Volume 6 No.6
1 October 1995
- Editorial – Beware the Counter-Revolution
- Opinion – SA Needs Diversity of Media Ownership
- Provincial Briefs
- Interview with Nelson Mandela on the Local Government Elections
- Joyce Mashilo on the Campaign Trail in Ga-Rankuwa
- ANC Local Government Candidates
- Interview with Cyril Ramaphosa on the CA
- Constitutional Wrangel in KwaZulu/Natal
- Beijing Women’s Conference
- How the National Assembly Works
- School Reforms
- Teachers’ Strategy to Improve Schooling
- Students Committed to Change
- ‘Education is the Key to a Better Life’
- Parliamentary Spoilers Block Change
- From Miscommunication to Mass Communication
- Media Watch – Independent Views
- ‘The Sky’s No Limit’ – Women Pilots
- The President’s Office
- Talking to Vula – The Secret Underground Communications Network of Operation Vula
- Mayibuye Study Series – The IMF and the World Bank
- Working with the Media
The 1 November local government elections provide the democratic movement with a crucial opportunity to substantially advance the democratisation of South Africa. It will have an impact on this country and its transformation and add to the impact of our historic national elections. For the first time in our history, this country will have democratic and legitimate local government structures. These structures will have the capacity to bring ordinary South Africans into the process of governance; it will enable government to deliver effectively; and it will substantially complete the process of national political transformation.
Yet, if these elections create an opportunity for democratic change, they also create an opportunity for that change to be stunted. In fact, unless we remain vigilant and continue to mobilise the great majority behind ANC-led government programmes, these elections may create an opportunity for some of the gains already made to be rolled back. These elections can be used to advance the national democratic revolution; or they can be used to further the cause of counter-revolution. What course eventually triumphs depends largely on how we act now.
The National Party has indicated that it wishes to return to power in the 1999 national elections. The 1 November local government elections is in many sense a `dry run’ for them. Their local election campaign is already beginning to show signs of the typical counter-revolutionary line: “Things were better under the NP”.
“Sure there was apartheid,” the NP tells us, “but at least we put murderers to death and tortured confessions out of criminals.” The NP are pointing to the legacies of apartheid and trying to pin the blame on the ANC.
The National Party is exploiting people’s desire for visible change. They have suddenly adopted the RDP as their own, and are accusing the ANC of failure to deliver on the RDP. What they don’t tell the electorate is that when it comes to passing legislation to speed up change, like the recent Education Policy Bill, it is the National Party and its allies who do everything in their power to block that legislation. They are hindering change, and then hoping that the resultant frustrations will swing votes in their direction.
While winning elections might be their goal, they are employing a variety of strategies to counter the ANC. As in the days of `total strategy’ not all these strategies can be linked directly to the National Party. In fact, much anti-change activity might have no relation to the National Party at all. Nevertheless, there is emerging a distinct `counter-revolutionary’ front who are bound together by nothing more than a desire to resist positive change.
The battlegrounds are numerous: parliament; cabinet; the constitutional assembly; the labour movement; the media; the civil service; universities; the workplace; the police service; and even on the streets and in people’s homes. In each of these places, the struggle takes a different form. In the Constitutional Assembly, the parties of the right are trying to secure constitutional provisions which would cripple the government’s capacity to effect the necessary fundamental transformation of the country. In places like KwaZulu/Natal, homes are attacked by `unknown’ gunmen in an attempt to sow confusion, conflict and ultimately, dissatisfaction with the government.
Sometimes this strategy is more subtle, and in some instances probably not yet detected. Disruptive industrial action which is ill-considered, as witnessed recently in the nurses’ strike, exploits legitimate grievances and disregards any attempts by government to find satisfactory and practicable solutions. The motives and forces behind such actions need to be considered. What also needs to be considered is what happened to the substantial third force network and capacity which was established during the years of negotiation and before. Where are those people now and where are their networks? What is their role in violent crime and political killings?
There is a fear in many quarters about the use of terms like `counter-revolutionary’. And to a large extent these fears are justified: some of the most atrocious abuses of human rights have been committed in the name of fighting counter-revolution. Fighting counter-revolution does not justify any actions which break the law or violate the constitution. We must ensure at all times adherence to the principles of democracy and respect for human rights.
Yet we need to be aware of the seeds of counter-revolution. And we need to fight them in the best way we know how: through strengthening the structures of our organisation, our alliance partners and the democratic movement as a whole.
The only effective way to counter these tendencies is to strengthen our organisations, to educate and equip our cadres and to remain united around our strategic objectives. By developing our structures we will develop our capacity to engage with the opposition in parliament; to input a progressive perspective in the media; win our politics among the electorate; expose covert activities; and render useless attempts to divide oppressed South Africans.
These local elections are our opportunity to prove our worth as a revolutionary and progressive movement which is confidently leading the nation to a better life for all.
