Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008. Post Apartheid, 1995, Fraser's Town Hill Dispatch and Natal Mercury Article

< 1995. Esslemonts' Korean Masks from Seoul, in Christchurch NZ.

Undated Fraser's Town Hill dispatch, circa July-September 1995:

"I think you will have your money taken off you in NZ. The reason why there are so many South Africans in Christchurch shows that N. Zealanders want migrant professionals in one central South Island location. There was a newspaper report recently that SA immigrants had to be careful. Artisan work sounds suitable for NZ and people aged 20-30 age group, not married families. I think have 6-12 months stay there, then move to another part of the world. Labourer with your money taken away, is what you will become. [True.] Discuss it with other South Africans in Christchurch. A political plan has been made, started years ago. [Fraser referred to the NZ points system residence visa]. Try and get that Natal Mercury news clip. Im worried that you will all lose."

Doctors claimed Fraser had no insight nor judgement. Fraser was prophetic: Thirteen years onwards I'm broke, having lost every cent I made in over twenty years' professional work in SA.

I lost it during our first three years' NZ residence, mainly because I couldn't find professional work, nor any work with wages sufficient to sustain my family in Christchurch. Working for less than NZ$9/hour, it was impossible to support my family. Christchurch xenophobia and my deafness didn't help as well.

Leah became the breadwinner, tutoring students with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). She ran a self-employed tutor business, allied to Seabrook McKenzie Centre, London Street, Christchurch, then years later became an almost full-time teacher at the new Jean Seabrook Memorial School, London Street, Christchurch. No way did her low pay financially sustain our family. For years her weekly pay was topped-up by state dole, state accommodation supplement and state Family Assistance. For years, Leah taught ESOL to Korean kids on Christmas holidays from South Korea.

The Natal Mercury article Fraser referred to was correct. I wasn't the only unemployed professional immigrant on the dole. There were many immigrant nationalities on the dole in Christchurch. Unemployed foreign doctors worked in supermarkets, garages, and drove taxis. At a mushroom farm, I worked with an Egyptian engineer retraining as a laboratory technician. His medical doctor wife retrained as a teacher. They couldn't get Christchurch work using their Egyptian qualifications. There were many foreigners who'd gained NZ residence visas, but couldn't get NZ professional work with their overseas qualifications, and had to retrain in NZ, which made a mockery of NZ residence visa points gained for overseas qualifications.

Winston Peters, NZ politician, periodically spouted anti-Asianism, improving his popularity amongst NZ geriatrics. He blamed Asian migrants for Auckland's costly housing, congested roads and crowded schools, although NZ schools made mega-bucks from foreign students, and Kiwis benefitted from migrants' money.

Fraser's madhouse letter continued: "Otherwise Im impressed with Sumner. Is the fishing any good? Try wind-surfing in Pacific Ocean, not bungy jumping off cliffs. I was seriously considering getting a passport, saving money and having a 3 week holiday with you, this century, but it looks only in 2005. [This would become Fraser's theme song for many years]. Dont let the children get bitten by the travel bug. Our mom Valmai made sure we got the bug, for educating ourselves.

Is there farms or built up area in the swamplands of Canterbury plain? Is the code no. ... then ... for your phone no.? It seems NZ is mostly farmland. Ask the tourist bureau for pamphlets, brochures and any other information suplied [sic] to the tourist. There must be photographs of NZ. Please send them to me. [Over the years I sent Fraser many snaps of our NZ lives]. For a picturesque area, it (Sumner) must be difficult to beat. Is there skying [sic] in S. Alps?

The composite-class co-ed system sounds better for Jake and Luke. It would get them ready for the next year. Private schools spoil children. Tell me when you get a firm job offer and what kind of work it is. My phone no. is ... It maybe [sic] that lovely quiet Sumner suburb is meant to trap you, after you have run out of money. [The Pacific did beguile us: the 'alles is mooi en pragtig' phase of immigration]. Then the town council has you as an artisan for a long period. The Natal Mercury newspaper article did exist and warned S. African settlers not to go to NZ. The first S. Africans who settled in NZ took the farmers for a ride.

What race groups are in NZ? It must be a relief for the children not to cope with racial tension every day of their young lives. Well done. I think in the long run it will be OK.

Thinking of you and your family often."

It was a relief for Leah and me not to put up with SA racial tension, which we'd endured all our lives. For years I paranoidly locked our house, cars and garage in Christchurch, and walked our sons to / from school. For years Leah and I were paranoidly suspicious of people following us in Christchurch streets, expecting muggings, which didn't happen. For years I marvelled at young girls safely jogging Christchurch streets and Hagley Park. I thought in SA they'd be attacked and raped.

It was touching that Fraser was concerned about our migration and its potential for disaster. He showed more insight into our possible failures than I did. And his Town Hill madhouse keepers said he lacked insight and judgement.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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