Young South Africans speak: Why we are leaving the country

Young people wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa about why they are leaving South AFrica.
Young people wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa about why they are leaving South AFrica.

Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on young South Africans not to leave the country and for those who have already left to come back and contribute to growing South Africa.

News24 asked young people to send to us their reasons for leaving and what would have to be different for them to return to South Africa, or not leave at all. The response was overwhelming. We chose 15 of the letters we received to showcase the plight of the youth.

Click on the link below each to read the full letters.

Being an African is a privilege. But it's not enough

Seipati Mokhema

Name: Seipati Mokhami 

Age: 25

Occupation: Junior researcher 

I love my country, Ntate Ramaphosa, but the deliberate disrespect of state resources being looted and abused by democratically elected officials is disheartening to watch from the periphery. When we are deprived of resources to sustain our livelihoods, (electricity and education to name just two) we lag behind and slowly lose the ability to compete with the rest of the world on an equal footing. It is frustrating to be stuck in a space where you cannot explore your talents and skills because resources meant to invest in our gifts never reach us to begin with.

Read Seipati's full letter

I am in exile

Thlologelo Rampa

Name: Thlologelo Rampa

Age: 25

Occupation: Social worker

I am in exile. I should not be as I was born when apartheid took its last breath. I was born in October 1993 so I was born free. At least that is what I was made to believe my whole life. My dear Mr President, I am in exile because my home country does not feel like home anymore. How do you expect me to stay in a country where I hold two degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand but was unemployed for three years?

Read Thlogelo's letter in full

My education could not lift my family out of poverty

Matome Seketa

Name: Matome Seketa

Age: 24

Occupation: Unemployed

I am an older brother to two boys who are looking up to me. I used to tell them that education will help us get out of poverty, but since I hold a degree and have nothing to show for it, I do not know what to say to them anymore.

They will still be going to school without jerseys as the winter is approaching. I hope they are not discouraged and they keep working hard. I have even changed my tune now, I am no longer telling them that education will help us get out of poverty but my tune now is that education will help us get out of this country to a better one where one's degree will be just enough to put meat on the table. They smile when I say that. I hope they do not think that I am patronising them. 

Read Matome's letter in full

We believe in Mandela's dream, but we are leaderless


Name: Rumwell Mabundza

Age: 28

Occupation: Business owner

Something needs to be done, and fast, something needs to change before it's too late. That something, Mr President is to tap into the nation's call of unity, prosperity and equal opportunities for all who live in our beautiful country. We all want to play our part but these political, divisive war games that you and the other political leaders are occupied by is wasting precious time in turning this nation into a nation of nations. We are leaderless, Mr President, we don't have clarity as a nation.

Read Rumwell's letter in full

Study opportunities, safety and security are making me leave

Chante du Preez

Name: Chanté du Preez

Age: 18

Occupation: Student

In order to stay, I would need encouragement. Although verbal encouragement helps, I'd need it in actions. Rather than being told to stay, I'd need to be shown. Shown that I'm wanted. I'd need more feminine hygiene products to be accessible to young girls who can't afford them, I'd need to know that my friend coming from their township will get home without being raped… or worse. I'd need access to as many academic opportunities as I will be receiving abroad. I'd need the elderly who have contributed to our economy to be taken care of in their frail days. I'd need politicians to live fairly and honestly, and I'd need to be able to cross that short zebra crossing without being a victim of crime.

Read Chanté's letter in full

As a trained psychologist, I couldn't find work

Janine Adams

Name: Janine Adams

Age: 34

Occupation: Psychologist

My parents made a lot of sacrifices to give me further education and I couldn't see that their sacrifices went in vein so I decided to join SAPS and worked as a constable for more than nine years, working Visible Policing and receiving the same salary as a constable who just came from school without any further education apart from the police training. I left South Africa last year to work abroad as an English teacher with the hope of immigrating because if I struggled as a young educated female in South Africa, I can only imagine how hard it will be for my children to get work.

Read Janine's letter in full

Seeing the world made me understand South Africa better

Keamogetswe Pitsi

Name: Keamogetswe Pitsi 

Age: 28

Occupation: Brand consultant 

I honestly believe that we need to encourage more South Africans to go live abroad. Particularly young black students and professionals. When I picture the kind of people that might be running the country in 20 years, I hope it is people who  have experienced living in a crime free neighbourhood (and gets why it needs to be seriously addressed in SA), or who understand a different context of the effects of racism and exclusion on the growth of society.