Media in South Africa should be owned by people from all sectorsof the rainbow nation, writes Gauteng ANC chairperson Tokyo Sexwale.
In some countries, governments moved quickly after wars of liberation to take control of the mass media. But not ours: we did not set up a Mass Media Trust to run the press and force it to toe the ANC line. Nor did we introduce anti-trust legislation to break up the media monopolies.
That is why Gauteng newspapers is owned by Independent Newspapers, not by the Gauteng Provincial Government. And as the name says, the company is completely independent of government control.
As it turned out, our government has not acted against the media, despite the battery of criticism we have faced in our first 16 months in office. We may have exchanged harsh words with editors – but we have always honoured the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press which we wrote into the constitution, and we will defend them vigorously.
But that does not mean that we are satisfied with the current ownership and control of the media. In fact, we believe that mass media institutions are lagging behind other sectors in transforming themselves to suit the new South African environment.
Many major South African companies have restructured their operations to involved disadvantaged communities and broaden the base of the economy. Companies which have benefitted from the skewed economic system created by apartheid have transformed their share structures in the post-apartheid period to give other South Africans a share in their wealth.
They have unbundled, set up new share options, involved their staff in key issues, and have generally adopted a business posture which is in line with the requirements of our new democracy.
In addition, they have demonstrated a sense of economic patriotism, investing in the people of South Africa and building truly South African business initiatives. Independent Newspapers, however, went the other way. The old “Aunty Argus” is now as South African as Irish whiskey. And, as we sit here, it is even getting more Irish, rather than less. Just a few days ago we learnt that O’Reilly’s share of this company is going to increase to 60 percent.
The fact that a foreign investor is the majority shareholder in a South African media institution is a cause for concern. Yes, we need foreign investment in South Africa. But not, we believe, to the extent that we have already seen in Independent Newspapers.
The IBA Act already prevents majority foreign ownership of broadcasting institutions, and we believe the same principle should apply with the print media. We need limitations on the degree of foreign ownership of media institutions. We need a truly South African media to tell the South African story, and South African ownership and control is the best way to make sure this happens.
But there is a bigger problem with Tony O’Reilly’s majority share in Independent Newspapers. It is the fact that anyone should own 60 percent of a powerful media institution such as this.
Our concern would be the same whether it was Tony O’Reilly or Nthato Motlana, or Rupert Murdoch or Lawrence Mavundla. Because of the influence of the media in shaping opinions, we must guard against the concentration of ownership in the hands of a small group of people.
It is precisely because we need a diversity of ideas that we need a diversity of ownership. And that principle extends both to the number of institutions which are able to publish and broadcast, and to the ownership structure of those individual institutions.
Deputy president Thabo Mbeki will soon be convening an independent panel to look at this and many other aspects of the media, which will be developed into a communication policy for South Africa. We are confident that this panel will make no attempts to regulate what the media says, nor will it infringe on the rights of South Africans to express themselves on issues which concern them.
For us, the priority will be to bring about a media system which provides for the diverse information needs of our people – particularly those who have been deprived of information. And we hope the panel will help us to develop media which will reflect the South African reality and which will tell the South African story – media which is owned and run by people from all sectors of the rainbow nation.
As a provincial government, we will be looking at the panel to provide for maximum freedom of expression for the people of Gauteng. And we hope it will do so by empowering the maximum number of people to publish or broadcast without fear of being pushed out of the market or of being swallowed up by a multi-media giant.
In this month’s provincial briefs we look at some of the people’s forums that have been held throughout the country in the run up to the local government elections.
The development of the provincial constitution in KwaZulu/Natal has undermined preparations for the local government elections. At the moment all political parties are locked in a constitutional crisis. The ANC has therefore been unable to prepare the province for 1 November elections.
It is envisaged that there may be provincial general elections early next year before the local government elections. The ANC in the province is preparing to win both these and the local elections.
A People’s Forum was held at Paarl in the Western Cape with the provincial leader Chris Nissen. He addressed the crowed of about 500 people and they were given the chance to ask questions regarding the ANC policies and the ANC in government.
A handful of National Party supporters attempted to disrupt the gathering. However they left after they realised that the members were not interested in them.
The local elections team and the ANC candidates were assigned to help in the people’s forums. National ministers will also be deployed in the province’s people’s forums so that they can answer any questions asked by the people.
A people’s forum took place at Whittlesea in the Eastern Cape, a rural area near Queenstown. The topic was water and sanitation and the speaker was one of the ANC candidates, Mafuzi Sigabi.
He also concentrated on the RDP programmes. He spoke about the project of a hall which will be used for the area’s activities. The construction will start in December. The building of a bridge is already in place. It has created employment for 50 people in the area.
The candidates in the area are taking the issue of water and sanitation seriously. The upgrading of water systems has started as there was no water in the area. The recleaning of water has also started.
