There is far, far too much Afro-pessimism plus nonsensical assumptions that any place but South Africa is better, writes Terry Crawford-Browne.
I was born in Ireland but, as a three-year-old, moved to Libya in 1946 with my parents. Life there for expatriates was great, and we lived in Tripoli (with a Mediterranean climate similar to Cape Town’s) until I was 17.
Then in 1960 my uncle (who had emigrated from Ireland when he was 21) invited me to the United States (US) to go to university. I immediately loved the can-do energies of Americans and even became a US citizen, but by 1967 I was hankering to return to Africa. I decided to start in South Africa and work my way north before returning permanently to the US. I then had no intention of staying here.
Within four months of my arrival however, I was married to a South African. It was love at first sight. Such unplanned, unintended things happen when one is 24!
Now 52 years later, I am a South African not only by happy marriage and by naturalisation in 1981, but also by passion for the country. My wife, Lavinia and I were privileged ten years ago in 2009 to circumnavigate the globe on an American university ship – from Miami back to Miami via the Panama Canal. I taught a class of 36 American students about the arms trade and corruption, and she ran the office.
We visited 16 ports including Cape Town on our four-month voyage. The overwhelming consensus amongst our more than 700 students on board was that Cape Town was the best. Yes, like all South Africans, my wife and I periodically get despondent about the politics. But, having been around the world by sea, we ask ourselves: where might we emigrate?
Our answer is Cape Town. So despite options of Irish and EU passports in addition to our South African, we are staying.
There is far, far too much Afro-pessimism plus nonsensical assumptions that any place but South Africa is better. During the 1980s, South Africa was on track for a civil war and a prospective racial bloodbath. It was then estimated that 10% of the population might be killed, and that the economic infrastructure would be destroyed.
Our [then] teenage son was subject to conscription into the army. An estimated 25 000 young white South African men left the country to avoid conscription, or the alternative of six years in jail. President PW Botha in his infamous Rubicon Speech in 1985 in effect told the world to go to hell, and the economy crashed. The apartheid government had arrogantly assumed that because of its gold production, South Africa was impervious to international pressures.
Six weeks later, together with [then] Bishop Desmond Tutu and the late Dr Beyers Naude, I launched the international banking sanctions campaign at the United Nations as a last nonviolent initiative to avert a catastrophe. Thank God it worked.
Because of the role of the US dollar in foreign exchange markets and as President Nelson Mandela subsequently acknowledged, the New York banking sanctions campaign was by far the most effective initiative in collapsing apartheid. It was the main motivation behind President FW de Klerk’s speech in February 1990. Whilst the campaign cost me my banking career, our son also escaped conscription!
I was then appointed to represent the Anglican Church at the 1996-1998 parliamentary Defence Review. Poverty alleviation was and remains South Africa’s overwhelming national security priority. Despite detailed knowledge of the country's socio-economic circumstances, European governments and their arms companies exerted massive pressure on our government to buy warships and warplanes the country did not need, and could not afford. The allegations and evidence of corruption soon followed. Instead of any rational defence requirement, those warships and warplanes were bought for the bribes.
The arms deal scandal has been more than a 20-year saga. Having taken President Jacob Zuma to the Constitutional Court in 2010 to force his reluctant appointment of a commission of inquiry into the arms deal, I was finally vindicated in August this year when a landmark court judgment set aside the Seriti Commission’s report. Zuma and the French arms company Thales at last face their day in court, yet he was actually only a “small fish” in the debacle.
More court cases will hopefully follow shortly to cancel the contracts, return the goods and recover the money from those corrupt European banks and governments.
Of course South Africa has major problems including corruption and violence, but contribute to fixing them instead of moaning! South Africa is the world-in-one-country where anything (both good and bad) can and does happen. This exciting country offers extraordinary opportunities and a lifestyle, plus a fabulous climate and natural beauty, that would-be emigrants are very unlikely to find elsewhere.
- Crawford-Browne is an anti-corruption activist and author of the upcoming book, Eye on the Gold.
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