How Pakistani media survives in a climate of fear
November 24, 2014 – 10:54 am | No Comment

Threats to the media in Pakistan, where 15 journalists have been killed during 2014, were graphically described at a meeting organised by the Commonwealth Journalists Association at the University of London on November …

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‘Myths and realities’ around Mandela examined at London seminar
November 21, 2014 – 11:04 am | No Comment


Nelson Mandela’s membership of the South African Communist Party  will be one of the main topics up for discussion in London on December 5 when the Institute of Commonwealth Studies hosts a one- day seminar on myths and realities surrounding the life and legacy of one Africa’s greatest sons.

Around 150 academics, journalists and members of the public will gather at The Senate at London University on the first anniversary of Mandela’s death to discuss some of the complexities of his ideology, political relationship with other liberation movements within South Africa and his record as the first black President of South Africa.

A conference spokesperson said: “December 5 marks the first anniversary of Mandela’s death. At his passing, an enormous amount of media material was produced, reflecting on multiple aspects of his life and work.  A considerable amount of this was relatively superficial and understandably hagiographic. Now more time has passed there is both opportunity and need for a more dispassionate assessment of the complexity of the Mandela phenomenon, the continuing importance of debates about the armed struggle and his relationship with the South African Communist Party.”

Mandela’s contribution to South Africa’s re-integration in the international system, after decades of ostracism, will once again go under the microscope and be examined by some of the people who played large and small roles in the liberation of South Africa.

Several of the Commonwealth’s most prominent UK-based figures will be there, including the director of ICWS, Professor Philip Murphy and Dr Sue Onslow.

Speakers include Professor Tom Lodge of the University of Limerick: Dr Moses Anafu, former head of the African Section, Political Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoka’s Special Envoy to South Africa 1991 -1994 and Dr Hugh Macmillan of the University of Cape Town and African Studies Centre at Oxford University, England. Others are Dr Funmi Olonisakin, Director of the African Leadership Centre at Kings College, London, Dr Desne Masie, Royal African Society and University of Edinburgh, Knox Chitiyo, Associate Fellow, Africa programme, Chatham House and formerly Nelson Mandela Fellow at RUSI, Paul Holden, co-author (with Martin Plaut) of “Who Rules South Africa “ and Dr Merle Lipton, Associate Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs.

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. The film and documentary maker Khalo Matabane will show some of his work.
The audience will include 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 a recent book “External Mission” he revealed that Mandela had been an active member of the SACP before his arrest in 1962. Ellis 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 ANC.

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.

In an exchange of opinions aired in the “London Review of Books” in June 2013 between Paul Trewhela, the South African author Rian Malan and the former bureau chief of the ‘New York Times’ in Johannesburg Bill Keller, the American journalist said: ”Apartheid was pulled down by many hands, some of them Communist. As professor Ellis has said, Mandela’s brief expedient membership of SACP does not detract from his historic stature. Mandela, Mr Ellis told one interviewer, wasn’t a real convert. It was just an opportunistic thing.”

But the achievements and failures of Nelson Mandela won’t go away.

The British journalist Fred Bridgland is putting the finishing touches to a book he has written with Katiza Cebekhulu about Winnie Mandela’s alleged involvement in the death of Stompie Moeketsi in Soweto in 1989.

Cebekhulu and Bridgland claim that when Winnie Mandela was charged with kidnapping and assaulting Moeketsi, Nelson Mandela, his solicitor Ismael Ayob and others approached the International Defence and Aid Fund asking for funds for his wife’s defence.The European Union got wind of this and said that its contributions were for the defence of political prisoners only. Bridgland claims that Nelson Mandela then put pressure on the Swedish government so that the IDAF funds could be allocated for Mrs Mandela’s defence.

The outcome was that the EU dropped its annual grant of £485,000 and IDAF was immediately wound up after having helped tens of thousands of South Africans to the tune of £100 million who had faced political trials under apartheid laws.

Years later, Nelson Mandlela made not a single reference to one of the founders of the IDAF, Canon John Collins in his best-selling book “Long Walk to Freedom”.

Anthony Sampson’s biography of Mandela makes only three references to Collins, who is regarded by many in the anti-apartheid movement as one of its most important figures. Like Ellis and Trewhela, Malan and Keller, Fred Bridgland says that Nelson Mandela was a great man but one with serious flaws “like all of us”.

Do they know it’s Christmas in Muslim West Africa?
November 19, 2014 – 12:00 pm | No Comment
Do they know it’s Christmas in Muslim West Africa?

CJA member TREVOR GRUNDY reports on the latest version of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid campaign in the fight against ebola.
Children in Britain think it’s a Christmas Carol like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘God Rest Ye Merry …

How safe is it to be a journalist in Pakistan?
August 7, 2014 – 3:30 pm | No Comment
How safe is it to be a journalist in Pakistan?

CJA member Ragasudha Vinjamuri reports on a discussion on the state of the media in Pakistan and how journalists are under increasing threat from militants.
Read her report here AV_CJA (2).
The discussion was held at the University …

How Glasgow proved itself a worthy host
August 3, 2014 – 10:34 pm | No Comment
How Glasgow proved itself a worthy host

A personal view of the success of the Commonwealth Games, by ALINE DOBBIE
Sitting waiting on a gloriously hot evening in Glasgow for the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was an interesting experience.  I am …

Zimbabwe’s MDC opposition returns to the trenches
August 1, 2014 – 10:56 am | No Comment
Zimbabwe’s MDC opposition returns to the trenches

By Peter Biles
In echoes of the chaotic events of 2008, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has painted a bleak picture of the state of the nation, a year after the 2013 elections. In a recent …

Mama Mia and Skopelos : In the footsteps of ‘Saint Meryl‘
June 26, 2014 – 12:19 am | No Comment
Mama Mia and Skopelos : In the footsteps of ‘Saint Meryl‘

By Trevor Grundy, CJA-UK
Skopelos, North Sporades, Greece – – -Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) asked us to understand that Greeks have a special place in their hearts for the unusual– especially when the bizarre appears in human …

The Chicken Tikka Masala election
May 15, 2014 – 3:45 pm | No Comment
The Chicken Tikka Masala election

By Anuj Kapoor, CJA-UK Associate Member
The three main alternatives in this 2014 Indian election seem like a choice between the three ingredients of the much-loved Indian dish:
‘Chicken’ – Rahul Gandhi, who failed to stand up …

CPA UK Event: ‘Representation of Women in Parliament, Politics and Public Life’
November 4, 2012 – 10:09 am | No Comment
CPA UK Event: ‘Representation of Women in Parliament, Politics and Public Life’

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch (CPA UK) and British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) will hold an International Parliamentary Conference on Gender and Politics, ‘Representation of Women …

Can Nigeria save itself from the threat of civil and religious war?
August 26, 2012 – 10:52 am | 11 Comments
Can Nigeria save itself from the threat of civil and religious war?

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
Ben Okri’s antiquated yet prevailingly words offer the westerner a peek through …

CSCLeaders: Building global networks for the future
August 5, 2012 – 1:03 am | 956 Comments
CSCLeaders: Building global networks for the future

The HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conferences (UK Fund) has joined forces with Common Purpose, the international leadership development organisation, to create CSCLeaders – a renewal of the Commonwealth-wide Study Conferences for …

New report: A road map to public service broadcasting
June 24, 2012 – 8:12 am | No Comment
New report: A road map to public service broadcasting

Together with its long standing partners, the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA),UNESCO has produced A Road Map to Public Service Broadcasting.
The book is authored by Elizabeth Smith, former Secretary-General of CBA and …