Black South Africans Are Stuck in the Past as the Rest of Africa Soars

By Dan Okwiri

In penning my journey I would like to reflect on my experiences in SA. As Cargo Manager in KQ, back in the time, I transversed Africa every day in search of opportunities, anything that is “not growing is dying”.

Most cargo flights are directional and on return flights, one carries “fresh air” is an idiomatic expression in the cargo industry. Filling the hungry bellies with cargo that pays on inbound KQ flights from Jo’burg was always an uphill task.

One day in the course of my search for business I met a Boer, known as Johan. He was huge around 6ft 4inch and weighed 120 kgs. Straight talking and used lots of 4 letter curse words, this common in SA grammar. He came from rural farming stock and was more African in many ways than most urban Kenyans. His African lineage runs almost 400 years. His farm about 5,000 acres and in it 500 Friesian cows with daily milk production of 20,000 litres and by the way he told me he is mid-size Boer farmer. I wonder what the big boys there do?

In Kenya, you are big when you do 100 litres a day. Johan decried to me that he had challenges with labour. His workers refuse to work weekends and have a bad attitude towards whites (emanating from apartheid) tables have turned & he feels endangered. He is thinking to quit SA but knows nowhere else. I often asked Johan, how about migrating to Kenya.

Plainclothes members of the South African Police Service fire rubber bullets toward residents of the Johannesburg township of Alexandra on September 3, 2019 after South Africa’s financial capital was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence.

We have no challenges with race but tribal xenophobia & since he is not part of that equation he would do much better here. He still hasn’t taken the cue. Johan also farmed lots of wildlife. It’s big business in SA and there are private lodges in private parks. Kenyans haven’t woke up to wildlife as a business.

Johan bred rhinos and one day asked me if we could freight some. I immediately took the cue. I talked to my colleagues in KQ and everyone said we can’t do it. Finally, I got consent but the rider was if anything goes wrong my job was on the line. I took the risk anyway and asked Johan to accompany them and I too will be there to ensure smooth handling. KQ bagged Ksh. 2,000,000 for this consignment and great publicity too.

The operation was a success and Johan became a lifelong friend. We went on to do several of these consignments between 2007-2010. We still keep in touch but Johan no longer uses KQ since I left in 2010. He says the bureaucracy and nobody is willing to give the delicate animals personal attention so he moved on.

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Johan is a typical Boer they are people with grit, no pretensions in life, simple, hard-working with a passion for all things natural. Through Johan I met many Boers and there was one thing he always subtly said to me he liked about Kenyans, we don’t have an attitude that anybody owes us anything.

SA has a really good infrastructure. Parts of Johannesburg like Sandton are 100 times better than Europe any day. The hotels there are amazingly beautiful. Of course, over 80% of the economy is owned by whites. Most hotels are designed with a fusion of African theme with a European touch. The colours are earthy & fiery and you will know you are in Africa. Most Kenyan hotels look like poor replicas of Dubai hotels with fake brittle glitter that quickly break & lose shine. We don’t value our heritage. I see African Art donning the world but lo and behold we promote Chinese, are we insane?

Do we need to wake up to who we are?

Despite the lovely interior designs the service in hotels in SA is not great. The black South African hospitality staff resent serving fellow Africans. In a way they feel superior. I struggle to understand why? Don’t ask for room service unless you are in the upmarket hotels. I know someone who was killed in his hotel room and everything stolen.

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Though SA has a huge economy it also has huge inequalities. All the beautiful infrastructure is nothing but a facade, the reality for most SA blacks is a hard life. 55% of the blacks live on less than Usd 75 (the equivalent of Kes 7500) per month. There are no better off than other Africans in the rest of Africa yet they refer to us as “KwereKwere”. They believe that whites owe them and have a bad attitude towards work. Inevitably all African emigrants who choose to settle in SA will always do better off economically than the local blacks. The whites prefer to employ other Africans, they are more industrious. Many black South African women prefer other African men as they are more successful. All this is what generates the xenophobia. It boils down to envy.

Zulu residents of the Jeppe Men Hostel scream waving batons in the Johannesburg CBD on September 3, 2019 after South Africa’s financial capital was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence. 

The rate of crime in SA is horrific. For that reason, l am not comfortable there and wouldn’t dream of settling. Rape is the norm. You can’t walk the streets and most people are restricted to shopping in the malls. Many malls in Nairobi are based on SA designs. Driving in SA you must keep your windows shut unless you want to commit suicide. Woe to you if you are claustrophobic like I am. It’s a dance between discomfort & life.

The airport is swanky but the immigration officers are horrible to fellow Africans. They treat you with contempt & disdain, to them you are a beggar. You will not feel welcome. Be careful using taxis. Many of them work with criminals and will rob visitors. SA for me the most uncomfortable country have been to in Africa. In terms of warmth, you are better off in Nigeria.

People, there are really friendly & industrious.

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There will also be criminal elements even amongst the African emigrants in SA and some of them do drugs. There are many ways to flush them out and not by indiscriminately killing innocent African emigrants. As it stand a foreigner cannot use public transport as your accent will betray you and you can end being lynched.

The rest of Africa is rising. Nigeria overtook SA to be Africa’s biggest economy two years ago. East Africa over the last 5 years has double the growth rates of SA. Countries like Botswana, Seychelles have a way higher standard of life. Kenya too has also really improved in infrastructure.

There’s nothing really special any more about living in SA. The whites are fleeing in droves. Since their independence over a 1,000,000 whites have left SA and the exodus is increasing every day. The economy is tumbling and with the high unemployment, the locals are turning the wrath on other African immigrants. The blacks there need victims to vent their hate and inadequacies.

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Let nobody cheat you that SA will get any better for African foreigners. It will be worse with the white emigration. With it they depart with their skills that made SA Africa’s biggest economy. Their deep ingrained hate runs deep that’s why they butcher themselves like nowhere in Africa, even Somalia which has been in a state of war is much safer.

Our future is right here in Kenya and nowhere else, we need to make it even better for the black South Africans to migrate to but for us they will not be called “kwere kwere” but Africans just like us….if you are Kenyan and you are in SA or you are white please move out and leave SA for its own.

It will be a bonfire when all have left.

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Written by Dan Okwiri

Dan Okwiri worked in KQ for 25 years (1986-2010). He has extensive experience in all aspects of the aviation business. He was part of the strategic team that turned around KQ, making it the number one airline in Africa.

Dan is a holder of an MSc in Air Transport Management from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, Chartered Member, Institute of Transport & Logistics UK, Certification Diplomas from Boeing, IATA. Awards for Handling of Cameroon Air Crash, Most Safe Manager Award. Experienced Aviator in Airline Economics, Operations, Revenue Management, Commercial and Cargo Handling.

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