A message to South Africans now living overseas

Over the past few days I have received and read many notes of concern and sympathy for South Africa. Each of them is greatly appreciated. Thank you ️
I have also seen many messages with “I told you so”, “thank heavens we left when we did” etc.
My note is to these people. The second grouping.
My family and I left South Africa towards the end of 2008 following a terrifying crime incident and went to live in magnificent Sydney, Australia where I was the CEO of the largest and most successful advertising group in that country.
We lived in a beautiful home, in a beautiful suburb, with wonderful friends and family.
We came back to South Africa as we found the sadness of being away from those we loved most and a country that was, in every possible way, home, to be too heartbreaking.
We also came back as I had a wonderful opportunity to start something fresh, from scratch. We knew why we left, and we knew why we came back.
Many people who left and have stayed overseas, have created happy and wonderful lives for themselves and that is a beautiful thing.
Many however justify their lives overseas because “they saw the writing on the wall for South Africa”.
Yes, South Africa has many, many problems for sure. It always has and it always will, certainly for the foreseeable future until we solve poverty, unemployment and corruption. Until there are far fewer people who have absolutely nothing and little hope.
But South Africa is a magnificent country too. When you sit in Sydney, Perth or Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Tel Aviv, London or wherever your journey has taken you, reflect on your own lives and happy childhoods in South Africa. Remember who you are, your accents, the Bokke, braais, biltong, pap, the people who helped raise you and the people who are still here. Who want to be here.
Many of us could live anywhere but we have chosen to be here. Because it’s home. Because we love it. Not because we are stupid and couldn’t see “the writing on the wall” less than you could. Many people here would also love to leave, and can’t because of financial and other limitations.
But South Africa is not the only country with issues dear friends. This week we saw soccer hooligans and riots in the UK and vile racism following the penalty kicks. None of which would have been visible had England won. But there you are…
We have seen Americans (where guns literally outnumber people) storm the Capitol Building. Anarchy. Where I’m not sure who is more threatening to their society, the toxic Left or lunatic Right?
We are dealing with a global pandemic from Wuhan, China that has destroyed hundreds of millions of lives and impacts us daily. It has literally changed the world. And not for the better as some may like to believe. The dolphins have not returned to the canals of Venice.
We see unrest in Cuba, Venezuela, the Middle East and around the world. Chaos, anarchy, hate and insecurity is not unique to us in South Africa. But I don’t see you commenting on this. You reserve a special scrutiny and dare I say, hints of schadenfreude, for a country that gave you your identity and best memories. A place where your parents, siblings, cousins and many friends still may live.
We don’t need your judgement and relief that you don’t live here. We need your love, concern and support. There are many NGO’s and charities like Gift of the Givers who do remarkable work here in tackling poverty and hunger. Make a donation to them or to others, big or small.
Send love and thoughts to those you care about. Not messages of “you need to get the hell out of there”. We’ll leave if we want to and we’ll stay if we want to. It’s deeply layered and complex. There are no perfect solutions or answers. There is no decision without compromise.
What I do know about South Africa is every time we get to the very edge, the remarkable everyday people of this country pull us back from the brink. We regroup, re-eavaluate and somehow recover ️
It’s a scary time here. Dangerous forces are at play. There is deliberate insurrection and treason happening. Whilst Zuma & Co were the flame, unemployment related poverty created the firewood.
We need to fix this. We need far more of a sharing economy and inclusive culture. Hopefully this is a wake up call for Government. We cannot address unemployment without investment, both domestic and foreign, because ONLY economic growth can solve this. And a destabilised economy and society won’t attract investment. We know this and we need to fix this.
So my request of you, is not to pat yourselves on your backs and say “yup, we knew it, well done – and thank God we aren’t there”. Perhaps think of all the magic this country actually gave you, the very essence of who you are today, how you managed to move overseas and then please think of how you can help. In both big ways and small.
Nkosi sikelel iAfrika : God bless Africa 🙏❤
M️ike Abel is Chief Executive Partner at M&C SAATCHI ABEL and M&C SAATCHI Group of Companies (South Africa : Africa)

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Marc Wachenheimer

    Well said Mike. All the best.

    1. Colin Mayer

      Well saiy

    2. Carol Smuts

      How well said.I am long over the negative comments of my beloved land from many people here in Canada. I no longer care to hear it.Growing up in South Africa made me who I am today.NOT EVERYONE can leave South Africa even if they had finances to do so.This is their home their comfort zone and lives.I pray things improve and will always love South Africa.

