Counterfactual #5


When I started work in South Africa my original plan was to stay there for 3 to 4 years, and then return to Europe to find work there. In the end it turned out to be 5½ years, and although my decision still held firm, there were plenty of reasons why we could have decided to stay. The job was good and one of the highlights of my career, I had two children born in South Africa, the living was easy with low rent and plenty of nice weather. And black majority rule looked no closer to reality than it did when I entered the country.

On the downside was the fact that my wife could never hold a steady teaching job unless she took on South African citizenship. I also did not think too much of the education system, with the local universities merely being glorified polytechnics. I also did not want my children to grow with a restricted world view that might have resulted from growing up in South Africa.

So in the end we decided to leave, but it could easily have been different. In that case it’s hard to tell how things would have worked out. Iscor was privatised in the same year that I left, presumably because someone foresaw the implementation of black majority rule in the near future. There must have been quite some movement of personnel around that period, because when I contacted Brian Parry for a recommendation after I had been made redundant in Allied Steel & Wire, he had become a big cheese (from lowly middle manager status during my time there) and a lot of the old guard seemed to have left.

How would I have coped during the upheaval that must have followed the privatisation is hard to tell. All I can say is that Aalwyntuine, where we used to live at the time we left South Africa, is now a gated community, meaning that Iscor properties must have been sold off, and we would have to make the decision to buy or rent a property in Vanderbijlpark. At the same time the South African Rand had plummeted in value, and what constituted good money inside the country did not amount to much in European currencies.

Meaning that the longer we stayed the harder it would have been to extricate ourselves and return to Europe. Still, as time progressed I’ve seen most of the people we knew in South Africa leave the country, so chances are that in the end that’s what we would have done as well.

It’s hard to tell how that would have panned out. It all would have depended on my job situation in Iscor / Mittal and the economic situation in the UK. But I can’t see how leaving the country when so many ties had to be broken would have been easy.

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