Hi all FB & Blog friends…
This blog is extracted from a mail sent to me from Basil van Rooyen
BAsil: “e Wow thanks Arthur some unexpected and surprising
ex-Sefricans in this lot, making their marks around the world !”
What America Gained and South Africa Lost by Julian Krinsky.
After a quarter century, this small generation of South African
immigrants has risen to break through, en masse, into such key
leadership roles that they’re changing the U.S. YouTube, PayPal,
SolarCity, epigenetic cancer therapy and intelligent Mars robots
exist only because of these expats: One of them has led the
transition from PCs to cloud computing, another leads the U.S.’s
top business school, and another is replacing the space shuttle.
But they’ve done it as individuals and with the notable
exception of commercial spaceflight pioneer, Elon Musk almost
In December, the Silicon Valley Business Journal made a remarkable
statement regarding four of their first five winners of the US’s
high-tech chief executive officer awards, which feature competition
from the likes of Google’s Larry Page.
It said, Here’s something interesting about our executive of the
year awards, something that hadn’t occurred to us at the time these
four executives were selected, they are all originally from South
In Silicon Valley alone, South African-born high-tech chief
executives include Vinny Lingham, founder of Yola and Gyft; Willem
van Biljon, co-founder of Nimbula; and Pieter de Villiers, founder
and chief executive of Clickatell, the world’s largest online text
And these weren’t even among the award winners. Those include
Gauteng brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, who built the U.S.’s
largest provider of residential clean energy, and Paul Maritz, the
outgoing Chief Executive of cloud computing giant VMware, who was
schooled in KwaZulu-Natal.
Impact: South African immigrants in the U.S. number only 83,000,
a “small number even for a big city,” says Professor Nancy Foner,
an expert on immigration achievement at the City University of New
So small, she says, that there are almost no figures or studies on
Yet new South African networking organisations, such as the SABLE
Accelerator in California, are springing up as South Africans are
suddenly appearing in front of microphones as chief executives and
university deans and scientific research team leaders.
Apart from well-established South African communities in places
such as San Diego or the tight group of professional golfers in
Florida, South Africans don’t network the way they do in the United
Instead, mutual recognition often happens like this: Hey, that guy
running the University of Notre Dame seems to have a Saffer accent.
Come to think of it, so does the dean of Stanford Graduate School
of Business. Ja, and what about the guy who was in charge of
California’s High-Speed Rail Authority? And with a name like
Mahlangu-Ngcobo, that elections judge in Maryland has gotta be from
Some are fairly well known. Pik Botha’s grandson, Roelof, has been
ranked as high as 22nd on the Forbes Midas list of venture
capitalists, having funded the launch of YouTube in 2005.
Among the celebrity conscription-dodgers, singer Dave Matthews
probably heads the pack. Reportedly worth R2 billion, Matthews was
recently declared the U.S.’s most successful touring act of the
But most have risen to the cutting edge of American business with
Former Illovo schoolboy Steven Collis, almost unnoticed, has taken
the reins of healthcare wholesaling company AmerisourceBergen,
listed 29th on the Fortune 500, with 13,000 employees and annual
revenues of an almost ridiculous R600 billion.
It’s the same story in science.
The single greatest breakthrough in cancer treatment in recent
years; epigenetic therapy has been credited to Stellenbosch’s
Peter Jones, who now runs a major research centre in California.
And another South African, Dr. Liam Pedersen, has grabbed what
could be the most exotic job in the U.S. He leads a NASA research
team to develop the brains of “intelligent” space robots that will
explore the solar system in search of extra-terrestrial life. And
to test his autonomous navigation systems, Pedersen (42) gets to
test the robots in places like Antarctica and alpine lakes in the
In terms of sheer impact for Africa among transplants, it’s a draw
between expats Dr. Trevor Mundel and Nomvimbi Meriwether.
A former Soweto businesswoman, Meriwether now owner of Meticulous
Tours travel agency in Washington, D.C. is the co-founder of a
multimillion-dollar health and basic education charity in Southern
Africa, the Meriwether Foundation.
