Wednesday, September 19, 2007

2007. Post Apartheid SA - NZ, 1998, SA Dispatches and NZ Reckoning

< 1998. Jake Esslemont learning to ski, Porter Heights.

Alleman's August 1998 dispatch: "Our mad society deteriorates. Jo'burg's population is now 8 million. I'm still unaffected by unabated emigration, especially young qualified people; daily killing and maiming (Kenya style) of farmers and their families; road accidents; carjackings; cash-in-transit heists; shoot-outs and bomb-outs between cops and Moslems, between Moslems and gangs and drug lords, between political opponents [Allister Sparks, Beyond the Miracle, Profile Books, London, 2003]. Ballon's daughter, motoring between Bloem and Kimberley, drove into a cash-in-transit heist. She was held hostage with AK-47s and was lucky to escape alive. Richmond civil war: They bring in cops and soldiers, but killing continues amongst political factions.

Bloem shoot-out between soldiers and cops, as soldiers robbed banks. Cops won the shoot-out, killing 2 and arresting 2. Gaols bulge with prisoners. Revolving door policy - felons are gaoled, then quickly released. Many white cops want severance packages. If this happens we're lost, as only white cops and soldiers (Koos van der Merwe) stop collapse.

Municipalities are bankrupt. Provincial politicians interfering locally cause more confusion. Central government is trying to bypass local government. Our local government sponsors a tribal dancing competition - first prize R10 000. Koffiefontein's skilled people will struggle to organize the forthcoming election. For almost a year in Transkei there's no money for running costs. Everyone goes to work, sits around for 8 hours, then goes home. There's no money for petrol, diesel and electricity bills. Government only has money for salaries. Government is passing the Employment Equity Bill, first law discriminating against whites in employment - an apartheid law phrased differently. [Verwoerd's quotas for whites: Hermann Giliomee, The Afrikaners, Hurst & Company, London, 2003]. Sport must be controlled by political appointments (ANC).

Many platteland black schools have stopped functioning. Locally, they have 2 passes out of 80 matriculants in mid year exams. There are less black matriculants from black schools than during apartheid. At work, I'm forbidden to do psychometric tests. We must appoint on potential. How'd you like to be operated on by a guy with potential to be a doctor? Medical services are collapsing. Orphanages and old age homes going under, as government either cuts subsidies, or says, 'We can't pay what we owe you.' They're negotiating with our municipality to pay us arrears later on.

While government services disintegrate major job opportunities arise. Just the private sector functions properly. Whites open their own businesses. Some make megabucks. Others lose. As the Rand drops (30% last year), export businesses make megabucks. Rising black personal debt is scary, yet government encourages it. White moneylenders make money.

Cash-in-transit heist near Bloem, by a gang of 20 armed robbers. English farming family murdered in George and set alight. A Porsche crashed head-on into a Combi near Durbs - 12 dead. Shoot-out between Boksburg and squatter-camp residents." (7 million blacks live in SA squatter-camps - numbers rapidly increasing: David Goodman, Fault Lines, Journey Into The New South Africa, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999).

On 20/08/98 an Aussie mining-engineer with whom I'd played Koffiefontein hockey wrote this about Australia: "Unemployment has settled at about 8%. Some parts of Australia are doing better than others. Western Australia has done well recently, because of the mining industry, but that could soon change. Tasmania and South Australia are declining, as are most rural communities. People with specialized skills often do well in the bush, because of skill shortages, but others battle... You can fall on hard times, particularly as the Asian slowdown begins to bite here... I imagine being a South African in NZ when the All Blacks just lost their fourth successive test would be strange - funny how the NZ government nearly crashed a week later."

SA teacher friends, who'd emigrated to Canada, told us they'd had to start Canadian teaching on lower pay than they had in SA, and had to retrain to improve their pay. It was hard for their adult offspring to obtain student loans in Canada.

Charlie, old Durban North friend and London accountant, sent me London job ads, and offered to pay for my London flight for me to seek work. I declined Charlie's kind offer, as London labouring looked as bad in 1998 as it was for me in 1981.

I wrote this reckoning to Leah on 28/10/98: "In our 3.5 years' living in Christchurch we've lost $70 000 - derived from your 7 years' work, over 20 years' my work, and mom's R50 000 inheritance. Although we bought 2 second-hand cars and some furniture in NZ, we brought the rest of our chattels from SA. Most of our money has gone on food, living expenses and rent - about $30 000 to date. Every month since our arrival, our expenditure has exceeded our income.

Living in Christchurch, we'll soon be destitute. I don't want to continue living on handouts. Do you? Every job you and I've done in Christchurch has paid poorly. Our income from education / industry / dole doesn't meet our modest needs.

Are our boys' schooling / tertiary education prospects better than in SA? I don't see us paying for our boys' tertiary education. I don't see us buying our own NZ home.

My hundreds of NZ job applications over four years were an exercise in despair and futility. Will you be studying for more Kiwi qualifications? You're already qualified and experienced teaching children with learning disabilities, and that teaching doesn't earn enough income to stop destitution. I don't want our sons slipping into student-loan debt. Our overseas educations, skills and work experiences are used by Kiwis, but we're not well paid. Big question: Why do Kiwis emigrate?

Our NZ prospects are penury and splintered family (if I get work elsewhere), state dole, state Family Assistance and state housing, none of which appeals to me. The $5000 we have left in the bank will be gone by March 1999."

< 1998. Mark Esslemont's 47th Birthday, Oaklands, Christchurch.

Leah read my reckoning, and said zilch, as she wanted to live in NZ.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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