Every single time I’ve told someone that I’m moving to South Africa they seem so pleased for me, some even envious, until I tell them it’s Johannesburg that we are headed to. Whilst before they knew it was Jozi they could think of nothing better than the opportunity of upping sticks and moving to the sun, but now the expression on their face instantly changes to one of pity or concern, followed shortly by “hopefully you can move to Cape Town or something after a while?”
Johannesburg has a bad rep. A very bad rep. It has been publicised at one time as the murder capital of the world, and we are forever hearing about murder, rape and car jacking. The statistics are undeniably terrible and horrify us here in the UK, where we can’t imagine it ever being that bad. The thing is that in the UK we are lucky enough not to know real poverty and what it can drive someone to. A lot of people complain about the government and the system, but we are entitled to free healthcare, schooling and accommodation. I’m not saying that all of these criminals are just trying to survive so their actions are justified. I’m sure that some of them are on drugs or are just plain twisted and enjoy it, but I also think that a lot of the crime there stemmed from there being such a huge class divide in the past – extremely poor or extremely rich with not much in between. Whilst this is now evening out and there are a lot more rich black people or poor white people, there are still townships and extreme poverty. They don’t have free healthcare in SA (something that Rob is working on right now!) and we could not imagine how some people have to survive.
As soon as Rob’s job offer came through and we had to decide whether to take it, I booted up Google. The search results spewed out link after link to sites with negative stories – every chat forum was full of someone asking a question about Joburg to be met with vitriolic responses. I really had to dig deeper and deeper to find anything that showed Joburg in a positive light. I then struck gold, coming across the blog Joburg Expat. Reading through Sine’s posts and articles that she linked to, and then subsequently finding other blogs that are linked from her site, I found that there were these people living there that absolutely loved it, and spoke about the life that they lead in Jozi in such an inspiring way that I felt an inkling of excitement at moving there. I showed Rob the blog’s and both of us felt our confidence growing that we could actually experience a great life in SA, and not one necessarily in the prison of our home without being able to go out and see new things.
Since then I have tried not to take too much notice of the horror stories. Living in any city these days comes with increasing danger. For the first time in my life London doesn’t feel safe anymore; with all the recent stabbings, shootings and riots especially so.
I read yesterday that SA has had a 6.5% drop in homicide in the last year and is now 8th in the world ranking for murders (I’ll take 8th over 1st!). There has also been a 23.6% fall in car-jacking. Zuma has increased public spending at an average of 13% annually and this inspires me that some things are moving in the right direction, whereas in the UK I feel that the opposite is true at the moment – things seem to be getting worse.
Life will be different in Joburg – I’m counting on it. There wouldn’t be much in it for me if it wasn’t – I’m leaving my life behind in the UK to experience new things and make memories. I’m going to be as careful as I can whilst living life to the fullest, and that means focusing on all the good things. I came across this site SA Good News on Twitter and found it so refreshing that there is a site dedicated to the good in South Africa. Maybe you could take a few minutes out of your day to read something positive about SA? It could change your perception. Check out 2Summers, Story of Bing, Finding Jozi, Nothing to do in Joburg Besides and check out their blog roll for other sites related to Joburg.
I’m not naive and I know that I will have to be conscious of my safety at all times in SA to reduce the risk that I will become a victim of a crime, but I have recognised the fact that you could live anywhere in the World and sometimes it is just a case of being the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time and you can only protect yourself as much as you can by being careful and alert.
I don’t want anyone to worry or think that I am going to be careless about my security – I’m a city girl and am always conscious about my surroundings, but there’s only so much you can do. I could get run over by a car every time I cross the road, but I need to get to the other side so I have no choice but to take the risk. I feel the same way about my move to South Africa – I need to change my life. I need to experience new things and get away from the rut that I have found myself in here in London. I need to live in Joburg.