I am spending the new year break in Cape Town. I have a deep interest in and affection for South Africa, having been a trustee of the Rhodes Scholarships and of the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation. The Rhodes Scholarships bring American, S. African and other commonwealth graduates to Oxford – but the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation returns some of Cecil Rhodes’ legacy to S. Africa by supporting students to study there, and it has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life to meet wonderful young S. Africans of every race who will contribute to their country’s future. S. Africa has done much for the UK through its lawyers, and its lawyers distinguished themselves in the fight against apartheid. Lords Steyn and Hoffmann in the House of Lords; Lord Joffe, Sydney Kentridge and Edwin Cameron to name but a very few. Most of them studied law in England, such is the influence of our legal system.
On a lighter note, I spent today at the first day of the Cape Town test match. The barmy army accompanied the cricket with “Jerusalem” and “The 12 days of Xmas” and all was good natured in the sun, with 17000 spectators. I ruminated on the pay of cricketers, the hierarchy of seating and the difficulty of getting tickets for the match, which make an outing to Covent Garden (sometimes described as ‘elitist’) a picnic by contrast. The spectators (including Desmond Tutu) and the teams were thoroughly mixed. Sport seems to do nothing but good for S. Africa. The nation is delighted t0 be hosting the World Cup in 2010. All 10 stadiums are ready; half a million overseas visitors are expected and the event will contribute billions to the economy. This is much needed because the poverty and the stark differences in living standards cannot be overlooked or allowed to continue. One cannot but share the optimism and wish the nation well. President Zuma is popular; this is despite the fact, or maybe because he is about to wed his fifth wife. The newspapers report that the marriage has created a vacancy for a fiancee, which has been filled.