MURDER ON THE DANCE FLOOR
May’s visit marked the end of British dominance over much of the Commonwealth and Africa. The UK is a spent force
The dancing was, how shall put it, not helpful. Not entertaining, not rhythmic. At all. It’s nearly a month now since British prime minister Theresa May visited SA, Nigeria and Kenya. She came, she saw, she wiggled a bit — and drove her compatriots into paroxysms of embarrassment. Unlike Jacob Zuma in his heyday. Everything the man did embarrassed us no end — except the dancing and singing. They didn’t call him the Nkandla Crooner for nothing. He could hold a tune, and wiggle those hips. Maybe too much.
Many will remember the British PM’S visit for little except May’s cringeworthy dancing in Cape Town and Nairobi.
That dominated the headlines. Indeed, The New York Times was moved to report that “she took a couple of stiff steps in what looked like a version of robotic disco”.
May’s visit to Africa was ostensibly about drumming up trade deals. No-one seemed to care, though. Since the UK’S shambolic Brexit referendum two years ago the pound has taken a drubbing, business leaders have begun relocating to Europe and the governing Conservative Party’s leaders have increasingly looked like reality show contestants who absolutely have to kill off the current leader to ascend to power — and damn the consequences. Actually, I err. That’s normal British politics. Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll didn’t pluck the phrase “off with his head!” out of thin air, you know.
Very faded glory
I So what exactly was achieved by May’s visit to the three countries?
The UK is in a flat panic as Brexit looms ever closer. It is seeking new political and economic partners.
The problem is that no-one here, or elsewhere, really cares about the former colonial master. Cyril Ramaphosa and his new team have been flirting with China, Saudi Arabia and other states vying for a foothold on the continent. May’s visit to Nigeria came after French President Emmanuel Macron had just concluded a very successful tour of that country.
It helped that he was a way better dancer than May.
The UK now faces an array of competitors in Africa — France, Russia, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan and others have been far more active in terms of political and economic ties. Remember that during May’s visit Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta moaned (rather vapidly, I thought) that it was the first visit by a UK prime minister since Maggie Thatcher came back in 1988.
What Kenyatta does not get is that the UK, whose PM he has hankered for these past 30 years, is dying. The UK is a fastdiminishing force in global affairs, and its Brexit decision is possibly the final nail in its coffin. Serious African leaders recognise that being sold a British-focused trade deal by the UK is a nonstarter. The future is in the
EU, a much larger market, and in other regions.
Politically, the UK is a mess. The Conservative Party is a factional hydra that is headed for implosion. The opposition Labour Party is a spent force led by a man who has not learnt anything from the failed communist experiment of the Cold War years. Things are so dire that over the past week there has been serious talk of
Tony Blair (the man who took the UK to war on the basis of nonexistent “intelligence” reports) returning to politics as the leader of a centrist party that would take the country “back to its winning ways”. It’s a bit like asking Thabo Mbeki back to run SA’S antiretroviral programme.
So. Looking back at that visit, the chaos of Brexit, the hara-kiri by both the Conservatives and Labour, we are left with one conclusion: British dominance over much of the Commonwealth and Africa has ended.
The UK is a spent force.
Serious African leaders recognise that being sold a Britishfocused trade deal is a non starter