Crunch for Mandela as Whites Take Flight; South Africa Is Facing a Brain Drain Because of Rampant Crime and Murder
Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Not the sentiment one would normally expect from the world's most forgiving president, Nelson Mandela.
But a wave of skilled, mainly white, South Africans fleeing rampant crime has clearly touched a nerve.
The president who vowed to forge a future for all races after 27 years in jail says those abandoning ship for a better life overseas are not true South Africans.
"Those who have not got the courage and the patriotism to remain in their country - let them go!" Mr Mandela said during a recent visit to the United States. "It is good riddance!"
The majority of the so-called deserters are not bad rubbish, but the trained professionals South Africa badly needs to help build its economy to improve the lives of millions of black citizens impoverished under apartheid.
Official figures show that more than 10,000 fled the nation's mean streets last year, over half of them economically active and more than 2,000 in professions like engineering, medicine and teaching.
The real total is probably much higher.
"This is something which international investors are using as a barometer of future economic prospects," said Ms Jenny Cargill, director of the BusinessMap investment analysis group.
One unpatriotic deserter is Ms Elze Higgo, who emigrated to Canada with her young son and civil engineer husband and says she can finally sleep easy with the back door open at night.
"Open your eyes Mr Mandela, or you soon could be left with a country that has no professional people," said Ms Higgo.
"What were you going to give me if I stayed and became another statistic, or if my child got killed in the new South Africa? A Noddy badge?" she said.
Armed robberies and other violent crimes are rife in South Africa's cities, with the centre of Johannesburg, and increasingly Cape Town, becoming no-go areas after dark.
The country last year recorded 24,588 murders, 52,160 cases of rape, 249,375 home burglaries and 13,011 car hijackings.
But Mr Mandela has said fear of crime is mainly a white preoccupation, fomented by a mainly white-owned press, while predominantly black and coloured areas suffer the brunt of violent crime in silence. Mr Bob Mattes, a pollster who has conducted a survey on behalf of the Southern Africa Migration Project, said his research showed only a modest correlation between indicators of patriotism and willingness to leave the country.
"The picture is not of an unpatriotic, ungrateful group unprepared to serve their country," he said.
"Rather with concerns over safety and security as the most often cited reasons for leaving, the picture is more one of a group of people with the means to so do leaving under duress."
The president's comments have drawn howls of protest and observers say the issue will become even more heated towards the country's second democratic election due by July next year when Mr Mandela's African National Congress should win again. …