Professor Winston Mano, University of Westminster will chair a session on “Mandela and the Media” with speakers including Peter Biles, former BBC Southern and East African correspondent and Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA member) and Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society. The conference is organised by ICWS in conjunction with two of its Senior Fellows, Keith Somerville, former BBC World News programme editor and present lecturer in Humanitarian Communications, Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent and Martin Plaut, the former Africa Editor, BBC World Service News. The film and documentary maker Khalo Matabane will show some of his work after being flown to Britain courtesy of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, South Africa.
The audience will be dotted by men and women who played their part in the struggle against apartheid. One of them will be Paul Trewhela, a former member of the SACP who was a political prisoner in South Africa from 1964-1967. He said that examining the role of Mandela from the time of Stalin to the end of the Cold War would be complex but added – “there’s no point having a discussion at London University which doesn’t set itself such a difficult task.”
One of the key speakers will be Professor Stephen Ellis, a British professor and former editor of Africa Confidential. Today he is based at Afrika-Studiecentrum (Leiden) and the Vrije Univeriteit. In his book “External Mission” (Hurst & Company, 2012) Ellis revealed that Mandela had been an active member of the SACP prior to his arrest in 1962. He was the first serious academic to provide extensive evidence that Mandela had been a member of the Central Committee of the SACP and had helped form Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.
Other authors who have widened our understanding of Nelson Mandela include Martin Meredith, Anthony Sampson, Tom Lodge, David Jones Smith and Kenneth S. Brown. While Mandela’s membership of the SACP such a long time ago intrigues academics, politicians and some journalists, most young South Africans today shrug indifferent shoulders. They question its significance.