During the forum the people were given a chance to ask questions and comment.
Mpumalanga province held a People’s Forum on 24 September at Kabokweni near White River. The speakers were Jackson Mthembu, Steve Mabona from the provincial office and the local candidates. They spoke about delivery but also housing, crime and safety and security.
This forum was also useful because it was used to introduce the ANC candidates to the people. People were allowed to ask questions at any given time. Candidate also had a chance to answer questions from the people and also to tell people what they will do for them if they were to be elected.
In the Northern Cape the first People’s Forum was held on the 30 September. The speakers were ANC candidates, regional executive committee members, provincial executive committee members and members of the provincial legislature.
The candidates were introduced to the forum and they spoke about the improvement of schools, hospitals, old age homes, military bases and mines.
The people were given chance to ask questions and all the representatives made sure that all the questions were answered.
A People’s Forum in Gauteng was held on the 24 September in Thembisa. The speakers at the forum were Isaac Mahlangu, Mathole Motshegka and the Thembisa candidates.
The candidates were introduced to the forum. The key note of the meeting was on payment of services and the Masakhane campaign within the context of the elections.
The forum received a report from Mahlangu on new tariffs of the local government. There was also a fair amount of discussion and proposals with the people who attended the forum.
The people resolved that they will give their full support to paying for the services and everyone felt comfortable with the resolution.
The speakers at a People’s Forum in the Northern Province were Godfrey Lusufi, a member of the Women’s League and the candidates. It took place in Louis Trichardt on 24 September.
The focal point was on water, electricity and construction of roads. As the province has many rural areas, the speakers clarified the question of rural areas getting water and electricity.
The people were supportive toward these issues and they plan to work together with the candidates to achieve their goals.
A People’s Forum in the North West province took place on 6 October at Sannieshof. The speakers were Boyce Mpempe and the local candidates.
They spoke about crime, and this was due to the SAMU strike where an employer shot dead an employee and injured another one. They also focused on previous unsolved cases in the province.
The people suggested that the minister of safety and security should concentrate on removing bad police in his department so that the crime rate can go down.
In the Free State a People’s Forum was held in Bethlehem. The speakers were the local candidates and Paul Mahlatsi.
The candidates were introduced as well as the ANC local manifesto. The manifesto is one of the first to be researched. The ANC in the area undertook a survey to get data on the number of people owning sites who are either unemployed, pensioners or employed. This is to enable the council to know exactly how many people can afford the tariff that they have to decide upon. They intend avoiding the futility of coming up with a tariff that is neither realistic or affordable to the majority of people.
The people were happy with the reports and they were also engaged in the future planning of their town.
“Of course we believe in competition, but…”
Michael Spicer, a senior Anglo American executive and big business ideologue, has been having an ongoing quarrel with Trevor Manuel. The ANC Minister of Trade and Industry is developing proposals to break the hold that monopolies (like Anglo) have over our economy (and over our lives).
Manuel’s proposals are quite simple. He wants to introduce greater competition. Somehow Spicer doesn’t like that idea.
It’s amusing how big business ideologues have a lot to say about competition… except when it comes to being competed against.
Sell by dates
Recently, Manuel and Spicer shared a conference platform. After Manuel had outlined his anti-monopoly perspectives, Spicer had a chance to speak. “Thank heavens,” he said rather menacingly, “politicians have short shelf lives.”
We assume he wasn’t threatening Manuel with a Walusz or a Derby-Lewis. Giving Spicer the benefit of the doubt, we’ll take him to mean that voters, in a democracy, have a chance to vote politicians in and out of office.
Now, somehow we don’t have the same democratic input when it comes to the directors of Anglo American. It sounds like a good idea though, doesn’t it? We should put Michael Spicer out on to the democratic market, with a label “Expiry date: 01/11/1995”.
As readers of this column will know, Umrabulo likes to read interviews of prominent South Africans. We were glancing at a recent interview profile with Reserve Bank governor Chris Stals. Here are some of his answers, in his own words:
Personal best achievement: “None springs to mind.”
Person who has had the biggest influence on your career: “No one person.”
Person you would most like to meet: “I have met all those I wish to meet.”
Businessperson who has impressed you most: “No one person.”
Favourite TV programme: “None.”
Biggest disappointment: “Failing to reduce the inflation rate to zero.”
You get the pattern? None, no one, none, no one, none, none and zero. Lighten up, sunshine!
Out of fashion
Paradoxically, at the very moment that Stals was expressing these exceedingly generous and upbeat views, the US publication Newsweek had some very different opinions on Stals’ big obsession.
The September 18 issue of Newsweek features an article entitled: “Growth Phobia – Are outmoded inflation fears raising unemployment?” Yes, says the article, basing itself on a report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
“First in Britain and North America, and more recently in Europe, policymakers have deregulated, privatised, busted labour unions, zealously attacked inflation and permitted a torrent of capital to globalise. Yet the jobs situation has only grown worse. Suspiciously, rising unemployment in Europe and widening income inequalities in America are reaching record levels at the same time as all this unrestricted business activity.”
