Monday, 22 December 2008

A Chronicle of Zanzibar and The Times

I suppose it must be possible to tire of fresh papaya and mango for breakfast but I have not yet reached that benighted state. But a bitter disappointment was the discovery that my wonderful bottle of prophylactic Bombay Sapphire has emptied. A cruel deception; I thought the kindly Gin fairy kept it topped up.

It took 11 hours by our non air con coach to get to Arusha. We reached there in the dark with a burst tyre en route. Some kindly passengers remarked how lucky we were not to overturn as often happens - apparently the safety record leaves much to be desired. Fortunate indeed: for as I looked around, the glorious African bush stretches for miles with no sign of a human habitation, but undoubtedly animal ones!

Arusha was once known as the capital for safari but now has a grimmer reputation. It is here that the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda is sitting. I passed the buildings where the grizzly tales of genocide are unfolding and saw a convoy of the prisoners. A creepy moment as it is difficult to imagine the crimes these people stand accused. And remember unspeakable crimes continue in the Congo.

We were staying in a glorious Lodge on a coffee plantation. So glorious I'm afraid it proved impossible to tear ourselves away for safari. I saw all those people in their uncomfortable clothes gearing up for their predawn excursions and thought - actually the pool looks more inviting.

We flew to Zanzibar. As one gets older one doesn't need to indulge in too many backpacking eleven hour coach journeys.

The Dhow Palace Hotel is a marvellous old place. Lots of wooden balconies and boxes and gloomy dark wood furniture that one's Victorian ancestors would have found agreeable. It is just up the road from the old British Consulate: a building of poignant memory. Here are glorious memories of the great explorers; Burton, Speke, Stanley and the incomparable Livingstone. They all stayed here as the memorial plaque attests. Indeed Dr Livingstone's body rested here on its way back to London for burial in The Abbey.

Livingstone in particular deserves our thanks. It was his entreaties, supported by money from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, that persuaded the Omani Sultan to close the slave market. Whilst Wilberforce had campaigned to end the slave trade in the Empire, it went on unabashed in East Africa. Zanzibar was its hub. It was not till 1875 that the slave market was closed. And on the exact spot they built the Anglican Cathedral of Christ Church. The High Altar is the site of the former whipping post. The first Communion was celebrated here on Christmas Day 1877. I shall take my Christmas Communion here 131 years later. It will be evocative. The Crucifix above the pulpit is made from the wood of the tree that Livingstone died under. It may be fashionable to run down the Victorian missionaries but the Cathedral memorial to Livingstone, and all those who gave their lives in a higher service, reminds us how much is owed to those British pioneers who fought for the ending of slavery.

That was true leadership.

A Drum is a symbol of leadership for the Omani Sultans. A particularly intricately carved example is in the national museum. One of the carvings is a verse, I believe from the Koran,which states:

"Ye shall judge a Leader by his actions"

So none of that woolly liberal Western stuff about motivation or inspiration. It's results that count. True. And how ACEVO should be judged. Our achievements in funding, on contract terms, on the OTS and Third Sector Minister, and the role of third sector in service delivery. That was ACEVO. That is real and lasting achievement on behalf of the sector's CEOs.

And on a depressing note I get an email telling me the Charity Commission have launched an inquiry into the Catz Club. Interesting. Pity they don't finish the inquiries they have ongoing. We await the result of the inquiry into The Shaw Trust. It has been months. What is happening? We should know. I suspect this is of more profound importance for the sector. So when shall we expect to know?

And good that ACEVO continues to make the case for the sector in the current recession - great coverage in Saturday's London Times with an article from me and news coverage of ACEVO's case.

To read the article please click here.

Stephen Bubb