Batten the hatches of escape
18/02/2008 08:56 - (SA)
It galled me no end to learn that last year some 338 South Africans wrote and passed the citizenship test enabling them to become Australian citizens, increasing even more the 5 036 South Africans who took up Australian nationality between 2006 and 2007.
The news evoked deep reactions within me: anger at differing levels and, finally, meek acceptance that the current Constitution allows this type of "twee-gat jakkals" scenario to happen, and that as a country we must do something about it.
Any number of people, particularly skilled people, leaving the country perhaps for good is usually bad news. Those emigrating are usually highly skilled: doctors such as cardiac surgeons, teachers, nurses, engineers, mining artisans and others.
South Africa spends millions of rands training such people to equip them with skills: in the days of apartheid, university education usually cost parents almost next to nothing compared to now; the state subsidised the bulk of the students' learning - the expensive and grandiose lecture buildings and laboratories, the lecturers' and professors' salaries were all borne by the state.
Indeed, for a certain privileged racial group all schooling up to matric was state-subsidised and compulsory.
What all this says, notwithstanding the predictable howls of protests such as "black children burned their schools and their books" and also said "liberation before education", is that the country spent billions of rands to educate and train potentially useful people for the export market.
I remember one visit I made to the United Kingdom in 1987 when I sat down to dinner in a room with at least 50 young doctors, trained at the universities of Cape Town and Wits, and was told there were more being expected!
This week's news that Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America had now joined the UK as nations harvesting the best of our local talent angered me.
Why can't the government batten the hatches of escape and make such people pay back to the country what they milked from it? Why won't the government tighten the laws to make it harder for people to leave before paying back what the country invested in their education and training?
And why can't the government make it doubly harder for those who had forsaken their citizenship for "greener pastures" to regain their residence rights? All these are quite attainable, with appropriate amendments to the constitution and immigration laws.
But then again, it should be up to people if they want to play the eternal role of scavengers. Vultures, as an example, rarely go out to kill for their own food but will wait until their next meal falls to the ground either from being too old, exhausted or severely wounded.
We must admit that the government, instead of tightening the laws and the constitution to force people to stay against their wishes, ought to create conditions which will make this an attractive proposition for people wishing to stay and build their lives here.
In other words, get seriously tough with eradicating crime and conditions which create fertile fields for crime and criminals to flourish in. That includes eliminating such ill-considered schemes such as BEE for pals, unconditional affirmative action, and telling the truth when claiming to create "a better life for all".
But I am afraid all those cannot happen in the dark like nefarious plans: get Eskom to give us light, which I suspect is the newest reason people are scuttling