Letters: Art deco jewel in the heart of Africa

These letters appear in the Friday 29th March edition of the Independent


Michael McCarthy’s article about Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its Art Deco architecture brings back memories of a visit I made to the city in 1957 (Voices, 20 March).

I had taken a three-month job as medical officer and bus driver in a convoy of buses taking tourists from Johannesburg through Europe to London. I had just completed my medical degree and had strong  anti-racism opinions that  had developed at the  University of Witwatersrand, and a love of African wildlife from frequent visits to the Kruger National Park.

As a very naive and ignorant youngster, I was excited by the idea of a visit to the Belgian Congo, but was woefully uninformed about the appalling brutality towards the indigenous people by the Belgians. We had a 24-hour stopover in Bukavu, which was by far the most attractive town we had visited.

I had no knowledge of Art Deco architecture then and just liked the centre of town, which was so quiet and clean – but it was striking that no Africans were visible except for those working in menial jobs. Lake Kivu was stunningly beautiful but it was disappointing that there seemed to be no public access to the shore, which was ringed by luxurious villas with well-groomed gardens extending down to yachts and motorboats anchored below the gardens. The Belgians must have believed that they were living in paradise. The article does not mention these villas but I can only guess that they are decaying and crumbling into ruin, unless they have been occupied by various warlords or foreigners exploiting the wealth of the area.

While the threat to gorillas and other endangered species must be taken seriously, everything is subordinate to the continuing war and exploitation of the vast mineral wealth by neighbouring countries, the great Western economies, and China. Without anywhere near enough resources, the UN has been powerless to stop the conflict and the general public are either unaware or shrug their shoulders at “another African disaster”.

It would be wonderful to see Bukavu refurbished, spruced up, and peaceful, with a thriving tourist trade. What a dream!

Dr John Beck

Alresford, Winchester


Lessons in  compassion  for the NHS

Let me get this clear. To improve standards of basic patient care, we’re going to put it in the hands of untrained school-leavers who are paid even less than nurses. And after a year of that, they will have learnt compassion.

Andrew Graystone



I was born in 1932. My first memory of hospital was of having my tonsils out when I was about four years old. The nurses seemed very kind and nice. Since that distant date I have been a patient many times. In all this time all the nurses who tended me were caring, pleasant and sometimes wonderful people; they were from all races and both sexes.

Some of my fellow patients were rude, aggressive and quite nasty, but even those were treated politely. Hospital staff also have to contend with drunken assaults and threatening language, particularly in casualty on Friday and Saturday nights.

Nurses don’t seem able to defend themselves against all the accusations levelled against them. If this badgering of the medical professions carries on who will want to do it? There might be room for improvement, but in the meantime cherish what we have got. 

Eddie Johnson

Long Melford, Suffolk


It was always scary to undergo an operation in hospital. Would you wake up after the op? Would you be in pain? How sad nowadays, especially if you are over 70 as I am, to be afraid to go into hospital because the routine nursing aftercare or an infection might kill you, not the operation. 

Both my father and my aunt might have faded away in hospital if family members or carers had not ensured that they ate their meals. My aunt was blind, but however often I mentioned that fact, the ever-changing staff often failed to notice why she didn’t respond to passing remarks or left her meals untouched until I put up a large note near her bed.

Marjorie Harris

London NW11


Families with two earners

J Longstaff (Letter, 22 March) confuses the social and economic issues of both parents being in employment in a two-parent household. He and his family will not be contributing to the tax support for childcare; it will be funded from the additional taxes generated by an additional working adult. There are various social arguments for and against one parent staying at home and clearly his family’s situation works for them; other situations, including part-time work, are best for other families.

The economic arguments only ever come out in favour of more adults being in employment. Each adult who is able to earn contributes to the health, education, social benefits, law and the many other benefits that our taxes allow us to receive. His single salary needs to cover this for two adults.

P Jones

London W10


New force  on the left

Owen Jones’s call (25 March) for a broad left-wing movement against austerity should be welcomed. I hope that the People’s Assembly does give voice to all those who want to see an alternative.

