The death on Thursday of F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid President, brought memories flooding back. In 1969 in a rather bewildered state I disembarked from a ship in Cape Town from Southampton. What a beautiful place, in the grip of an oppressive regime where access to almost everything was defined by the colour of your skin. That year was both a shocking and formative experience. I travelled all over the country working as a travelling salesman and then, most importantly for me, in an Anglican Mission at the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital in Nqutu in Natal. There in graphic detail I saw and experienced the inhumanity of apartheid. For De Klerk’s role in dismantling that disgusting regime he well deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. I still remember the elation I felt when he announced the freeing of Nelson Mandela.
I must admit to being unsettled by the images of refugees massing on the Belarus-Polish border. Apart from the misery of the refugees themselves it is clear that they are being used by the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko as pawns in his dispute with the EU over sanctions imposed. The Poles in turn are firmly convinced that Russia is behind it all. I would share that view as it is clearly in Putin’s interests to ferment instability on Europe’s border. So apart from us expressing outrage and solidarity with Poland what else should we be doing ? Keeping an eye on a gentleman called Josep Borrell who is the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who has said “ to pretend just to be soft power is not enough”. Whilst he is not suggesting abandoning unanimity he believes that “ this institutional setting can be ‘flexibilized’ in order to act quicker and better”. This would deal with a pesky and neutral Ireland’s objections to the deployment of an EU Rapid Reaction Force. We really need to keep an eye on this because it raises many serious issues including the role of NATO and its ongoing relationship with the EU and, indeed, our own position as the only neutral nation in the EU.
As Cop26 draws to a close, one piece of news that I thought was interesting and merited our attention. Rolls Royce has secured funding for a new generation of smaller and significantly cheaper nuclear plants. Should the nuclear option be part of our energy solution ? At around €2 billion, the size of 2 football pitches and also capable of producing hydrogen, it should certainly be part of the debate.
Well last year we had the ‘meaningful’ Christmas. After Nphet’s recent advice, it seems to be all over the shop. To be honest, I feel exhausted by it all. After over a year of total isolation I was just beginning to re-enter society, if albeit on a somewhat limited basis. Now one is not really sure where to turn, probably somewhat like the confusion many will feel at the next election. In the end it comes down to our own common sense. Cut out visits to the shebeen and dancing with strangers in night clubs, agitate for wide-spread booster jabs, cherish your neighbour but don’t go any further.