SANCTIONS on Russia could backfire as they did when they were imposed on South Africa in the 1980s, former South African president FW de Klerk has warned.
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate told hundreds of delegates at the Yorkshire International Business Convention the country had been able to circumvent sanctions – including on oil – with the help of a technology they developed that allowed the conversion of coal into oil.
However Europe, he said, “is quite vulnerable to the type of sanctions that Russia can impose”, as they could decide to sell their energy to other markets.
In his experience, sanctions united the people who suffered them and in many cases delayed change instead of advancing it.
On his whistle-stop appearance at Bridlington Spa, Mr De Klerk, who served as South Africa’s last white leader before the advent of democracy in 1994 and as deputy under Nelson Mandela until 1996, said after retirement they became personal friends, visiting each other, phoning on birthdays and proposing a toast on his 70th birthday.
He recalled: “He (Mandela) said, ‘I am very much older than FW, but I languished for 27 years in jail and didn’t work very hard, so we are more or less the same age’.
“His greatest legacy is the emphasis he has put on the need for reconciliation. I honour him for that.
“He had a remarkable lack of bitterness and he was really a very exceptional man.”
Earlier entrepreneur and land-speed record breaker Richard Noble, who is behind the project to create the Bloodhound, a car capable of supersonic speeds, told The Yorkshire Post: “We are not an innovative and creative country.”
Mr Noble, another conference speaker, said the problem began at primary school: “What we have to get is kids studying science and engineering in primary schools – there aren’t enough teachers inspiring them.”
Bloodhound, he said, “wouldn’t help Granny on the M1 –it’s a terrible road now, we are all travelling at 60mph” but their project is working with 6,000 schools.
He said: “What it is going to help do is create a large number of science and engineering students and it’s up to the rest of the country to get manufacturing back to a sensible figure around 25 per cent of GDP.
“Now it’s 11 per cent. Even our friends in Switzerland are at 24 per cent.”