Cyril’s European travels began too late

President Macron of France marks Armistice Day

John Fraser

I see President Cyril Ramaphosa has arrived at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, a venue where I spent many good times and bad.

Coming from SA, he may well feel at home surrounded by politicians and bureaucrats who enjoy the good life, and are adept at expense fiddling.

But I would argue that his arrival in France has come just a few days too late.

Of course it is vital to keep a close dialogue with the EU, which is our largest trading partner. Particularly as it is plunging into the uncertainty of Brexit.

But could he not have arrived at the weekend, and joined those other world leaders, and the buffoon Trump, in paying Remembrance Day tribute to the fallen heroes?

Few of us today can imagine the squalor, the misery, the terror, of trench warfare. It sounds like ancient history to many, but very many of us have had parents and grandparents who served in world wars. Many of whom did not return home.

Of course, there were complexities and divided loyalties in South Africa when the great powers of Europe decided to engage in such ferocious mutual slaughter.

This, however, takes nothing away from the courage of so many millions who were sent to die.

The two world wars saw South Africans of every race and colour being sent to distant battlefields. As did fallen heroes who had come from many other countries. The last century was a warlike one, acted out in so many places

As we saw Macron, Merkel, Putin and – yes, even Trump – show that the bravery and sacrifice of so many is still remembered and honoured, could our own State President not have also been present in Paris at the weekend?

He could easily have got there somehow, despite the implosion of SAA, and could then have gone on to his other engagements.

I know he works horribly hard, appears to be several times more active and effective than his ghastly predecessor, whose priorities may have been a little different to Cyril’s statesmanship.

But as a South African with ancestors who did serve in the wars, I would have liked to have seen Ramaphosa on Sunday flying the SA flag in Paris.

There is no doubt, after all, that he would have done a better job than Trump.

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