In the apartheid era it was for whites only. If black skinned you needed a pass signed by a white person. Even then you could only walk in restricted areas and with your head down. It was important for apartheid to succeed that blacks did not engage with business and aspiration.
When in 1994 apartheid officially ended what became known as “White Flight” occurred. The pristine downtown office buildings were left empty. In the following fifteen years to present day an interesting phenomenon happened that couldn’t before – Immigration – the natural movement of people.
Samson Mulugeta has brought me here to Little Ethiopia. It is surreal. I am entering an office block. Each wood panelled floor is sectioned into market stalls selling everything …there’s restaurants and hairdressers and record shops, wholesale, …. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in immigrants.
So where did those white business people go. They went to Sandton, an alernative city fifteen miles away: pristine and clean and bright. I love it. Now they charge rent from Sandton to the Ethiopians downtown and it works.
One senses in the frenzy of buying and selling a deaf ear to the condition of a country that looks – understandably – at its immigrants to say “who…who.. what… why….are you…” in the same way it asks itself “who what why are we.” Business belies confusion.
Government knows that community needs immigration and vice versa. Government knows that immigration, a form of exile, is as natural human impulse as learning to walk.