“Is there a link between the two?” asks Newsweek. “Absolutely, say a growing number of liberal economists.”
The UNCTAD report places much blame for chronic unemployment on the narrow inflation phobias of Reserve Bank governors, like our friend Stals.
Get a pet
In the interests of bringing some hope to the more than four million unemployed in our country, Umrabulo suggests that Sunnyboy Stals should read the UNCTAD report, buy a pet, retire and settle down to watch some good TV.
In an exclusive interview, MAYIBUYE spoke to ANC president Nelson Mandela about local government elections and their importance in changing South Africa.
MAYIBUYE:munities – to make that goal of a better life happen in our homes, in our streets and in our communities.
The ANC is stressing cooperation and partnership between its candidates and communities because we have shown that we are the party which can bring people together to work to a common goal. We are saying that what we have achieved in building unity in our nation we can achieve in building unity in our communities.
The ANC’s message to communities is that a significant start has been made in changing our country for the better. Now, as the ANC, we want to work with you to speed up the rate of change, to make the change more visible and to make it lasting.
MAYIBUYE: The NP is saying that the ANC’s promises are empty. Are they?
NM: There is not one promise that the ANC made during last year’s elections that we haven’t at least made a start in fulfilling. We are a responsible party. We don’t want to come up with `quick-fix’ solutions which fail in five or ten years time. We want solutions that will endure for generations. In our first five years in government we want to lay a solid foundation for a peaceful and prosperous society.
We would be the first to acknowledge that progress has been slow in some areas. We don’t believe in covering up mistakes or problems. We believe in analysing them, learning from them and correcting them. If anyone is deceiving the people of South Africa, it is the National Party who want to make us believe that all South Africa’s problems can be solved in a year and a half. They are being irresponsible and dishonest. Fundamental change will take time.
We in the ANC are proud of our achievements, but we are honest enough to acknowledge that we could have done more. Official red tape slowed down progress some in some cases. Communities were not always fully involved. We have made astonishing progress in democratising our country, and our national parliament and legislatures are working in a transparent fashion for the first time.
The ANC is still the only party with a plan to build a new, united nation. We remain committed to the vision and the programme of the RDP – and we have a clear view of how the RDP can, and needs to work, at a local level.
I see from the National Party’s election manifesto that they have suddenly adopted the RDP as their plan. Yet during the last election they said the RDP was unrealistic and unworkable. Now that they can see that the RDP is in fact working and that the people of South Africa are behind the RDP, the NP want to claim it as their own.
In doing so they show that they are a party without any coherent programme of their own, and no vision for the future.
MAYIBUYE: What has your government done to stop crime?
NM: The ANC-led government sees crime as one of its top priorities. We have identified those areas that crime is at its worst and we have mobilised people and resources to fight crime in those areas. Already we have seen levels of crime decrease and levels of arrests go up.
A central part of our Community Safety Plan is rebuilding communities’ confidence in the police service. That is why we are encouraging community policing forums, so that communities can work hand in glove with the police to fight crime.
Like most of the problems in this country, crime cannot be stopped overnight. It has its roots in poverty, unemployment and years of unaccountable and uncaring government. We will not eradicate crime altogether until we have improved the lives of all South Africans. That is why we have embarked on a multi-pronged approach, which looks to uplift the poorest communities in the country, while ensuring effective law enforcement.
Fighting crime in our communities is high on the agenda of ANC candidates. They will be looking at ways of making communities safer places to live in through fostering good relations with police; building proper roads; ensuring there is adequate lighting in public places; ensuring the provision of electricity to all households.
MAYIBUYE: What progress has been made on the Reconstruction and Development Programme?
NM: The RDP is not just a couple of projects. It is a massive effort to change the way government works and to change the way government spends money to provide basic services to all South Africans; to build the economy; to make better use of our human resources; and to make society more democratic.
So we are having to change the entire course of government. That will take time. But we have initiated a number of lead projects to start delivering the things that people need most.
We have established water projects in rural areas; school feeding schemes; free health care for pregnant women and children; land reform pilot projects; township renewal projects; etc. Already we are seeing these projects having a positive effect on people’s lives. At the same time these projects are teaching us valuable things about what is the best way to go about addressing people’s needs. And we are making sure that we learn the lessons of these projects.
We have always maintained that the RDP should be a people-driven process. By that we mean that communities should play an active role in formulating development priorities for their area, and they should play an active role in the implementation. Some communities have even managed to mobilise funds to supplement the assistance they are receiving from government.
The local government elections will help the RDP become more focussed on people’s needs, and will create the structural framework through which communities can drive the development process.
