Plus ca change

By | 30th September 2013

One thing I learned from my recent trip to Zimbabwe is that it is safe and welcoming, at any rate for tourists. Many people have expressed surprise at my destination, mainly on the grounds of a probably misplaced perception that the place is inherently unstable and unsafe.

The picture below shows a scene of contented calm as an elephant named Boswell, living in the Mana Pools National Park, overcomes the problems of food growing beyond the reach of his trunk.

At the risk of drawing an unfavourable comparison, I confess I would much rather have been in Zimbabwe recently with all the faults which have been thrown up by its political system over the years than in Kenya, with its long reputation as the jewel of East African tourism. Notwithstanding the fire at Nairobi airport a few weeks ago, I came back to the extended news coverage of the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and the sad murder of a former British army officer and grandfather, Colonel Ted Loden, who was visiting his son and his family.

I have to confess that this resonated with me in a particular sense  because Major Loden, as he was then, commanded Support Company of 1 Para on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland in 1972 and some of you will remember I was heavily involved in the subsequent inquiry.

While in no way wishing to belittle the unfortunate events in Kenya, I reflected that it was, in part, reassuring to come back to a world where nothing appears to have changed. When I left home, the world was scratching its collective head about Syria and how to deal with the chemical weapons which Assad now admits he has. Matters have not moved on far except that the Russian President now appears to be moonlighting as a journalist for the New York Times, judging by his recent article addressed, incongruously, to the American people talking about the sort of freedoms his own people can only dream about.

So nothing much has changed during my absence!

Even the world of e-discovery and technology is just the same. No sooner do we hear that there is to be yet another IT initiative, then a report appears casting doubt on the speed and viability of the whole system. “Commercial Court Tech upgrade hit by new delay” shouted the headline in the Law Society Gazette of 2nd September which reported that the MoJ will not complete a feasibility study of a computer system for the Rolls Building until the end of 2013, some 20 months after a £10 million attempt to upgrade the IT was cancelled.

Well we have been here before, but lest you think I have returned home an even more grumpy old man than when I left, here is some potentially good news. The MoJ has launched a new digital service to speed up the end to end process of employment tribunals in an investment worth £15 million. You can read all about it here.

Why it is that we cannot get our act together at least occasionally is baffling, but I live in hope.