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Chicken Run Confessions

by Dominico Tucci / 05.08.2010

Emigration. I used to laugh at chicken hearted people packing their bags every time the Rand lost ground against the Dollar and the murder rate spiked. I urged lost sheep to return from their populous commune in London to enjoy the wide open spaces of SA. My patriotism lived on my sleeve – an eternal optimist.

Then my family and I went abroad. People asked, “Are you going for good?”
I was defensive. “There are no opportunities in Europe. People live on top of one another. Winter is unforgiving. Crime is everywhere.”

We had a great time on the Continent though. Burnt through Euros and grudgingly returned. Something happened there. So slowly we didn’t notice.

Crime hit us in the face getting back. Violent crime. A friend was stabbed carrying her baby. Another hijacked. I drove into an armed heist in progress. All in a couple weeks. None of this is news here. We know the drill.

Then a passer by rang the doorbell. He had a friend’s tog bag. Taken off some opportunistic fellows. They’d seen it on the back seat of my friend’s car and helped themselves. Smashing the window in broad daylight outside our house. I snapped.

SA hadn’t changed while we were away. The change was in us. The belonging I once felt with the country of my birth, with my ancestors, with the vaunted Rainbow Nation, was gone.

Maybe it was gone before our holiday. Maybe we were too deep in combat mode to notice. Normalcy is absent here. I remember stopping for an espresso at a café in one of Joburg’s leafy suburbs. Armed guards with semi automatic machine guns were patrolling the street. I couldn’t swallow my coffee. Armed guards.

Malema, remember him, isn’t going to lose any sleep over me closing shop and heading for the hills. Salaries I paid, taxes I handed over and cash I put into the economy as a consumer will not be sorely missed. A few friends and my aging parents know I’ve gone. Otherwise, the definitive one way flight, a momentous moment for me, went completely unnoticed by the Nation.

So what is the point of my swan song?

Concern, I guess. South Africa is no place to raise two little kids. I am in exile in Italy for fear of Julius Malema. I don’t trust him. I don’t fear him. I don’t fear the misled who support him. I understand hate. I understand its origins and wellsprings. I would probably feel the same if I had grown up a Julius.

I am, however, terrified of everyone else! Good people, black and white, that couldn’t be bothered to say, “Enough.” Enough of Julius, enough of crime, enough of the corruption and scandal, enough of Robert Mugabe. There appears to be no limit. People are dying. People are being killed. Rainbow people. Doing nothing, saying nothing is complicity. I won’t be a part of it. Even though SA is my home. I never got to thank the guy who returned the tog bag. You are a shining light. I follow your example. From the relative safety of an old European continent.

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