Spurred on by those who have commented below, I’ve been thinking and talking and discussing and reflecting upon the many South Africans who flock to England in their droves each year. My main response – simplistic & generalistic as it may be – is one of resentment, probably jealousy and a sense of injustice. London is where I was born and where I have spent most of my life. I know the city as well as any black cab (that refers to the cab not the cabbie) driver, really, like the back or palm of my hand (depending from where in the world you hail). And I have noticed that certain extremely wealthy parts of London are filling up with largely WASP (white Anglo Saxon people – new to me, though I’m always the last to understand many things) South Africans. Putney, just south of the Thames in West London, is full of these people. Take the District line towards Wimbledon and you will see what I mean: the tube is full of purring South Africans, well dressed and well built, usually in their thirties, but sometimes younger and sometimes older, and clearly doing very well thank you very much. Putney is a very expensive part of town. It is liberal-conservative, I think it would be fair to say, and full of quality wine bars and bistros for young professionals to enjoy. The streets are leafy and many of the houses are large semi-detached Victorian jobs, or smaller terraced Victorian rows. It’s close to Richmond Park and within easy access of the M3, taking you to the South West of England, perhaps the only part of the country where the sun shines. Then there’s another pack of South Africans (I’m told, here, in Joburg that these are largely Jewish South Africans) who live in Hampstead, an equally – possibly more – wealthy part of town. Hampstead is known for it’s left-liberalism and hard left inhabitants. People like Tariq Ali inhabit nice homes here. It’s more trendy, less blue-stocking but just as wealthy. People who live in Hampstead will often go out of their way to stress that it wasn’t nearly this expensive when we moved in, it really wasn’t like this at all, it was quite run down. But that applies to huge swathes of London and never convinces me for a minute. Hampstead is home to nice pubs, Hampstead Heath complete with its green parrots, kite-flyers and gay swimming lakes. Hampstead and Putney are in many ways equals except that one is Left, the other Right. Both, as I think I have made clear, are for the wealthy. And let me be entirely honest with you, if I was rich enough I’d really rather like to live in Hampstead – if I could convince all my neighbours in Powerscroft Road, Hackney, to come with me. Which they would refuse to.
Let me not be distracted.
So, yes, the white South African syndrome. What annoys me most about these people in London is that unlike almost any other immigrant group, the newspapers never single them out as the roots of all evil, the reason for the increase in crime, theft, bad driving, deteriorating hospitals, bad public transport, increasing violence in schools and so on. And unlike nearly all other immigrant groups, instead of being pushed to the bottom of the pile, they come in at the top: they live in the best places, get some of the best jobs, and generally live an elite life among what is already a world elite. All other immigrants – largely – slide to the bottom. Qualified doctors have to do cleaning jobs, for example, and lawyers from Nigeria are found sitting behind the till in your local supermarket. Of course, I’m not suggesting that all immigrants should be treated so badly: they should all be treated much better. But the fact of the matter seems to be that many white South Africans get the best of all worlds. Like many white people around the world, I know I know – I can hear the comments coming in already. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that my own British people are any better.
And this is partly the point. A lot of WASPS here originally came from Britain. They left in 1948 when a Labour government came in there and the Nats were coming in here. They wanted nothing to do with more equality, the NHS and so on and so forth. So their natural instinct was to come to the country where apartheid was just about to be implemented. And now that South Africa is (a bit) less unequal (I know not much), and now that they are not guaranteed the best jobs in the best firms (because of, perhaps, yes, an overly unfair Black Economic Empowerment scheme… so many caveats…) they flock back to the UK. I have to ask: Don’t they owe this country anything? Most will still inherit great wealth, won’t they! Let’s be frank. And there is a major brain-drain going on in South Africa. They are needed, even if they don’t get the best posts.
Someone told me the other night that a lot of young black South Africans are also moving to the UK, and that they are just as much part of the brain-drain. They too, said the person speaking (mixed race, I believe), are just as greedy and just as materialistic. They are just as much to blame. So perhaps I’m being racist, criticising my own kind because I can. And here am I, a white British woman, sitting on top of a very fortunate fellowship, slagging off other people who are probably just like me. Maybe. Yes. I must consider all this.
This is really very badly written. I must stop. Here. I’ll let this go out. No doubt certain readers will write in awfully angry comments. Agh, I really shouldn’t publish stuff I’ve not got time to edit properly…