Astonishing Over-Achievement: She told Mail & Guardian that her
fund-raising clout in the U.S. enjoyed a major boost in December
when her daughter South African-born Nana Meriwether (27) won
the Miss USA crown. We are meeting governors, presidents, [and]
billionaires, so the plight of [South Africa’s] most vulnerable
children is being heard where it counts,” she said.
Mundel, from Johannesburg, has been appointed as president of
global health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with a grant
budget of about R130 billion and a brief of nothing less than to
eradicate polio and malaria from the Earth.
But it’s when you consider a professional field as specific as
immigration law that the astonishing over-achievement of this group
becomes clear. Bernie Wolfsdorfanother conscription dodgerhas
been named the most highly rated immigration lawyer in the world
for the past three years by the peer-reviewed International, Who’s
Who of Business Lawyers, and South Africa’s Daryl Buffenstein is a
former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
In the same field, Chris Wright, a transplant from Johannesburg, is
described as Hollywood’s go-to lawyer”somehow securing “genius”
work visas for everyone from Piers Morgan to Playboy playmate Shera
Bechard. The “O-1” work visa is normally reserved for foreigners of
“extraordinary ability,” including Nobel Prize winners, but Wright
has controversially expanded its use to include celebrities.
South African lawyers have not yet broken through, as a group, as
judges in the U.S.’s highest courts the way they have in, say,
Western Australia. But Margaret Marshall (68), a former student
leader at Wits, recently retired as chief justice of Massachusetts,
where, in a landmark case in 2003, she was the first justice in the
U.S. to grant gay couples the right to marry.
Compared to the U.S.’s business world, expatriates have
underachieved in Hollywood itself, but its modest breakthrough
artists include Charlize Theron, District 9’s Sharlto Copley and
Stelio Savante, who both co-produced and cracked a role opposite
Matthew Perry in the comedy The Whole Banana last year.
Building and Innovating: The poster-child for the 1980s
immigration generation is Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and
SpaceXthe rocket company charged with leading the replacement of
the space shuttle. In an earlier interview, he told me he left the
country in 1988 because the South African Defence Force promised to
be an amazing waste of time.
John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president of Notre Dame, Collis
and Wright were among those who told me they credit their education
for much of their success, but offered a few other clues as to why
South Africans had risen so sharply.
Professor Foner says white South Africans, in particular, had
invisibly risen to the top. South Africans [in the U.S.] have
gone unnoticed, especially the majority who are white, for whom
there were few cultural barriers, if any, she said. But I have
noticed that South Africans move right into elite circles in the
U.S. immediately, and look where they’ve gone.
Donovan Neale-May, founder of the SABLE Accelerator, says the 1980s
South African immigrant generation was unique in that they did not
take advantage of contacts and mobility through ethnic
communities in the U.S. “as, say, Indian entrepreneurs have done
Instead, Neale-May says the conscription-avoidance generation had
simply out-competed American professionals with a multitasking
combination of management talent, drive and pioneering vision.
South African emigration to the U.S. has been an overwhelmingly
white phenomenon. According to the Migration Policy Institute in
Washington, D.C., only 14 percent of South African immigrants
about 11,000 are black. And they’ve had to travel a far more
difficult road, says Foner. Yet a number of black South Africans
have made new world leaps that are, if anything, closer to the
purest form of the American Dream than their rich white countrymen.
Among the exiles who remained in the U.S., Mahlangu-Ngcobo is one
who has emerged as a national force in both government health
policy and theology. She has testified on healthcare for the
government’s Congressional Black Caucus and, during the violent
tumult in Liberia in 1997, she led a workshop there on violence
The author of nine books, including research works on AIDS and
gender equality, Mahlangu-Ngcobo lectures on public health and has
founded both a US church and an international ministry.
Gift Ngoepe, the first black South African to be offered a
professional baseball contract, is one of a more recent immigrant
generation to the New World.
Richman Mahlangu (49) discovered baseball when his mother took a
job as domestic worker at the Randburg Mets clubhouse. A tiny room
inside it later became his home, and he simply practiced against a
wall until he was noticed by coaches and, later, a US mentor. Now,
he plays professionally as a shortstop within the Pittsburgh
Article written by Julian Krinsky. Tennis coach, originally from
Johannesburg now living in Philadelphia. Her original face post can
here, and this story has already gained over 1,000 shares.
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