Ag in Africa

8 October, 2006

Tales from different worlds

Filed under: apartheid, johannesburg, quakers, south africa — Ag @ 2:44 pm

Today I was sitting around with various people in a Quaker meeting in Joburg. A couple of white people spoke. The first was an older man with grown up sons and daughters. He spoke of how he loved South Africa, its lands and people and its chequered history. He then spoke of how he loved his children and that they no longer live in SA. He spoke of how his heart is twisted with grief by their absence. His son was out of the country for political reasons. He spoke of how his grief has expressed itself in a physical paralysis he has in his foot – he cannot walk easily, but he has no medically identifiable problem.

Then a woman about my age spoke. She told of how her only brother lives in Ireland, and that he has three children, two of whom she has never seen, and how much she misses him and yearns for him. He was out of the country for economic reasons. She said that she thought he was doing the best thing for his family by staying in Ireland and that they were very lucky to have EU passports and ‘all the freedoms and opportunities that affords’.

And I looked at these white people and felt, probably for the first time, how much the apartheid-hangover continues to wound South Africa and all of its people, of every colour. How politicized people’s private lives are. It is unthinkable that anyone I know in the UK would leave for political or even economic reasons. When they leave it is through personal choice.

I find it impossible to imagine that my government’s policies could cause me to be separated from the people I love, and I’m profoundly grateful that I am a citizen of a country where politics is a gentle, largely optional, often imperceptible sideline to the main business of living the lives we choose with the people we choose in the way we choose.



  1. xxxxxx

    Comment by Jon — 8 October, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  2. As an expatriate who chose to leave NZ to study and stayed away for no other reason than the life in a new place is too great to leave it, I too feel for those people who have no option. I’ve many SA friends in Australia and it breaks me up to hear their stories too.

    Comment by deeleea — 8 October, 2006 @ 5:53 pm

  3. I appreciate the UK every day, and get frustrated when people complain about it’s levels of crime, racism etc. But I also miss South Africa and all that it meant to me šŸ™‚ Hope you’re enjoying it! (You’re not missing much here!) A

    Comment by Anne — 10 October, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  4. Thanks for comments. I keep looking at the weather forecast in the UK. Looks like you’re all getting pretty wet! I hang around outside my office here in the sun. Everyone thinks I’m nuts, but I need to get enough sun to last me the rest of my life! Also, I figure that Brits have a reputation for being ‘eccentric’ so I might as well shore-up the stereotype. The weather makes up for a lot.

    Comment by aggy — 10 October, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

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