It proved a rewarding and productive trip from which all four Rusters would have taken away their own perceptions. It should be remembered that Cape Town is rather a bubble for many reasons not least that it is run by the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA under a black leader Mmusi Maimani is doing well and Johannnesburg too may elect a DA Mayor. The ANC Is on the wane with the economy doing so badly. Beleaguered President Zuma famously sacked 3 finance ministers in a week. Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, a skilled politician and businessman, might be ANC’s next leader and country’s President if he can garner support from the ANC in Kwa Zulu Natal. The firebrand Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters is a worrying rival.
It proved the best of Tests. There were quiet periods when South Africa built their recovery but much to remember: Ben Stokes’ 275, Hashim Amla’s 207, Tembo Kavuma’s maiden century, South Africa’s catching. and a exciting final day. Amla has now resigned the captaincy to AB de Villiers who has never captained a red ball game. Faf du Plessis has a longer captaincy record but has been less consistent with the bat. With Steyn and Philander to return the final two tests should be well contested.
On the long air journey back I watched a documentary on Sir Alex Ferguson centred round his participation in a London business school symposium. This was more of a hagiography. Key features of his life were omitted: the brush with Magnier and McManus; his average record as manager of Scotland when he did not select Alan Hansen; the dressing room row with Beckham which left the latter with a marked face; those he let go (Rossi, Pique, Pogba, Forlan) and those he paid too much for (Veron, Berbatov); unlike Capello, Mourinho and Ancelotti Fergie, he never managed outside his own country. Normally – especially if the subject is right wing – there is at least one contributor that gives a contrarian view. In the case of a documentary on the 1945 electoral defeat of the Tories under Winston Churchill the only admiring voice was that of Max Hastings. In this programme everyone was laudatory: luminaries like Tony Blair, Lord Sugar and financier Sir Michael Moritz all were glowing. However, as Blair admitted, you can’t just get rid of an opposing, obstructive dressing room character in politics and – as the Harvard Professor observed – business leadership is not always analogous to football. This is not to deny Ferguson’s more than impressive trophy list, his building of Manchester United and his intensity and hard work levels to maintain that success. The programme was hosted by Nick Robinson and I would have preferred a tougher interviewer such as John Humphreys, his co-presenter of Today, often dishes out to a politician at 8-10.
The flip-side of ending an enjoyable trip is that you come home. In the year when immigration more than any other issue dominated the news I always tell my kids how fortunate they are are to have a place called home. The M4 route was grey and cold but here was no massive slum like Cape Flats alongside to Shephered Bush. On the M23 a beautiful pink and turquoise sunrise appeared and I reflected too how wonderful the seasons are. Britain is really a green and pleasant land.