MAYIBUYE: The ANC has said it has about 6,000R local government candidates. Who are these people? Where are they from?
NM: The ANC candidates are people from your communities, who have a track record of community involvement. Most of them have been very involved in community struggles for many years. You will have seen them before, leading marches against illegitimate councils or raising money to build schools or clinics. You will have seen them supporting workers rights or organising community protests against crime. They are people who have been involved in the whole process of change. People who fought to bring down apartheid, and now want to build up a new democratic nation.
The ANC candidates have a wealth of experience and skills. We have mineworkers, farmworkers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, teachers, drivers. People of all races, classes and religions – all united by their commitment to a better life for their communities. We have a larger proportion of women among our candidates than any other party because we recognise the importance of women in our communities. The ANC was the only party in last year’s elections to specify that at least a third of its candidates needed to be women. We are encouraged by the impact that this has had on politics in this country and on the role of women as leaders and decision makers. We believe that our position will have a profound impact on the status of women in our communities.
MAYIBUYE: There have been reports of some tensions about the candidate selection process, particularly between ANC and Sanco members. Where do these tensions come from and what has been done about them?
NM: The ANC was determined from the start to make our candidate selection process as thorough, transparent and democratic as possible. Not only did we involve every single ANC branch. We also involved the structures of our allies, namely Cosatu, the SACP and Sanco. We established a process for selecting people and we established criteria by which we wanted potential candidates to be assessed. We also established committees at a provincial and national level to resolve disputes and ensure that our criteria were met.
Now with a process as broad and thorough as this, involving hundreds of thousands of people in thousands of different meetings and list conferences, it is not surprising that some problems crept in. For a start, I think that some people were not properly informed of the process or the criteria for candidate selection. Also there were instances of inadequate communication between alliance members and even within structures of individual organisations. These sort of things can lead to confusion.
I think you also have to accept that there will always be some people who are more interested in furthering their own political careers than looking after the interests of the movement, or the country as a whole. These people are prepared to derail the entire process just to further their own interests. That is a further source of tension. The ANC does not want candidates like that. And we have been quite religious in insisting that all candidates meet the criteria that we established.
We have met with our alliance partners, particularly Sanco, to iron out whatever problems may arise. And we remain committed to sorting out tensions where they may arise. From the ANC’s side, we recognise the fundamental role that Sanco played in the past in struggling against illegitimate local councils and organising communities, and we believe that they have an equally important role to play in the future.
However, when the nomination of candidates has been finalised we must follow the tradition of the ANC that once decisions have been taken, they are respected. We must respect the discipline and authority of our organisation.
MAYIBUYE: What is your message to the voters of South Africa?
NM: We have achieved tremendous things in our country over the last year and a half. We have united the nation and fostered a truly democratic and tolerant society. We have established a basic respect for fundamental human rights and have a broad consensus on the need for reconstruction and development. We have made a start on transforming the large apartheid machinery – which for so many years served only to oppress and deprive our people – into something which will serve and benefit all our people.
But we have much further to go still. Voting for ANC candidates in the local government elections will ensure that we go that much further. And, after the elections, with communities working together with these local councillors we will ensure that we attain the kind of communities and the kind of nation that we want and deserve.
My message to voters is to repeat the stunning victory over poverty and violence which we achieved on 27 April 1994, by voting for the ANC on 1 November.
With local elections less than a month away, Phil Nzimande followed ANC candidate Joyce Masilo as she campaigned in Ga-Rankuwa.
It is nine in the morning, and a group of ANC election candidates in Ga-Rankuwa, a sprawling township north-west of Pretoria, converges on the YMCA hall to prepare for the final campaign aimed at those who have not yet registered for the 1 November local government elections. The government has finally decided to extend by two weeks the registration process, to give those who could not register in time the opportunity to do so.
Among them is Joyce Masilo, a local elections coordinator and an ANC candidate in Ga-Rankuwa. Masilo starts by introducing us to her comrades and explaining the purpose of our presence. Then candidates are deployed to various zones suspected of having people who have not yet registered for the elections.
Two zones are targeted. The reason for this is that crime is high in these areas, and people may have had problems in registering.
Masilo leads the candidates in a house-to-house inspection of unregistered people. However, they find that very few have actually not registered. But it’s a fulfilling exercise. Everyone breaks for lunch content that their mission had been accomplished.
Like any other black township, Ga-Rankuwa is in a state of neglect. This is worsened by the fact that the township was under the administration of the former Bophuthatswana.
“In the past too much money was spent on luxuries. A rich minority could benefit while the most basic needs of the vast majority were not met. We must make sure that our tax money is first spent on these primary services, to ensure that good life and general welfare are promoted at grassroots level,” says Masilo explaining what motivates her to stand in her area for the local government elections.