  2. Chris Jones

    Yes, this resonates with me loudly.
    A is a wonderful country with many wonderful people. The ” I told you so” brigade offers no value to those we, ( I) left behind. We must never forget where we come from .

  3. Rolene

    Not all of us are saying “I told you so”. Most of us are really concerned, very worried BUT also heartened at the cooperation we have seen amongst communities doing their best to help each other cleanup.

  4. Taryn

    100% great post. Thank you for saying what a lotbof us are thinking

  5. Jon

    South Africa’s current problems (like elsewhere) are man made. More aid/charity won’t touch sides by the state level looting that has created negative growth for years when other countries are booming. You may love the county, but is it really the same county you grew up in? The level of resentment and how everything is about race unfortunately makes it a place I don’t want to live anymore. Yes other countries have plenty of issues but their trajectories aren’t heading straight down.

    I left because of crime, or rather the consequences of crime (no freedom, constantly alert) and because affirmative action made it clear that it was impossible to provide services for big businesses. Others were effectively encouraged to find workarounds and contributed to the corruption,.

  6. Barb

    This was re-posted here in Toronto and I’m sorry but I am finding this a very self righteous and condescending write up and you are coming from a place of extreme privilege as you kept mentioning. Please don’t assume you know what ex pats are thinking and why they make the comments they do. Each and every person had their reasons for leaving SA – for the most part family safety and safety of their children. The memories of the SA we left has long gone and unrecognizable and we have created a new life for our families but we never ever forget or worry about family and friends left behind.

  7. Karen

    I can bet that most of us who left the country are NOT sitting with any superior attitude. We are worried about our dear ones and all decent and peace – loving South Africans. We want nothing more than peace and stability for our former homeland.
    We continue to support and donate where we can.

    I can bet that those who return – and are financially able to- have feathered their nests well abroad. They have the insurance policy to leave again , if things really become so bad that their quality of life is no longer attainable

    When these folk truly return- they bring all their money back into the country , sell their overseas assets and give up that second citizenship, they are no better than those who left fir more secure pastures for their families.

  8. Carol Smuts

    How well said.I am long over the negative comments of my beloved land from many people here in Canada. I no longer care to hear it.Growing up in South Africa made me who I am today.NOT EVERYONE can leave South Africa even if they had finances to do so.This is their home their comfort zone and lives.I pray things improve and will always love South Africa.

  9. Brendu

    South Africa today is not the same South Africa I grew up in. I love my birth country but not to the expense of losing life. While every country has their problems it comes down to law and order. If you asked “Do you feel safe In your home?”” what would you say? Most people would say no … if there is one thing any government in any country should make their no 1 priority and take responsibility for is for civilians to feel safe in their homes. I am and was never political. My kids safety was my number one priority above everything else and for those reasons when an opportunity was presented to immigrate I grabbed it. Was it easy? no, I had to accept a new culture, cold harsh winters … I was depressed for 6 years yearning to go back to SA. To find closure I visited SA for two months and it was after those two months that I knew that we made the right decision. My decision was determined by the fear of families and homes controlled by alarms systems. Looking from the outside in …. there is things no amount of money can ever buy … peace of mind, quality life, feeling safe …. these are all the things my adopted country provided me and my family. As a women I can get into my vehicle anytime, night or day go to an ATM by myself and never have to look over my shoulder or be fearful. Also,, it depends on perspectives and individual stories. A white South Afican story and experience is completely different to colored, black or Indian …
    Same country but completely different experience and history. Part of me will always be South African or if I had tolive in any other country with problems. SA no doubt is beautiful, the energy from the people, the vibrancy, the different culture, the food, amazing weather but in my opinion the political rivalry has gone worst …. I had an obligation to keep my kids safe and I would choose my family any day above any country. Canada is by no means perfect but it provided us with quality life, peace of mind and we feel safe in our homes. No alarms no fences, no burglar bars … I put my head down and sleep without thinking twice. There is law and order …. police force are respected, perpetrators pay the consequences. Government step up and a lot of social programs in place. Yes, there protesting her too without any violence or looting …. if you ever need to witness responsible protesting this where you see it. I pray and hope SA to prosper …. what it needs is a strong leader that make the people of SA his/her priority and put law and order back in the country and zero tolerance on corruption. This is my perspective that happens to be an expat for different reason and I will always remain respectful towards others perspectives and opinions even when disagreements. Stay safe, healthy fellow SA

Leave a Reply