Monday, November 22, 2010

Bits of Britain

This guy should be familiar, since we used him in the header for this blog when first starting out some six months ago. Done probably from a press photograph, this is the man who ousted Margaret Thatcher after over a decade as British prime minister.

I was a great fan of the British television show, Spitting Image, while living in the UK and working as a correspondent for SA Morning Newspapers in 1990 and 1991. They portrayed John Major as a grey, characterless man, which I suppose he was in the wake of the larger-than-life Thatcher.

I can't recall who this was, but clearly he is another of the political players in the UK at the time.

Mike Siluma, who went on the edit the Sowetan newspaper, was the London correspondent for the Argus group - based in offices next to ours - while I was there.

Another of the characters I encountered (but can't remember).

Ah, yes. Tarzan. That was the nickname given to Michael Heseltine, a prominent Tory who was used as a "stalking horse" during the Conservative Party leadership elections in 1990.

I live(d) by the river. The Clash sang that in London Calling. And certainly, the River Thames is an inescapable part of life in that great metropolis.

This guy was drawn sitting on a bench in Trafalgar Square, early one morning. I had to cover the hearing, at South Africa House on Trafalgar Square, into the allegations by former security police captain Dirk Coetzee of state hit squads. This was a harrowing week of revelations, in the early 1990s, of state complicity in horror executions of anti-apartheid activists. They included several in the Eastern Cape, including the Pebco Three and the Cradock Four, in 1985. The atmosphere in the basement cinema - it's decor memorably described by one British journalist as "boere baroque" - where the hearing was held was bizarre. Coetzee had essentially "betrayed" the regime after fleeing SA, yet had to return to a building that was long known as a hive of security police intrigue. His testimony, however, was a major blow to the National Party.

A couple more politicos, with the top one looking remarkably like Maggie Thatcher.

You can't work as a correspondent in London without first getting Foreign Press Association accreditation.

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