But a “movement” isn’t enough. The “chasm in British politics” will only begin to be filled when we also have a party that we can support. That means challenging not only the Tories and Liberal Democrats but Labour as well. It’s why I welcome Ken Loach’s call for a new party of the left. Owen does himself no favours with his weary dismissal of that call.

The people assembled (and beyond) will no doubt include many who aren’t prepared to put up any longer with the argument that they should just vote for the “lesser evil”. They will be looking for a political alternative. Their voice should also be heard.

Nick Wrack

London SE15


Your otherwise welcome report of the People’s Assembly press conference (27 March) claimed that I said there would be a march that would be larger than the February 2003 protest against the Iraq war. In fact I and others made it clear that the People’s Assembly is a conference, not a demonstration.

I did say that there needed to be a movement larger than the anti-war movement in order to defeat the Government’s austerity measures. 

John Rees

London E5


No buyer for  the Falklands

Peter Flynn makes an admirable suggestion that we should sell the Falklands to Argentina and use the money to pay down our national debt as well as repatriate the small Falklands population (Letter, 27 March).

If only it were that simple. The UK would lose a problem and gain much-needed cash. President Kirchner would be made president for life, and the Falklanders would be able to retire in comfort to Britain, which, in their heart of hearts, most of them surely want to do.

Unfortunately, Argentina can’t afford the Falklands. Which is why it wants to get them and their oil for free – to pay off a national debt so large it makes Greece look like Switzerland.

On the other hand, even if we can no longer afford another Falklands war, neither can Argentina. So invasion is off and it’s back to David and Cristina making empty speeches, and Francis telling them to please be nice to each other.

Chris Payne

Lipa City, The Philippines


Write off this  irrelevant skill

Why are our teachers still wasting hours each week teaching children the irrelevant subject of handwriting? Think how much better the hours could be spent if, as in America, pupils were allowed to use a keyboard once they had learned how to print letters.

It is surely nonsense for children to lose marks because they don’t join a letter “b” correctly to other letters, when they’re unlikely to use joined-up writing even in secondary school, let alone once they’re in work.

At best, handwriting belongs in 2013 as a niche subject in the art class. When did any reader of The Independent in recent times hand-write more than a few words, perhaps hurriedly jotted down during a telephone call?

Alan Cleaver

Whitehaven, Cumbria


Law needed on dangerous dogs

The tragic loss of a young life following a horrific dog attack in Wigan is an extremely distressing reminder that current dangerous dog legislation puts people at risk. Until we see a radical overhaul of the law so as to allow authorities to step in at the first sign of aggressive behaviour, such shocking incidents will continue to happen.

Kim Hamilton

Chief Executive

Blue Cross

Burford, Oxfordshire


When are people going to learn? Dogs are pack animals. If you have a few dogs together they will revert to being pack animals. This is dangerous to anyone or anything outside the pack; hence the attacks on humans and other people’s pets.

The law needs changing so that all dogs have to be chipped, any dog in a public environment should be muzzled and anyone keeping more than two dogs should need a kennel licence.

Dave Croucher



America has a gun control problem. We have a dog control problem. But it is for much the same reason: our politicians are afraid of the Dog Lobby. There is the dog-breeding industry, the petfood makers and, most of all, dog-dependent voters. Expect more children to be mauled.

Trevor Pateman



To school with  no breakfast

Stuart White (letter, 27 March) is right about one thing: some parents are irresponsible, not just about providing breakfast, but about providing any of the support that a child needs to be able to thrive. This is why some schools have to be parents as well as teachers.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers is not “scaremongering”, and I applaud The Independent for recognising this. The “nanny state” is much criticised, but sometimes it is the only nanny that a child has.

Christina Jones

Retford,  Nottinghamshire


Reward of office

Steve Richards (28 March) refers to several former Labour ministers being  “more powerful and wealthy when they leave their elected posts”. Maybe this sort of advancement is what contributes towards voters’ attitudes in “this anti-politics era”.

John Pinkerton

Milton Keynes

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Start a Career as a Financial Markets Trader

£40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Service Desk Co-ordinator / Client Services Administrator

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Warehouse Assistant

£14807 - £15470 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manufacturer and supplier ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The era of graduates from the university conveyor belt is over

Hamish McRae
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks