I spent a lot of my college days protesting apartheid outside the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square, often taken into custody. At the time apartheid seemed the most egregious sin on earth. Having sat in Brixton and Toxteth as they both burned, perhaps I was over-reaching, and I had my own gripes as part of a heavily oppressed minority in the UK (MI5 were actively framing Welsh speakers at the time).
Naturally, I believe that the forgiveness and compassion showed by Nelson Mandela in a world full of Reagans and Thatchers was my moral code.
When I moved to London in the 80s I worked with an African partner to bring music from the continent to the UK and got involved with Amandala, the cultural wing of the ANC. I had never visited the country at this time and would not do so for a long time. Still, I played my part based on morals, not geography.
Madiba has sadly passed and South Africa has now matured and hosted the soccer world cup for the first time on the continent of Africa.
In the meantime, Invictus has matured into a rugby world cup win under Kolisi and a more representative team.
The country is still a long way from where it needs to be and divisions and tensions remain palpable, although perhaps less so than in the US, a country that seems to have reverted badly into dark times.
My ambition now is to take my latest venture, an educational platform, into South Africa and make a real difference, not scoring some political points.
But I still wonder how my life and destiny got sucked into a country so far away, where I have no natural affinity.
We like to believe in democracy, don’t we ? But what does democracy mean ? In its homeland of Great Britain it used to be largely made up of ‘rotten boroughs’, constituencies constructed to favour a few landowners. Even after reformation, emancipation and universal suffrage we still do not get to select the leader of our country. The country votes for a small number of Members of Parliament and they select their leader, who becomes our de facto leader.
In the US, the situation is even more arcane. People vote for a President, but then their votes are abstracted into an ‘electoral college’, of which only half are legally bound to follow the votes of their State or district. The last election saw the President loose the ‘popular vote’ by a massive three million people but still take office.
Of course, this is all laughable to countries like Russia, where the dictator running the country (with a huge amount of popular support, it has to be said) makes up his own election numbers.
And in many places, there are good reasons not to elect a leader by majority vote, countries that have significant minority populations, for example: this has resulted in horrible conflict in countries ranging from Fiji to Rwanda to Sudan.
Polemicism is on the rise – tribalism will always exist. But we live in an information age where the political models of the industrial era need overhauling.
I left London when it was ruled by Boris. He literally sold the city to the Chinese and Russians. Thousands of empty flats. That was Boris’ legacy. Along with a failed bike scheme and overpriced buses.
A scheme to plant lots of trees planted none. Hammersmith Bridge was collapsing, Boris supported a new ‘garden’ bridge.