“The most essential services that our local authorities must provide are a functional dwelling. That is, a house with electricity, clean water supply, refuse removal, sewerage and sanitation, storm-water drains, tarred roads, libraries, parks and other recreational facilities. This will ensure a good quality of life for all,” Masilo continues.
With the high rate of unemployment, crime is among the major concerns for Masilo and the other candidates. They say several policemen, trapped in the bantustan mentality and loyalty to the old Bophuthatswana regime, are unwilling to seriously combat crime.
Masilo is also what can be called a multi-capped activist. Besides her local government election activities, she is a member of the North West Provincial Task Force of Gender Commission, TLC Gender Desk member, Treasurer of the ANC Women’s League and also serves as a Community Policing Forum member. She is a former ANC executive member of the Ga-Rankuwa branch and also served as an election counting officer in the 1994 election.
Masilo is also an achiever. She will be graduating from the Technikon SA with a Certificate in Local Government and Development Administration on 14 October.
However, things have not always been smooth for this 47-year-old mother-of-one activist. Especially since she is an activist from an area previously ruled by the Mangope’s bantustan regime.
Problems started when Masilo led Nelson Mandela’s entourage during Bachana Mokoena’s funeral in Ga-Rankuwa in April 1990. Bachana Mokoena was one of the former ANC Youth Section leaders in exile.
The Bophuthatswana police videotaped and photographed the funeral procession, and subsequently circulated the videotapes throughout the bantustan. This resulted in the annulment of insurance policies Masilo had issued to Bophuthatswana civil servants as a senior consultant at Southern Life Insurance company.
With the loss of business, she was forced to sell her house at Mabopane, and all her belongings were attached by the court. In addition to that, she was forced to work for Southern Life for a period of three years, to repay the company for lost commission.
Masilo is still unemployed, and finds it difficult to make ends meet. Her son had to drop out of school because she could not afford to pay for his fees at the Setlogelo Technikon.
However, Masilo has instituted a claim under the Reconciliation Act with the North West Province. She is hoping for a favourable response from premier Popo Molefe, now that there is a more caring government in place.
Despite all the suffering, Masilo is still committed to the cause the ANC had set itself since its inception, that is, the total liberation of the South African people as whole.
The ANC’s local government candidates are as diverse as they are many. But, write correspondents, they are bound together by a shared vision for the future.
The more than 6,000R people who are standing as ANC candidates in the local government elections come from communities all over the country, representing every sector of South African society. Yet they share a common history of working in communities to bring about a better life.
Zali and Joe Madonsela are on the ANC’s election list in Wesselton township in Ermelo. Joe was introduced to politics in 1987 when he joined the United Democratic front (UDF). His main aim was to advance the rights of people in their communities. His wife, Zali, became involved in politics when she was training as a nurse at Baragwanath hospital. She saw many problems at the nursing college, and worked to democratise it.
Bethuel Xungu was nominated as an ANC ward candidate by the people living and working at Vaal Reefs mine. He has a long history of involvement with the resident committees in compounds at the mine, the trade union movement and the ANC. He explains why he is standing in these elections: “This process [local elections] is not for enriching individuals, but to bring democracy down to ordinary people.”
Many ANC candidates have been part of significant events in South Africa’s history. Thembi Khumalo, an ANC candidate in Balfour in Mpumalanga, was one of the 20,000R women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 to protest the extension of the pass laws to women. Throughout the 50s, “Sesi Thembi” was involved in opposing the pass laws and other apartheid laws. More recently Sesi Thembi has worked for the rights of women through the Balfour Civic Association and the Women’s Self-Help Association.
Alice Coetzee, a candidate on the ANC’s Pretoria Metropolitan list, was not always involved in the community. But she left her job as a journalist at the Pretoria News because she was tired of being an observer. “I wanted to start being a participator,” she says. “I wanted to bring my skills, vision and energy into building our country.”
After leaving journalism she got involved in a programme to take white Pretorians to stay in townships like Atteridgeville and Mamelodi to foster contact and to show the white community the effects of apartheid. “I would like to think our work assisted in getting whites out of their laager,” she says.
Not only are the ANC’s candidates people with a rich tradition of community involvement, they also have a shared vision of a better life for their communities. “If I win in the elections in my area I will Have to work hard in order to ensure that the people of Balfour get proper education, health care and houses; and that employment opportunities are created. It is not only money that people need. What is even more important to them is skills,” says Sesi Thembi.
Joe Madonsela also has no doubts about what would be expected of him. “If I am given the chance to represent the people in my community, I will together with them tackle the problem of storm water drainage, shortage of houses and of electricity in the area,” he says.
Bethuel Xungu says one of his priorities is to alleviate unemployment in the greater Orkney area through encouraging investment. Alice Coetzee wants to do the same in Pretoria. Already the ANC in the city has come up with a policy for initiating and facilitating local economic development. “Local economic development will allow us to address issues like crime, infrastructure development and unemployment,” she says.
