More and more South Africans are looking to jump ship and relocate overseas, say immigration experts, who’ve seen a significant surge in interest from locals keen on migration. Munyaradzi Nkomo, the managing director of Strategies Migration Services South Africa, says his firm has noticed an uptake in migration enquiries since the middle of last year.
The government’s cabinet reshuffle and country’s subsequent ratings downgrade, paired with the economic implications and former president Jacob Zuma’s policy changes had spurred emigration interests.
“When things got a bit shaky in South Africa, we noticed an increase in enquiries. People wanted to know what their options were,” says Nkomo.
“We’ve seen a further increase in people looking to leave the country before the ANC conference in December. More and more people were keen to move to seek a more stable environment to live in.”
Enquiries from South Africans this year, however, have been limited to professionals because of employment opportunities and those wanting to relocate to join families.
Reports that large numbers of white South Africans were looking to leave the country because of farm murders and the land expropriation issue were an exaggeration, Nkomo said.
“People are moving in numbers. And it’s not just SA citizens but foreigners who live in South Africa. In the global village we live in, the country is competing with First World countries for human resources and the difference is other countries have made it easier for a foreigner to reside in the countries while we have made it harder.”
Australia and the UK rank as some of the most popular destinations for South Africans to emigrate to. “Australia is very popular, then the UK, Canada and the US.
"We also often get enquiries for certain EU countries such as Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.”
Henry Harper, an independent immigration practitioner, has received a surge in enquiries from South Africans.
“We do get a lot of enquiries from people wanting to emigrate, but due to foreign immigration policies almost everyone who enquires is not eligible,” says Harper.
Garry Loseby, from Australian Migration Specialists, is surprised to see the spike in interest to leave the country, following the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as the country’s new president.
“I think we can all agree that the Zuma years were a bit of a disaster. Cyril came on board, he spoke well and inspired confidence, and people looked much happier overall so I actually expected a downturn in enquiries,” said Loseby.
“I thought that with Cyril coming and Zuma leaving, and the country getting on top of corruption hopefully, there may have been a falling away. So it surprised me to see an increase.”
Loseby believed there was a combination of factors contributing to the increase. “One of the biggest concerns in the last few years has been education. People living in South Africa are concerned about the possible fall in education standards.
“Crime is also a really big issue and one that has been there for years. Land expropriation without compensation is also having an effect on people's decisions because there’s no clear-cut policy at the moment.
“So it’s not just one single issue but a combination of issues that are freaking people out and prompting them to consider emigrating.”
Australia is one of the most favoured destinations for South Africans to relocate to.
Loseby said he understood why Australia appealed to South Africans. “There are a lot of similarities between Australia and South Africa - sporting-wise, weather-wise, to name a few.
"The unemployment rate in Australia is at 5% and we have really great social security systems. We’re fortunate."
The Department of Home Affairs couldn’t be reached for comment.