asking if I can repost this comment on SA Rocks, but I found the original post on his blog so put it in here regardless. I am sure that he’ll get a kick out of receiving linklove from a pro-SA blog!
After reading this post I visited the blog and must admit it’s filled with lots of swearing, aggression and what seems like regret and hatred to me. So I don’t suggest reading it. It’s the usual “I’m leaving SA so I should make a start on badmouthing it now” blog. Read one, read them all.
I decided to contact Preacher personally via email after reading the comment. I think I was decent, I told him that I am sorry that he is emigrating and happy that he is making a choice he is contented with. I also told him that I am one of the brave, not the insane, blind or dumb.
My brief rebuttal:
Firstly I don’t disagree with much of the factual content that is displayed above. I disagree with the approach taken, the tone and the sentiments behind the post.
I believe in affirmative action as I have stated on this blog before. I believe that if you are the BEST candidate you will get the job, race is irrelevant more often than not. Don’t get pissed off if a person of colour gets a job ahead of you, if you were clearly the best candidate you would’ve gotten the job. On that point, don’t tell me I live in a dream world, I have many friends, associates and colleagues who have high powered, high paying, high profile jobs with people of colour in the companies, below, above and next to them. So it happens, believe it or not, white people do actually get jobs. In fact I was employed ahead of various people of colour, age and creed not 3 months ago.
Individual abstinence from action regarding SA is like individual abstinence from helping Global Warming. To say that you are leaving because it’s not your job, duty or problem to try and help the situation is like damning our Earth to a lifetime of suffering because you can’t fix climate change. You can fix climate change. Simply changing the sort of light bulb you use makes a difference. In the same way that staying and trying makes a difference in SA.
Everyone on Earth, in any country, pays taxes and contributes in very similar ways to their country as the Preacher mentions in his comments. That is the bare minimum, not the maximum, that a citizen can do for their country. If you want to be one of the “brave” then so be it, if that involves me running this blog and talking and blogging about the great things this country has to offer then so be it, I will gladly go above and beyond the normal requirements.
This post is quite long enough (the longest I have blogged I think) so I wont continue on for too long, I will let the debate spark from here. But let me just say that I don’t believe that every country has equal beauty, equal success or equal failure. All of these things are relative. Relative beauty, success and failure. SA is a stunning country but that is not all we are. We have friendly people, the most progressive constitution in the world, the largest hospital in the world, SA’s banking sector is considered to be the eighth-most developed among countries with a population greater than 20 million people – ahead of France and Japan. These are all things that you probably didn’t know about our amazing country.
Yes there are flaws, I do not deny this fact. But let me assure anyone leaving or staying that every country has relative flaws that they are not proud of or are trying to correct. It takes time for a leaving South African or entering foreigner to understand, realise and experience these issues. The grass is not always greener.
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