I am because we are

More than a kilometre from the South African embassy in the Netherlands, I joined a line that snaked through the streets, leading to an eight-hour wait to cast my vote in South Africa’s national election. As the hours ticked by, the bustling streets around us filled with sounds from home. There is nothing like a familiar accent to make strangers feel like new best friends. 

I spoke with ease because for a change, I spoke my mother tongue. Our group of new friends grew as the hours passed, creating a sense of community I hadn’t felt since leaving South Africa. It was a stark reminder of the close-knit society I had taken for granted back home.

I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Outside our homeland, our patriotism seemed amplified. We proudly share our culture and defend our country passionately, despite many of us having left – some might say ‘escaped’ – its challenges. We often criticize our nation’s faults, but no one else can dare speak ill of it. This reveals the complex relationship we have with our country, marked by extremes of love and frustration. 

Why vote if you don’t intend to return home soon? Maybe it’s about maintaining a connection to our roots and feeling responsible for South Africa’s future. Voting abroad brought a realization of my dual existence. Here I was, participating in the country’s democracy while fully immersed in another. Two worlds, belonging fully to neither yet contributing to both. This shows that culture and identity are not confined to geography; they travel with us.

We defend our country passionately, despite many of us having left its challenges

The phenomenon of the brain drain looms large in our conversations. Many South Africans leave in search of security and stability, trading the warmth of home for the safety of foreign shores. This poses a difficult question: Would you exchange security for the familiarity of home? 

Despite the challenges the influx of internationals brings, the Netherlands experiences an overflow of talent, while South Africa faces a deficit. This contrast adds insult to injury to the problems back home. But seeing thousands of South Africans wait for hours with smiles, cold beers, and music is the best testament to our enduring bond with home.

As the clock struck hour eight, we finally reached the ballot box, our shared purpose made every minute worth the wait. ‘Ubuntu’ translates to ‘I am because we are.’ May all of us, as students, understand the importance of Ubuntu in facing the challenges of our respective countries. 


Notify of

De spelregels voor reageren: blijf on topic, geen herhalingen, geen URLs, geen haatspraak en beledigingen. / The rules for commenting: stay on topic, don't repeat yourself, no URLs, no hate speech or insults.


0 Reacties
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments