Living in this city puts my thoughts on a constant rollercoaster. It is the only city that can make a person compassionate, despondent, negative, hopeful and hopeless all at the same time. The biggest dilemma I have is whether the positive aspects of Johannesburg, and South Africa as a whole, outweigh the negative aspects.
Years ago, I was a patriot and lover of this city. As far as I was concerned, there was no better place in the world. I had a few run-ins with crime, but I never knew different. So what if I had to drive around the block before returning home, so what if majority of houses had electric fences, so what if homeowners had to pay a premium for tactical crime fighting units in their areas? If anyone bad-mouthed my city, they would get a mouthful from me and be sent packing!
Then I moved to Sydney, Australia in 2009. I wanted to exercise my rights to use my Australian Visa, and was told that it was the best investment I would ever make. I didn’t want to leave. Who would want to leave paradise? A city that offers great beauty, big houses, fancy cars, and a Constitution worthy of recognition in any first world country? Was I mad to be leaving this all behind? I was content. Be it ignorantly content, but content nonetheless.
And so the nightmares of immigration began. Setting up in a foreign place, from scratch, with a minimal network, the stresses of finding a place to live and a job, and most importantly, prices that made your eyes water. I was not a fan of Sydney at all, I was out of my comfort zone, and all I wanted to do was come back to Jozi, a city that gave, and still gives me a sense of belonging and excitement.
A place that offers a spirit of Ubuntu (togetherness) that I have not experienced anywhere else in this world. And so I called it a day with Australia, and upon arrival back in SA after my brief 8-month stint, I vowed to never leave again.
This quickly changed. What once was a die-hard patriot, who only had praise for his homeland, became a realist who saw this city for what it was. A city full of potential, natural beauty and friendliness, mixed with brutal crime, lack of respect for the rules, lack of respect for others, and a belief that the law is below you, so go do what the hell you want because there are ways around everything! My mind was thrown into complete confusion, and I was constantly agonising over my decisions to live in this city. It was a love/hate relationship, which is never healthy. This attitude has stuck with me to this very day, and becomes more real as I get older. I slowly started recognising the faults that existed in this city, and these compounded with each passing day.
We live in a lawless society, with laughable law enforcement. If this society was based purely on theory, with the rules being so strict that you can barely breathe without being reprimanded, then this place could be in an extremely different position post 1994. But theory is unfortunately but a dream, and practice is reality. Practice includes: not respecting the road rules, not respecting police officers, police officers not respecting the law, police officers not respecting citizens, police officers not respecting the constitution, a Government that could be run better by clowns…the same people who are meant to be taking care of us, force us to employ over-priced security and to have alarm systems that could make do in the highest security prisons in the world. Failure of Government? I think so.
The average South African citizen has bribed a police officer, and has boasted about this. This same average citizen believes that South Africa is a healthy environment to raise kids. This same average citizen has complained that Jacob Zuma has failed South Africa as a whole, and that this country is going to implode. I have noticed, by pure observation, that we are, for the most part, a country full of hypocrits. Citizens have got to start realising that breaking the law is breaking the law. Be it bribing somebody, driving drunk, or killing someone in cold-blood, all are punishable and illegal. Abiding by the law starts at grassroots levels, and until citizens start respecting every aspect of the law, this country will continue to slip out of control.
Without getting into too much detail (at the risk of completely losing my cool on the topic) the South African government is an embarrassment to the people of South Africa, and to the rest of the world. This country is clearly out of control. I am embarrassed to tell people that I come from this place, a place where a normal daily headline is “innocent woman dragged under taxi for reprimanding a taxi driver in a road rage incident” or “elderly couple found in a freezer, killed for their cellphone and wallet”, followed by “President to wed for the 12th time”, “President to build R200m home while millions of beggars starve on street corners” or “President showers after raping woman to avoid getting AIDS” REALLY?
I think it’s time for the majority of South Africans to get their heads out of the clouds and realise that although the short term may be viable, the long term is looking like another Zimbabwe.
Let me conclude by saying this, I really hope that South Africa proves me wrong and that this place succeeds, as it has the biggest opportunity to do just that (and has had for years now). Unfortunately, I will not be here to witness this as my mind has been made up, along with thousands of ex-pats who lots faith in this country. It breaks my heart to say it, but this is the reality. I feel scared and insecure constantly in a country that I now struggle to call my own. Sorry Zuma and co, you have failed as leaders and as people. You should all be ashamed of your selfish attitudes. You have done nothing for this country except for tarnish its reputation, and make it a laughing stock amongst the world. That Australian Visa seems more and more like the most valuable asset I will ever have.