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From apartheid to affection: A South African love story in Singapore

Former South Africans Mr. Strydom and Madam Tucker celebrate their Singaporean citizenship, a sanctuary from their native South Africa’s escalating crises, from power outages to soaring corruption and a looming status of a ‘failed state’.



After living in Singapore for nearly 20 years, Mr Nelius Strydom, 55, and his wife, Madam Stacey Tucker, 51, who were formerly South Africans, applied for Singapore citizenship two years ago.

“Singapore will always be our home, because we got married here,” said Mr Strydom who works in the fintech industry.

“Yes, Singapore was where we came together as a married couple,” Madam Tucker added.

Mr Strydom was posted from South Africa to Singapore for work in 2004. Madam Tucker came to join him in 2006. They became permanent residents in 2008.

Madam Tucker said, “This is the place that I love… I think we are the happiest here than we have ever been anywhere.”

The couple were among the 479 new Singapore citizens who attended the National Citizenship Ceremony organized by the People’s Association on Sunday (13 Aug).

Speaking at the event, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said Singapore has always been open to the world. Last year, about 23,100 foreigners became Singapore citizens.

The Government said it had kept the pace of immigration “measured and stable”.

Massive problems in South Africa

It’s understandable why Madam Tucker said she is the happiest here in Singapore when her native South Africa is facing mounting problems in every part of its society daily.

In a BBC interview in May this year, the secretary general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in South Africa, Fikile Mbalula, acknowledged that South Africa could become a “failed state”. ANC took power in 1994, following the end of apartheid.

South Africa is presently experiencing power cuts of up to 10 hours a day, worsening South Africa’s economic crisis. Its state-owned power utility Eskom has US$26 billion of debt, old infrastructure, and power stations that do not work properly.

South Africa has an official unemployment rate of about 33%, one of the highest in the world. One in two young South Africans is unemployed and 60% are living under the poverty line.
The country is also battling high levels of corruption. According to Transparency International, South Africa is ranked 72nd together with Senegal and Ghana among the 180 countries in terms of corruption level. It is ranked below Malaysia (61st) and China (65th).

Rampant theft and soaring crime rates have compelled the private security industry to employ more people than the police and military combined.

“Protests have become increasingly violent and lawless,” said Kevin Allan, managing director of Municipal IQ. “The root cause is the exclusion of the protesters and their communities from services, political representation and economic opportunity.”

South Africa already a failed state

South African billionaire businesswoman and Executive Chairman of Sygnia, Magda Wierzycka, opined that South Africa is, in fact, already a failed state. She is also the richest woman in South Africa.

“In my view, we are a failed state. We became a failed state a while back, and I don’t think there is anything on the horizon that will change that in the near future,” she said.

The reason for this view is that South Africa’s municipalities are failing, and many have already failed – and municipalities are the core of the country and the backbone of the government, Wierzycka said. If South Africa’s municipalities fail, the country fails, she added.

Water is another problem. Citing data from the Department of Water and Sanitation, Wierzycka said that 45% of water in South Africa is lost within municipal water systems due to poor infrastructure, poor maintenance, and illegal connections.

The average global norm is 15%. As a water-scarce country with one of the world’s highest rates of water consumption, this is untenable, she said.

Politics in South Africa is also a mess, with some opposition parties switched “teams”, collapsing the alliance and allowing the corrupt ANC to regain power.

Wierzycka noted that “clobbered together” alliances have formed in many municipalities after the 2021 local elections, only to completely collapse a year later. Without a stable municipal government, the delivery of services is likely only to be crippled further.

“I don’t want to say I’m negative about (South Africa), but I am negative about it,” Wierzycka said. “I don’t want to leave this country, I love this country. But I am out of ideas in terms of what we need to do to fix what we are facing right now.”
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