May you be forgiven, Prime Ministers

Cyril greets a smiling lady in red

By John Fraser

We have all done it. You have a brief stop-over after a long flight. Dehydrated and dizzy from all that free booze, you dance around (badly) for a while, creating ghastly visions and memories which will linger forever. For all the wrong reasons. Look it up on social media. It’s a laff.

I didn’t time Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tuesday Cape Town visit, but it can’t have been that long, as she was scheduled to be in Nigeria the next day.

And it wasn’t just through her dancing that May put her foot (feet?) in it.

Given that Britain is one of the largest trade partners of, and investors in, South Africa, it was pretty likely that she would be asked about land reform.

Sadly, the lady who is busy buggering up Brexit, buggered up this one as well.

If News24 is to be believed, her response, if not joyful, was hardly a robust defence of the interests of British investors and property owners in SA.

“The UK has for some time now supported land reform that is legal and transparent and generated through a democratic process,” said May.

“I discussed it with President Ramaphosa during his visit to Britain earlier this year and will discuss it with him again later today.

“I welcome the comments that President Ramaphosa has already made, bearing in mind the economic and social aspects of it.

“I think he’s made some comments that it won’t be a smash and grab approach. I think there’s an opportunity to unlock investment.”

Wow. It’s OK as long as it is lawful? A dangerous argument.

Slavery is lawful in some places, as is the oppression of women, gays, journalists, free speech. There are Middle Eastern countries where they chop off your hands or your head. Such barbarism is lawful. The law is an axe.

The rule of law is vital, but only as long as the laws make sense, do not deprive citizens of vital rights. Anyone remember Apartheid? That was legal.

It is oft stated, too, that most of what Hitler and the Nazis did was completely legal. Ask his neighbours what he thought of property rights? Or the Jews and others whose property was snatched before they were taken off to the camps.

Bring me the toilet plunger, Mabel. We have a stinky blockage here.

We may never know which spineless diplomatic dunce drafted the UK Prime Minister’s briefing notes on the land reform issue, or whether, sleep deprived and shagged-out from all that cavorting (strictly what the hell were you thinking, Ms May?) she strayed from the script.

What we do know is that any hope that Britain might have sounded a friendly warning on the matter seems to have evaporated the second she staggered down the steps from her plane and skipped onto the soggy CT red carpet which greeted her, along with some comfortingly drizzly English weather.

While she was here, the PM and Cyril cobbled together a bilateral trade deal, which basically will preserve existing EU relations with the region post-Brexit.

This may be useful Brexit-related PR for her. And she certainly needs some, but remember the current EU deal was negotiated to appease a bunch of protectionist farming nations like Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Do we in SA really not want to go for a better deal, with better access to the UK market post-Brexit.

In giving May a quick one in the bag, Cyril and his team may well have dropped the trade ball. Time will tell.

Should we have expected a better performance from a woman who is widely criticised for such ill-judgement and ineptitude in negotiating Brexit? The Inspectress Clouseau of the European Union?

Apparently, her SA whistle-stop visit (a clanger, during which she aptly presented Cyril with a bell) was the first for five years or so by a British Prime Minister.

Please don’t hurry back.

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