Read Keamogetswe's letter in full

BEE is killing our country

Justin Daines

Name: Justin Daines

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Without a doubt, BBBEE and Affirmative Action are to blame for the collapse of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in this country. When an employer appoints an employee, based on their skin colour, who is not the best candidate for the job, he/she will obviously not get the best possible output from that employee. When this happens over and over again, the business will be affected. Merit-based appointment is the only solution for growth and development in SA. 

Read Justin's letter in full

Our future was here but it was stolen

Clayton Lukas

Name: Clayton Lukas

Age: 25

Occupation: Unemployed

So much more could be done to solve our simple issues in South Africa, yet our president does not hear our cries as the youth. What's the use staying in a country that is not beneficial to OUR growth as a youth? Countries abroad have become a safe haven as we can become anything we can dream and work towards to. Your country is not in too deep a hole yet, Mr President. You can still rescue it but as part of the youth of South Africa, I won't be here to watch it being pushed further into the ground. 

Read Clayton's letter in full

Race-based policies prevented me from getting a job

Alex Weiss

Name: Alex Weiss

Age: 23

Occupation: Unemployed

I do not want to leave, but in a competitive job market with employment equity targets I have had no other choice. If Ramaphosa was serious about keeping white South Africans here, a great point of departure would be to revise race-based policies and programs. Including white South Africans as an after-thought in the Yes4Youth program does little to reassure them that there is "room for all of us to play a role".

Read Alex's letter in full

I feel much safer in a foreign country


Name: Siphamandla Mnyani

Age: 33

Occupation: Engineer

Debt to GDP ratio – this needs to change, it's scary and it's having an impact on infrastructure development that have potential to unlock and stimulate economic growth. We need to move away from social grants and high maintenance for MPs and ministers. In fact, governmental heads must use public infrastructure. It must be mandatory for people that are working in the health portfolio to use public hospitals, children of the public office bearers must use public schools, etc. Having high debt is a constraint to economic growth.

Read Siphamandla's letter in full

No standing with a foot on either side: Commit or leave

Marc Smit

Name: Marc Smit

Age: 29

Occupation: Writer

South Africans who complain incessantly about the dismal state of the country today usually have little idea of what is truly transpiring therein. They care little to know. They do not want to partake in the country; they want only to take from it. Some might argue that it is necessary for the youth to travel overseas in order to accumulate skills they can bring back to South Africa. It is time to stop turning to the West for support. They cannot nor do they want to give it. We have enough power in ourselves to forge our own future. 

Read Marc's letter in full

Empower black people as promised, so we can have equal opportunities

Ruan Moolman

Name: Ruan Moolman

Age: 21

Occupation: Student

If you listen to conversations, most of the youth, especially the white population, would like to leave the country. The important part is "would like to" as there is not even enough funding to finish a degree, let alone fund yourself to pursue the greener pastures overseas. Instead of going around the country and promising opportunities to the youth, you should rather start implementing promises that were made by the ANC since the first democratic election. I want to see a South Africa where black people are empowered as promised, to ensure that there is an equal chance for all races to have equal standing in the road to success.

Read Ruan's letter in full

Don't hold the youth back with empty promises. Rather let them go

Thato Tlakedi

Name: Thato Tlakedi

Age: 27

Occupation: Intern

Cheap politicking is the reason we are here today; begging for skilled citizens to stay in a broken society. You and your party have continually denied South Africans opportunities for growth and success because you know, you are the god of the people's needs: houses, infrastructure, etc. You have created so much dependency on the government through politicking that you cannot even begin to understand the impacts, hence you continue on this path. Good luck dealing with the daily protests that seem to have become part of SA's DNA. Talk about self-inflicted wounds!

Read Thato's letter in full

Don't tell me not to go, give me a reason to stay

Stefan Schoeman

Name: Stefan Schoeman

Age: 32

Occupation: IT manager

What young people want to see is politicians who can stand up for what's right and have the commitment to see it through. This is not a generation that is manipulated by empty promises or lulled by a fake sense of loyalty tied to a past that does not serve our future. We need politicians with principles and the courage to act regardless of what the potential impact is for themselves or the party they represent.

Read Stefan's letter in full

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