Neil Pillay, an ANC ward candidate in Lenasia South, is determined to address the question of crime in his community. A member of the Lenasia South Community Policing Forum, Pillay says the community, working together with the police, has already achieved much in fighting crime and drug abuse.
One of the most important things for Bethuel Xungu is that communities take responsibility for the reconstruction process. Joe Madonsela also believes in involving the community: “We have to decide together with the people about what our priorities should be.”
Alice Coetzee says that in the past the community was not involved in local government. “All we knew was that local government was a group of white men in a room making decisions about our lives,” she says. The ANC in Pretoria has developed a strategy of setting up planning zone forums consisting of community development forums, which will be able to decide on the priorities for their area and feed these to their local government councillors. But, says Coetzee, the NP `old guard’ are finding this sort of consultation very hard to understand. “For us its as natural as breathing, for them it means losing control,” she says.
The Constitutional Assembly has finished sitting for the year. MAYIBUYE spoke to CA chairperson and ANC secretary general Cyril Ramaphosa about progress so far and what still needs to be done.
MAYIBUYE: What progress has been made so far in 1995 in writing the final constitution?
Cyril Ramaphosa: A lot of progress has been made. We have completed almost two-thirds of the constitution. We are hoping to finalise the other third later this year through the sub-committee we’ve established. All the theme committees that we set up – nine of them – have completed their work. They have submitted their reports.
And in a number of cases they have also completed the draft formulations of what will eventually be in the constitution.
So, a great deal of work has been done despite the time constraints that we’ve had in terms of sharing time with the legislative process.
MAYIBUYE: There has been some criticism of the public participation process, some people saying that its just for show. Do you think its been effective and what role has it played in the overall process?
CR: People who have criticised the public participation programme are people who have not really followed up what we are doing at the Constitutional Assembly. If they just took care to play closer attention to exactly the impact that the PPP has had they would have arrived at a completely different verdict.
We are convinced that the programme has had an impact. The consultation with the public has been wide-ranging and has been meaningful in many ways. People who have participated through written submissions; through coming to hearings; through participation in workshops, have found the entire process meaningful, educative and enlightening. It has also helped to enlighten those 490 members of the Constitutional Assembly who are part of the process of drafting the constitution.
The criticism has revolved around whether we do in the end take the submissions that the public are making seriously. And the answer to that is yes, we do. Whenever we’ve had to give close consideration to some of the proposals, we’ve found that proposals that have been made by organisations representing particular sectors have actually been so helpful in getting us to, in some cases, even change our viewpoints on certain issues.
We recently had the Conference of Editors, as well as the Black Editors Forum, addressing us on the question on freedom of expression. They made a formidable case on the question on freedom of association and their submission at that hearing is going to go a long way in ensuring that we give full meaning to the right to freedom of expression. That is just one example, and in a number of other cases we have been able to take on board proposals that have been made by a whole number of sectors. For instance, trade unions have been able to put forward their own views forcefully through written submissions as well as through a hearing that we had for them. And those views will go a long way in finding a place in the constitution itself.
The individual submissions have also been very useful, and I’m convinced that what people out there have had to say in terms of their submissions is going to find its way into the constitution. In the end I think many people will find that what they have had to put forward to the Constitutional Assembly will be reflected in one way or the other in the constitution. It will not be 100 percent reflection of the submissions or views that are put forward by the ordinary people of our country. But in many ways when they look at the draft constitution, they will find that their views have also been incorporated – if not completely, it will be in part.
MAYIBUYE: The first couple of months next year will be quite busy. What will be happening in the Constitutional Assembly?
CR: We are going to be publishing a working draft of the constitution in November. The period between November and 15 January, we expect the South African public to respond to the constitution draft that we will have put out; to make further submissions. We will have it distributed widely, to enable people to see a working draft of the final constitution of their country.
From 15 January right through until May the political parties in the Constitutional Assembly will be finalising negotiations, going through the draft formulations, scrutinising the submissions that we will have received between November and January, and in April we hope to publish the first formal draft of the constitution for further comment. And thereafter we will finalise negotiations and have the constitution adopted in May 1996. Thereafter we send it to the Constitutional Court for certification.
So the work schedule that we have is quite tight but we are hoping that we will be able to achieve the result that we are expecting to.
MAYIBUYE: Will we end up with a World Trade Centre situation, with a big rush to finish the constitution, a lot of horsetrading?
CR: There will no doubt be a lot of negotiation, which you call horsetrading. But I think we will not have the same rush that we had at the World Trade Centre [during negotiations]. We do not have a constitutional crisis. The World Trade Centre process was a pressure cooker type of process where there was a constitutional crisis, there was an election looming, and we knew that if we didn’t complete everything in time the country could have gone up in smoke.
