Something you may or may not know about me: I am returning to SA in the foreseeable future. By “foreseeable” I mean within the next year or so.
Hmmm….just realised something. I won’t be Desert Missus no more. Quelle tuile!
We’ve bought a house in a very nice neighbourhood, gotten G’s provisional acceptance at a prestigious private school and even have our cars parked, ready and waiting. Our furniture is on it’s way on a container ship, as we speak. To say we are committed to returning home is an understatement.
Lately however, I’ve been having doubts. I. Me. Not us. Hubby and G are as enthusiastic as ever.
The plan was to start one or several businesses in SA, providing employment and such to a few people. Hubby has plans on opening a car warehouse, for fit outs and customizations and the like. He’s at the planning stage. I have strategies in place for a plus size boutique, a magazine, and a few rental properties.
What? You didn’t think we sacrificed every family get together, funeral, birth and marriage for nothing did you?
But, but , big BUT!
Recent events in South Africa, especially in Cape Town, has me wondering. Children disappearing, kidnappings of business people and holding them for ransom, governmental ineptitude, a broken infrastructure, a soaring unemployment rate and therefore a skyrocketing crime rate, junk status, increased taxation on businesses….
Do you see where I’m going with this?
I’m not saying these are all factors that may influence my eventual decision, but they do impact our lives in measurable ways.
I have three things I’m most concerned about. My daughter, safety and security in South Africa, and the long term viability of opening and running a business in South Africa.
G has had a very safe and sheltered upbringing in the UAE. The one time she has wandered off ( long story, another blogpost!) the police launched a full on search with dogs, helicopters and half the police force. They take missing children very seriously here. She goes to the store for sweets or snacks, and even though there are half a dozen single Arab (and other nationalities) men hanging around, they wouldn’t dare touch her. The penalties are far too severe. She also has no knowledge of the things we take for granted in South Africa: guard dogs, security gates, electric fences, ADT patrols, alarms. Here we leave doors unlocked, phones on counters, dogs are to play with and so on. This does not mean that crime doesn’t exist here. It DOES mean the authorities actually are effective at dissuading it. It’s going to be very hard to adjust. For all of us.
Safety and security
We pay insurance on our property in the UAE. It’s a yearly premium and we have never needed it. Our house has never been burgled, despite the windows we constantly leave open and the doors only hubby ever locks. Children play outside until well past midnight. Women go for walks or run alone well after sunset. People trust each other. Children play at each others homes without the moms worrying that something untoward will happen. Old people are very safe here. Again, the penalties are very severe and the authorities actually do their jobs! Just reading the newspapers online, or watching the news online coming from South Africa, makes me wonder if we’re doing the right thing.
Opening a business in the UAE is relatively painless and straightforward. The Department of Economic Development takes entrepreneurship very seriously and makes it an attractive option with many incentives. Locals and expat alike see SME’s as viable alternatives to holding down a 9-5. In South Africa it’s more a matter of greasing a few palms, and getting to know the “right” people. Heavy new taxes have been imposed, and with the junk status, the cost of owning and operating a business is prohibitive. Factor in rent, insurance and employment related costs and things are already adding up. The cost of a store front in the CBD would cripple my boutique in no time. Hubby’s warehouse idea is great until we factor in the cost of a full time security company, with dogs and rapid response vehicles needed to safeguard the expensive inventory.
I know many of you will have the knee – jerk reaction of ” Well just stay over there, then!” and you would be entirely missing the point.
The UAE was never meant to be a permanent thing for us. We always intended to return and make a life for us in the country of our birth. We always wanted to earn enough to return, open a few businesses and make a positive contribution to the society of South Africa.
My doubts are based on that then. Can we do what we intend to do knowing the cards are stacked against us? Can we risk coming home, losing everything we’ve worked for and ending up a drain on the very country we’re hoping to grow and develop alongside of?
Could we risk not only our future stability but the life and future of our child?
I know many people do. They live and work and some even thrive in South Africa. I salute them. However, there are many who barely get by. Who live hand to mouth. Who struggle in a system gradually draining them of their humanity. Victims of economics, crime and governmental ineptitude. People who would do anything, could be anything, if they got a helping hand.
We can help them. But we can only help them if we can help ourselves. We can’t help anyone if our cup is empty.
I haven’t even weighed in on the political situation in SA. What is there to say that every pundit, journalist and citizen hasn’t already said? As an expat, the volatility of the situation scares me. Student demonstrations, service delivery protests and strikes remind me of why we left 13 years ago. And nothing has changed.
Zuma holds the country ransom, and the people who are meant to protect our interests in government are turning a blind eye. I will not lie. I voted for the ANC. I could not see how we could truly be free under a white run democracy. However, the ANC who freed our country is not the ANC we have now. The ANC of today serves the interests of Zuma and Zuma alone. It’s time for a new freedom. But the struggle may be longer and harder than the one that stripped the apartheid government of its power and legitimacy.
As with every other African country, African leadership has shown itself to be woefully incapable, corrupt and self aggrandising. What more can be said but look to the rest of Africa. What made us think we would be any different?
So what? Now what?
I don’t know.
I have another year or so in the UAE. Many things can change in a year, can’t they? I might be persuaded to come home and make a difference. I might be persuaded to cancel everything, do like a family member and give up my passport for another nationality. However, unlike said family member, Ireland would NOT be it! Maybe a secular country like Norway, or Canada, where another family member and a good friend lives.
A place where we could actually survive. Right now I’m not sure we could back home.
Until next I blog,