Avatar photo

Simon Atkinson

Deputy Head of Mission, Cape Town

Part of UK in South Africa

13th November 2012 Cape Town, South Africa

President Pohamba visits South Africa

As you may remember, though I’m based at the Consulate-General in Cape Town, I’m also accredited as the Deputy High Commissioner in Namibia (to support our team there). The historic visit this week by Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba to South Africa presented me with a rare chance to mix the two roles.

On Tuesday (6 November) I attended the President’s address to South Africa’s Parliament. It was received with thunderous applause from the South African MPs. Unsurprising perhaps, given some of the poignancy behind what he said: the President never imagined that he would see a free South Africa or an independent Namibia in his lifetime, let alone have the opportunity to address South Africa’s Parliament (Namibia only gained its independence from South Africa in 1990). A reminder of the shared, dramatic, recent history of the two countries.

The National Assembly in session

In general, the visit seemed to go very well. President Pohamba and President Zuma signed several agreements between the two countries, including cooperation on infrastructure and public works. They also spoke about other issues close to all our hearts, including reform of international organisations. But what caught my eye the most was the talk on closer African integration, including a Free Trade Area.

In the time I’ve spent in both countries, I’ve heard much about the commonalities between them, but also about barriers to regional trade: not only between South Africa and Namibia, but extending across the region in general.

Simply put, presumably the more that can be done to dismantle these barriers, the better off the region as a whole will become? If so, then hopefully President Pohamba’s visit, and the recent election of former South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as AU Commission Chairperson, will continue the progress towards making aspirations such as a Free Trade Area become a reality.

About Simon Atkinson

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After…

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After university at Leeds and 4 years teaching English and working for NGOs in Europe and South America, Simon joined the UK Foreign Office. His first overseas posting was in India, where he was a political officer covering issues like counter-proliferation and the relationship between India and its neighbours. He was also the Commonwealth Games Attaché during Delhi’s 2010 Games.

Cape Town is his second and current posting. His role here is dual hatted – as Deputy Consul General, he supports the Consul General manage the office, and as the Head of the Political Team, he covers the whole gambit of South African policy (though being based in Cape Town means this is heavily focused on domestic policies and Parliament).

Simon is married to Gina, who also works for the Foreign Office. They enjoy being in South Africa, as both a fascinating country to cover politically and wonderful place to live, allowing them to pursue their passion for the outdoors and perfect their ability to ‘braai’ (not that they’re under any illusion about how often they’ll get to demonstrate this skill once they return to the UK)!