[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Fears over South Africa's exodus
Tony Leon
Tony Leon denied he was only speaking for whites
South Africa's opposition leader has said the whole country should be worried by the huge numbers of skilled white people leaving the country.

"We as a nation cannot afford to lose skilled and hard-working citizens of whatever hue," said Tony Leon.

Recent reports say the numbers of professionals, such as engineers, doctors and teachers, emigrating are increasing. Many cite fear of crime.

South Africa's white population has fallen by some 841,000 since 1995.


The government says it is committed to helping those who were marginalised by the years of apartheid rule and this is why it has introduced rules to help black managers and companies.

But the black empowerment programme is another reason given by skilled whites who are leaving the country - mostly for the UK, Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Africans: 17% rise, 1995-2005
Coloureds: 15% rise
Asians: 9% rise
Whites: 16% fall
Source: SAIRR
"The country is very seriously short of skills - there could be potentially fatal consequences for economic growth," John Kane-Berman, chief executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), told Reuters news agency this week.

"The [affirmative action] legislation was entirely misconceived. The reason there aren't so many blacks in managerial positions is lack of supply, not lack of demand. There are not sufficiently qualified black people," he said.

The SAIRR, however, says that affirmative action is not the only reason for the number of whites leaving South Africa, as they have a high employment level and still control 60% of the country's wealth.

Mr Leon's Democratic Alliance is seen as white-dominated but he insisted that his comments were based on the needs of the entire country, not just the white community.

He accused the governing African National Congress of being hostile towards minority groups.

While South Africa's white population declined by 16% from 1995-2005, the numbers of other racial groups increased: 9% for "Asian/Indian; 15% for "Coloured" (mixed race); 17% for "African", the SAIRR report says.

The South African government declined to comment on Mr Leon's remarks but has previously accepted that the loss of skills is a big problem that is holding back the efforts to increase economic growth.

Earlier this year, Security Minister Charles Nqakula sparked controversy when he told opposition MPs that if they wanted to "whinge" about crime, they could leave the country.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific