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Some natives flee, some return to rebuild S. Africa

Clinton and Mandela
Clinton (L) and Mandela  
March 28, 1998
Web posted at: 3:53 p.m. EST (2053 GMT)

(CNN) -- There's a two-way migration under way in South Africa, and the reason for it appears to go to the heart of young democracy's economy.

The end of apartheid opened the door to change, and one thing evolving is the makeup of the work force.

In recent years, more and more South Africans have left their homeland. About 5,500 mostly white citizens left last year, and most of them headed for the United States.

They view the United States as the land of opportunity, and South Africa as the land of uncertainty.

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Ghana:
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Botswana:
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South Africa:
Combating crime

"I was very unsure about the southern African economy," 27-year-old Michael Langman told CNN. "The violence was intolerable. You weren't sure how long you had."

Langman, a second-generation South African, left his family and friends in Johannesburg for Southern California, where he develops computer software.

Some see economic opportunities

Observers say insecurity about the South African democracy's staying power and the future of the economy are responsible for the so-called white "brain drain."

"In the last year or two, I've seen a massive increase in the number of whites, particularly white professionals, white businessmen, who are leaving South Africa because they do not see a future for themselves," immigration attorney Bernard Wolfsdorf told CNN.

But what seems uncertain to some, appears promising to others.

Change and opportunity are luring some South Africans home for the first time in years.

Duke More was an activist during the apartheid era, then fled to the United States. Now he's preparing to go back to help rebuild his homeland. More thinks black South African students living in the United States should do the same.

crowds
Nearly 5,500 skilled South Africans left the country last year  

"There's so much that needs to be done," he said. "South Africa's democracy is quite fragile if it cannot deliver the goods."

South African officials say the flight of the professionals is unfortunate, but that the cross-migration will reestablish balance in the work force.

"It is regrettable that people are leaving the country with all the skills which are needed by the country at the present moment," said Mpendulo Kumalo of the South African Consulate in Los Angeles.

"It's unfortunate that we only look at the people who are leaving the country and forget to look at the people who are coming to the country," he added.

Correspondent Charles Feldman contributed to this report.

 
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