A servant reports that she is out of work because her "madam" has moved to Dallas: the real estate market is a seller's nightmare and a currency exchange violation has become a crime "worse than murder," according to one fiscal expert.
These are just a few of the indications that the phenomenon that swept across Africa as political power shifted from white to black, has reached South Africa: Whites - and their money - are leaving.
This was brought home with a jolt recently when 1977 statistics showed that for the first time in 18 years, more whites (26,000) left than entered (24,882) South Africa. It was the country's largest exodus ever and more than twice the figure two years ago. The 1977 trend represents a drastic change from the 1950s and 1960s, when South Africa attracted an average of 40,000 immigrants annually.
This is not to say that South Africa, home of 4.5 million whites and the bastion of white power on the African continent, is cracking. Nevertheless, 1977 may be looked back upon as the turning point for white confidence in the country's political and economic future.
"They're reading the signs," one white doctor said. "They don't want to be here when the trouble arrives and it is going to arrive at some state." TR FOR ADD ONE
"They'd rather leave now with something than as refugees in some years' time," remarked an accountant who helps emigrants settle their financial affairs before they shift to Perth, Australia, Vancouver, London, La Jolla, Calif., Houston or Tel Aviv, to mention some of their more popular destinations. In the last quarter of 1977, South Africans migrating to England outnumbered Asians going there by 600.
Consular officials for these countries say the movement to leave South Africa accelerated two years ago when the South Africans got involved in the Angolan civil war and the Soweto student riots broke out, igniting 16 months of turmoil and unrest. While inquiries have abated somewhat, a steady stream continues, they say.
The typical emigrant from South Africa last year was a young professional with small children who was descended from British settlers or who came from the country's 118,000-member Jewish population. Last year emigrants to Israel increased sevenfold from 1975, according to government figures. The United States accepted five times as many South Africans in 1977 as it had in 1975, the same figures show.
These teachers, computer programmers, engineers, architects, nurses and - particularly worrying to the authorities - doctors, are taking the option that their saleable skills and sufficient funds give them.
Although the flight of professionals is not yet acute, it bodes ill for an economy already short of skilled personnel.
The Ministry of Health said 213 doctors left South Africa last year. For the first time, incoming medical students at the University of Witwatersrand here received a letter advising them that the school was intended to prepare doctors for South Africa and that if they did not intend to practice here after graduation, they should not accept a place.
Government officials maintain that it is economic recession and not political uncertainty that has caused the reversal in the country's migration trend. Rising domestic unemployment has caused the government to slacken its drive to recruit immigrants.
Few departing whites give political considerations as the reason for taking what has become known in southern Africa as the "chicken run" but friends and acquaintances who stay behind voice skepticism.
"Nobody will say they are running away. There are always stories, like they have family or they got a better job," said one accountant.
Yet some leavers do frankly admit that the political future of this country looks too grim for them. A 31-year-old South African-born businessman, who asked not to be named because of the "morale effect" on some 2,000 other employees in the counpany he is leaving, departs next month with his wife and child for Georgia "out of a combination of conscience and the fear of being caught when we were too old to start over and maybe can't get out."
"The government is reluctantly making some minor concessions in the hopes of staving off the big ones that are required. This is causing black radicalism to grow and once that begins, it's unstoppable," he said.
"Once the situation intensifies, there's no gray area. You have to choose sides: you're either black or white and I ask myself, "Do I want to be forced to choose?'"
Others are opting to remain for the time being but admitting that they will probably have to leave in the future.
"I've already made up my mind. I'm happy to stay here for five more years of my life," said a doctor in his mid-30s whose South African ancestors were Dutch and British. "I'm staying to educate my four children. It's the only place I can afford to give them a good education and I will enjoy the best part of my life here . . . As I could do nowhere else in the world. My heart is still in Africa, but I fear for the safety of my children under a black government."
Another indication of diminishing confidence in South Africa's future disturbs the government perhaps more than the loss of people - the illegal outflow of money. People who are perhaps not ready to leave, would still like their money in more secure climes. Realizing this, the government initiated a crackdown on currency violations last year and judges have been handing down heavy penalties as deterrents. A Johannesburg magistrate recently gave a high-level white executive a six-month jail term for sending money without authorization to his sick son in Switzerland.
On Newspaper reported that last year alone 60 prominent businessmen were involved in 700 currency violations totaling almost $14 million. The South African Reserve Bank could not confirm this figure, but it said that in the year ending March, 1978, 361 persons were charged with violations adding up to $9.2 million. Married emigrants are allowed to take just under $35,000 with them. If they have more, it must be left behind.
Still, pessimism has not overwhelmed everyone. Some couples, like Ian and Helen Hetherington, have no intention of leaving and say they are optimistic that a peaceful solution to South Africa's racial problems will arise. The American-British couple has lived in this country for nine years and their sons have grown up here.
"The boys grew up here, this is they know. This is our home now," Helen Hetherington said.
Personnel directors at international companies like IBM and Mobil say they still have no problem recruiting skilled people. Although they had expected a drop-off in overseas applications, it has not happened, they say. One personnel officer who feels the exodus "is blown out of proportion" said 20 percent of her job applications are from people outside South Africa.
The drastic slowdown in white immigration has recently put attention again on the basic ratio of white to black in this country. Whites, especially the Afrikaners who are of Dutch descent and who dominate the ruling National Party, have always been keenly conscious of being outnumbered four-to-one by the 18 million blacks. This was one of the reasons the government has always vigorously recruited white immigrants.
The slowdown comes at a time when the white birthrate is soaring. Population experts predict that by the year 2000 whites, who now account for 17 percent of the population, will make up only 13 per cent and will face a black majority of 35 million.