Over the years, the position of the white South African inside the country could either be labelled a curse or a blessing. Unlike their black fellow countrymen who were tied down by ancestry, when trouble came knocking, whites could always haul out the passports and ‘pack for Perth’. In Ways of Staying (published in 2010 by Portobello Books), South African journalist Kevin Bloom ponders ways of staying even when circumstances motivate for the chicken run.
The book was inspired by the gruesome murder of his cousin, Richard Bloom and his partner, actor Brett Goldin in Cape Town. He takes the reader by the hand into the inner circle of the extended Bloom family as they weigh their options, presented by the brutal murder of their son, brother and cousin.
It is the patriarch of the family who prevails, contending that emigrating holds no allure for him as his whole life is inJohannesburg– his family, network of friends and business. Written during Bloom’s stay as a writing fellow at the Wits University Institute of Social and Economic Research (WISER), this is a book that benefited a lot from research and the use of relevant and contemporary material that presented itself at the time.
Historian David Rattray is killed. This is an incident that fed the phobia of staying among many white South Africans. Those with more than one passport came to be more appreciative of their familial roots like at no other time before.
But others who leave are not motivated by frivolous reasons like the need to leverage their European roots. One Professor Alan Paterson, a liver pathologist atWitsUniversityat the time, makes a compelling case for emigration when the environment suddenly turns toxic.
A group of men break into his quiet suburban home and change the lives of his family forever. His teenage daughter Jamie is raped. As he makes plans to leave for the UK where he’ll assume a new post at Newcastle University, one can’t help but empathize.
His tragic circumstances bear all the hallmarks of everything that South Africa stands to lose to other safer countries of the world because of the crime situation. The Paterson story is a tearjerker the country would do better not to allow a repetition of anywhere.
The xenophobic violence that spiraled out of control from a single act of madness inAlexandraTownshipis another motivation helping victims to consider ways of leaving. This is another area of the book the author’s background in journalism has helped bring to shocking life.
The beauty of such an academic writing project is that there’s always a need for balance. So then follow the personal stories of those like American style consultant Timothy Maurice Webster who marries a Swazi princess and finds a new home in Johannesburg.
Branko Brkic escapes the repression that would befall the Balkans under Slobodan Milosevic, arriving inSouth Africawith a few paltry thousand Rand and ‘no English’.
In 15 years he’d be publisher and editor of what Bloom referred to as ‘South Africa’s most irreverent business magazine’. Brkic was his boss at Maverick.
Despite white fears, real and imagined, a large majority of them have found ‘ways of staying’ that make Bloom’s book a compelling read.
© makatilemedia 07/2012