You know I love my homeland. I have written about how much it means to me here. It is enscribed on my heart. Wherever I go, wherever our adventures take us, I will always be a South African. I was born there and my parents and some of my grandparents were born there. My little family all have British passports and I still proudly carry my South African one, because being that person is who I am.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the murder of David Rattray, a shining South African who brought Zulu history to life for everyone who heard him speak. His funeral took place in the chapel where I was married, and was attended by 1500 people, including Inkatha chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, S’bu Ndebele. He’s not the only person who’s died at the hands of a criminal with a gun – thousands of people, black and white, have been murdered, sometimes for their cars, for their cellphones, for admitting they have AIDs, sometimes, like Rattray, for nothing.
I’m glad to report that Rattray’s murderer has been apprehended and sentenced to 25 years in prison, and the rest of the gang who took part are being rounded up and tried. In the same edition of the Mail & Guardian that reports on their trials are ongoing conversations about crime, the talent shortage in the country, and expatriates just like myself who sit in their gilded European homes and criticise the country.
I don’t want to do that. I also have never felt the need to justify why I live here and not there. It just continues to break my heart that my husband and I, educated individuals with skills and talent to offer, are through force of circumstance here and not there. We now have three German-raised children, who are used to riding their bikes in the street, to walking safely from one place to another, to living without fear. Even if someone offered us a dream job in our dream city, living near our beloved friends, would we be able to shift our children from a land where they are relatively free to a land where they would need constant adult supervision, protection and burglar bars on their bedroom windows? And would living in the same country as our families compensate for the anxiety we might feel about our children’s safety? Would that heart-aching beauty compensate for the sick feeling we’d get in our stomachs as we opened our morning newspaper and read of another one, two, twenty murders?
No-one can tell us that. So either we’re going to stick with our comfortable, safe, perhaps slightly dull European lives, or we’re going to take the risk and go back home one day. I don’t know when or how that’s going to be.