There is a great quote that is well known around the world attributed to Warren Buffett, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
In business, crisis management courses and communication training this is an accepted wisdom so why not by governments?
Desmond Tutu's last-ditch appeal to South Africa to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama on the eve of his 80th birthday has been rejected. It is thought that South Africa doesn't want to get on the wrong side of China. It is many years since our TV screens were filled with the horrible violence and division of apartheid. The Nelson Mandela era began a transformation in South Africa's image around the world. The recent football world cup was a further step in signalling that South Africa is a modern democracy but in other respects its positioning on international affairs have been worrying.
South Africa, as Africa's richest country, should be taking a leadership position that enhances its standing in the world while benefiting its less developed neighbours. It should continue to be open and transparent and rid our memories of its recent past. In short, it should look to build its reputation not destroy all its recent hard work.