OPINION: South Africa – Stay or go?

Athlete, writer and pastor Tom Basson argues  while life in South Africa is hard, messy and complicated, he would rather be actively involved in the country’s future than criticise from a distance.  

Yes, life in South Africa is hard. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it’s messy and complicated. And yes, there are HUGE challenges before us. But that, in many ways, is why I love it!

Because “comfortable” and “safe” and “easy” are not the goal.

Because no matter who you are, if you want to, you can make a real difference here.

I didn’t want to write this blog because it seems like whenever South Africans get into the discussion of whether to stay or whether to go it only creates armies on two sides. The “leavers” and the “stayers” – both defensive, both trying to justify their case. And that is not my intention at all.

There is no right or wrong answer here. It’s a completely personal choice and I understand why many have left.

What worries me, however, is often the motivation behind all the debate: to find a “better” place or a “better” future. And again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a better future for yourself and your family (we all want that!) – but what exactly is better?

Is it merely got to do with safety, comfort and convenience? “Everything just works”, “We can leave our doors open”, “Better job opportunities”. Of course these things are great but surely there is more to it than that?

We live in a culture that continually tells us to pursue a higher standard of living in order to improve our quality of life. But “standard of living” and “quality of life” are not the same thing.

In fact, studies reveal that many of the countries with the highest standards of living have the unhappiest people. Why? Because the one does not necessarily equal the other.

I myself have lived in the UK for two years, Canada for a year, and the US for four years, and I absolutely loved it! Great people, incredible geography, and of course first-world efficiency. But whilst I had a great time, I missed the sunshine, the smiles and the generous spirit of our people. I missed biltong, “howzit”, “just now”, and the simple freedom of space. I missed hanging round the braai and early morning surfs with mates. I missed the vibrancy and diversity of our streets. Most importantly though, I missed the opportunity to be an active part of a country that needs me.

Yes, life in South Africa is hard. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it’s messy and complicated. And yes, there are HUGE challenges before us. But that, in many ways, is why I love it!

Because “comfortable” and “safe” and “easy” are not the goal.

Because no matter who you are, if you want to, you can make a real difference here.

“All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” We still have good people in South Africa who are willing to stand up and fight, and as long as I’m alive I want to be part of the solution.

Maybe South Africa will go to the dogs, but I would rather be actively involved in our future then criticise from a distance. I am choosing to take my chances in this incredible country and whilst there are other positive people like you living here, making a difference, then I believe our future will be very bright.

This article first appeared on Tom Basson’s blog.

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