To emigrate or stay in sunny SA? The burning question that’s got South Africa talking

With financial scandals involving politicians erupting almost daily, and no clear sign the ruling ANC has the ability to clean up its corrupt ship any time soon, many South Africans are pondering whether it is time to emigrate. As Reg Bamford, founder and chief executive of Sable International, said in an interview with BizNews: “There are some dumb things being done in the country. The biggest driver…is where people have young children and they are thinking about what future those kids have.”

Bamford told Alec Hogg, BizNews founder and editor-in-chief: “We will always argue that a decision to move you and your family and kids out of South Africa is a very big decision and it’s a very difficult decision and from a financial perspective it sometimes doesn’t make sense.”

Taking as an example residential property, Bamford noted that South Africans could expect to swap a house worth R4m or R5m – very comfortable, large and probably with a swimming pool – for a modest two-bedroom home in the UK.

There is also the cost of moving the family possessions to consider. Some people will struggle to find a quality state school, with private schools in the UK way beyond the reach of the average émigré.

Last but not least, South Africans can expect it to take several years before they start earning the type of money they were enjoying as a salary back home.

Bamford’s preference is for South Africans to “continue living in this great house that you’ve got and send your kids to the great school that they’re currently going to”, but to look at international options for your children’s university studies.

Don’t emigrate: There’s too much to lose

Agreeing with Bamford under the article Emigration expert Reg Bamford to those wanting to leave SA: Think again, BizNews visitor Sam said:

“Unless you have an amazing amount of money, I’ve not met any South Africans (with kids) that have emigrated to the UK and can honestly say that they have the same quality of life there. Most understand fully that they are sacrificing good weather, beautiful houses, quality of living in order to provide opportunities for their kids. Most miss their families, friendly service and smiles, beaches, mountains and have swopped it for a cold country, congestion, generally unfriendly people, exorbitant housing and transportation costs and so on.”

Offshore also highlighted the disadvantages of emigration: “In SA the macro environment is scary but in the 1st world your day to day micro environment is tough. No help, small living space, very expensive and not everyone is happy to have emigrants competing for jobs. That said, I think we all know (even if sub-consciously) that we have reached the end in SA, so those can can take the opportunity to start again should do so.”

Robert Smith said that even though life is good in South Africa, it can be even better elsewhere – though he still misses his domestic workers three decades after moving to Australia. “Firstly a lot of people live very good lives in SA – especially in the Western Cape and specifically the ‘Atlantic sea board’. Where in the world can one live like a millionaire over looking the Atlantic? We gave that all up in 1986 so that our whole family could live in a safe and secure environment of Ozland. Surprise – our standard of living is much better than what it would have been plus our kids have been to world class universities.” But Robert Smith emphasised:

“However what we don’t have – and which a price cannot be placed – is full time live in domestic help. No price can be put on that.”

Hoping to reassure Robert Smith that he wasn’t missing out on the benefits of living in South Africa as much as he imagined, Happy ‘ol Git responded with: “Sorry to burst your bubble, very few people can afford any domestic help, let alone full time, live in.”

Grass isn’t always greener on other side

Don Lindsay agreed wholeheartedly that South Africans should consider the disadvantages of moving very carefully before booking a packing company. “As Bamford rightly advises, moving a whole family is fraught with potential complexities. As an emigre myself, I would certainly advise extreme caution. Post 40, it’s not for the fainthearted.”

Suggesting a rethink on location, Don Lindsay said: “Many South Africans focus on highly competitive and expensive target countries and regions – North America, the UK, Europe, Australia, etc. It’s not easy to get a toehold in any of these places and the resulting instability may well undermine plans for the kids.

“There are other options though. Long-term expatriate postings can give people insights into the experience of living elsewhere and can be a stepping stone to permanent residence in the destination country. Then there is the option of considering developing country destinations which often present lower barriers in terms of access and cost. There may be the challenge of having to learn a new language but one’s ability to speak English, and having been exposed to the high standards of the SA business and professional milieu, can be tremendous advantages. Such cultures are often very much more receptive too which makes the process of emigrating far less painful,” added Don Lindsay.

Wyzak also highlighted the benefits of looking around for options other than the UK. “I firmly believe that the primary reason why so many Saffers are in the UK is because it was easy to go there. If it wasn’t so easy many people would have considered other places where the weather isn’t so terrible.”

But, as many in the South African diaspora experience, emigration breaks up families and causes considerable heartache. “What he’s essentially saying is give your kids a plane ticket and wish them well. Many years from now if you are still close enough they might come and visit you every few years if violent SA hasn’t caught up to you yet. But because no country wants to give residence to elderly people who can easily become a burden on the system you won’t have half a chance of actually joining them permanently,” said Wyzak of Bamford’s interview with Alec Hogg.

“So either you take the knock on the chin for your kids and grind it out, or you send your kids on the way and probably permanently break the family unity,” added the BizNews visitor.

Termo was evidently highly irritated with what Bamford had to say: “What a hypocrite, writing from outside SA!! He needs to realise that we leave (or left) SA so that our kids have a better education and future, but that we want to be WITH our kids, and our grand kids.”

The Hun was also put out by Bamford’s comments, asking:

“I find it very strange that someone who not only managed to emigrate but made a success of it advises others not to do it. If it is so much better in SA why is he not returning?”

South Africans can be happy elsewhere, say emigrants

Cathy Kotze promoted the benefits of living elsewhere. Speaking from personal experience, she said: “Last time I looked, emigration to England is not the only option. For instance, New Zealand offers fantastic possibilities. It is among the top countries in the world as far as quality of life is concerned.

“Then there is Canada. It is the second biggest country in the world with a population of about 35 million; lots of space to create a wonderful life. Many South Africans move to areas where rural life is very similar to what they used to enjoy in pre-ANC South Africa.

“We moved to Vancouver Island in Canada fifteen years ago. It has a temperate climate. The ambience is very similar to the Garden Route. We live among beautiful rainforests and deer roam in our gardens. Our quality of life (on our very modest income) can’t be replicated anywhere in South Africa,” said Cathy Kotze.

1Zoo1 was all for diversifying assets, while continuing to live in South Africa: “Personally, I am moving my wealth off-shore and developing it over “there”. I think we have some time still to make enough to be OK should SHTF.”

“I love this place and never, ever want to leave. But it doesn’t do any harm being prepared,” said 1Zoo1.

Highlighting that most people regard emigration as a last resort and that ultimately most South Africans would like to live at home and watch their country flourish, regular BizNews commentator SA First made a heartfelt appeal: “Let’s Make SA Great Again…”

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