South Africa is a country of huge contrasts, climatically, topographically, politically, socially etc. At a time of huge transition, these factors contribute to the development of tensions from time to time, sometimes massive, as society repositions and re-evaluates itself. Events in recent times have once again awakened the debate “should I stay or should I go”.
There is, right now, a feeling among many South Africans of doom and gloom based on various facts and perceptions. South Africa is the crime, murder and Aids capital of the world. It used to have the best roads and now they are full of potholes.
There seem to be only fraudsters at the top of the police force. The country’s leadership under Thabo Mbeki is rudderless. The head of the ruling party is up on corruption charges.
Now a basic infrastructural commodity such as electricity is being rationed. This will directly influence future foreign investment, which in turn will increase unemployment, poverty and crime. Mines are periodically forced to shut down, losing billions, which will adversely affect the economy.
This also brings us to the unthinkable - we could lose the 2010 World Cup. And the even more unthinkable: are we slowly going the same way as Zimbabwe?
A poll taken by Carte Blanche recently confirmed that the majority of affluent South Africans had absolutely no faith in Eskom sorting out the power problems. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel… literally. The question on everybody’s lips is: Should I stay or should I go?
Human behavioural specialist Dr John Demartini has some thoughts on the subject .
His teachings take him all over the world, enabling him to experience a vast array of living standards. Originally from the US, his work brings him to South Africa for extended periods about four times a year.
The question is not should I stay or should I go? It is wiser to ask: What awaits me if I leave? Unquestionably there are challenges in South Africa, but you are living in a fantasy world if you think there won’t be a new set of challenges and drawbacks when you move to another country. People who run away from a challenge get more challenges to face and manage.
People who seek ease get continued difficulty. It’s the way it is - the integration of complementary opposites.
The challenges in this country, like the power shortage, will also birth more opportunities. New enterprises will blossom as a result. Out of crisis always emerge the greatest leaders.
You may not realise it, but your challenges are unifying people in SA and making them think more creatively. SA is a seed of opportunity for entrepreneurs who could contribute to transformation.
Anyway, why run from your heritage? A situation like Eskom is a temporary glitch and it is unwise to let it interfere with your long-term visions and goals.
Remember, the greatest tension in the slingshot shoots the highest rock.
There is never a crisis without a blessing. So let’s look at the blessings in the power situation. This may be a lesson to government to think beyond 10 years and accommodate a 50-year vision so subsequent generations benefit from these lessons.
On a day-to-day level, no power to your television is probably making families communicate more. Gold mines might have temporarily shut down, but the gold price shot up.
If you have made up your mind to go, that’s fine, but if you are staying, bitching without taking actions towards solutions is not going to help. Don’t let naysayers interfere with your dreams and opportunities.
However, staying means you cannot afford the luxury of sitting back. You have to get into proactive mode. Yes, it may seem insurmountable, but if every individual helps at a grass-roots level by figuring out how to empower the people around them, it will make a massive collective difference.
Nelson Mandela is the perfect example of just one person who stood up and changed things. You know the famous words of John F Kennedy: “It’s not what your country can do for you - it’s what you can do for your country.”
Long-term visionaries know to stay the course. They don’t focus on how things aren’t being done; they always look at what is being done and what can be done on an individual basis. They are always solution-oriented and not problem-focused.
You are not at the mercy of your government; it’s the other way round. They are there because the majority of people voted for them. If you don’t like their vision, rally around and change it. In the meantime, don’t wait on them to sort out the problems, make it a community project.
Contrary to the current thoughts of disillusionment and uncertainty, which are largely driven by emotion, remember foreigners believe in South Africa.
Look at Oprah Winfrey, who has built a school here, and Richard Branson, who has invested every aspect of his brand here, including buying a game reserve. Temporary setbacks won’t stop these people.
Look at the history of social dynamics. Nations have risen and fallen for centuries. They have taken one step back and two steps forwards.
South Africa has made massive strides in the past few years. When I first got here South Africa was nothing like I envisioned. I was very impressed. And in the three years I have been regularly coming here, I have seen great progress in the landscaping, buildings and living conditions.
Would I invest in this country? I already have. I have ploughed in copious amounts of time and energy and this is the only place I have established an office outside of the US. My worldwide branding is currently being created here and my working visits are getting more frequent and prolonged.
I am even looking at possibly investing in a lodge in a game reserve. I have also experienced three robberies from my hotel room, but that isn’t going to curb my long-term goals in South Africa.
Crime is an issue that needs to be tackled in a much larger forum than this. However, I will go as far as saying that when there is a high polarity between the haves and the have-nots, there will always be tension between the two camps and crime is the byproduct.
Closing the gap is the wisest strategy and this cannot be done through entitlement. Entitled people generally don’t feel purposeful and are therefore not creating their own lives.
Education and mentoring , which translates into self-worth and true empowerment, is the only solution. I also believe that newspapers could play a massive role and be the hero in changing perceptions as they reach the masses. Their actions could even transform the government.
If you decide to stay and fight for your birthplace then you need to go from victim to victor mentality. Make the South African mantra: “I will stay and help build a great nation.” And remember, if you become grateful for what you have, you will get more to be grateful for.
By John Demartini