This time round we have a tight time frame, but at the same time a lot of work has already been done. And I expect that we will not be rushing as much as we rushed at the World Trade Centre. In the end we will have a much better constitution than the World Trade Centre process produced.
MAYIBUYE: By now the various parties’ positions on most matters in the constitution are clear. What are the major areas of divergence and convergence between the parties?
CR: There is still quite a lot of divergence on the powers of provinces. We are presently discussing a report which was submitted by the technical advisors; the parties still have different views and approaches. I am hoping that within the next few weeks the parties views will begin to converge and we will be able to resolve the problem of the competencies or the powers of provinces.
The other area that is going to have quite a lot of debate in terms of the different views that parties hold is going to be on the Bill of Rights, especially on issues such as property rights and land rights. There will be quite a lot of debate about that. But in the end I believe we will be able to resolve the problems.
Apart from those, there aren’t major problems that I foresee. Whatever problems there are I think all parties know that they can be resolved with some ease and negotiation. I expect that through further negotiation at a multilateral level in the CA itself, as well as at a bilateral level amongst the parties themselves, whatever problems may still be outstanding will be resolved.
So I don’t expect that we are going to have major problems in as far as arriving at a constitution which will enjoy the support of all the parties in the Constitutional Assembly.
The approach that many, if not all, parties are taking is that we should arrive at this constitution through consensus. No doubt every party would like to have a package type of deal. And there will be issues which they will want to stick to firmly, and there will be issues that they will want to trade-off. The trade-offs themselves will obviously have to be balanced with the submissions and views that we have received from the public, as well as from representatives of various sectors, like trade unions, the churches, the press and all others.
MAYIBUYE: What impact has the IFP’s non-participation had, and what impact is it going to have?
CR: At a technical level, the absence of the IFP has not had an adverse effect on the constitution-making process. When the IFP walked out all parties were agreed that we couldn’t stall or even stop the process to wait for the IFP to come back. The tight time frame that we have dictated that we should proceed.
At a political level, the absence of the IFP no doubt in the end impoverishes the process that we are involved in. We would have preferred the IFP to be in the constitutional assembly to argue its case forcefully and to try and persuade us to understand their points of view. Similarly all other parties would have wanted to persuade the IFP that the approach that they have, particularly on powers of provinces, may not be the correct one.
We will have to give further attention to how the IFP can be drawn into the process. All parties no doubt realise that the absence of the IFP in the end may result in a constitution which they, the IFP, will reject.
We should also remember that they walked out of their own volition, using whatever reasons that they put forward. What is important for all parties is that we should put the interests of the country before party political interests. We have a mandate as the Constitutional Assembly – a mandate which we cannot fail to execute – and that mandate says you must finalise a constitution which will be legitimate, enduring and acceptable to the broader South African public. Much as the IFP represents part of that South African public we will need to have a very careful balance. And that very careful balance in the end will be what the majority of South Africans – through the parties that are represented in the CA, through the various organisations that have made submissions to the CA – will in the end accept this constitution. So the IFP could well find itself in a very marginalised position. In the end it would make good political sense for them as the IFP to come back into the process, because this is a train that is not going to stop to wait for the IFP.
MAYIBUYE: How would you assess the ANC approach to drawing up its constitutional proposals, particularly in terms of consultation with its members and its allies?
CR: The consultation process of the ANC and the Alliance on constitution-making has been rather weak. It has left much to be desired. We could have done a lot better than we have done. However, I should say that a number of forums, a number of conferences, were held. This included the alliance partners where, for example, the ANC adopted its constitutional positions. A subsequent national workshop further worked on the positions adopted at conference.
So there is a mandate. A mandate which is an alliance mandate. However, a lot of work could have been done, and can still be done, and should still be done, in terms of consulting our structures at provincial level, at regional level and at branch level.
The constitutional commissions that we set up at provincial level are not functioning as well as we wanted them to. We need to reactivate them. They need to be reactivated particularly in view of the looming publication of the working draft. And I believe that once we have that working draft and after the elections our structures, our activists will begin to play closer attention to the constitution.
The period between the middle of November right through to February should be a period of intensive activity in alliance structures to go through the working draft of the constitution, and to ensure that whatever is in that constitution is in line with our broad mandate. A mandate of fully democratising our country and transforming it and making sure that we rid our country of all the legacies of apartheid.
The KwaZulu/Natal legislature is embroiled in a bitter dispute over the IFP’s constitutional proposals, writes a correspondent.
While the writing of the country’s constitution is continuing smoothly, the process of writing the KwaZulu/Natal constitution is in disarray. In its headlong rush to formulate a secessionist constitution for KwaZulu/Natal, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has abandoned any pretence at democratic behaviour or reconciliation Despite progress in negotiations in the province’s constitutional committee around constitutional principles, the IFP earlier this month insisted on voting in the legislature on its original, hardline principles. It refused even to postpone the vote until all opposition MPLs could be present.
The vote went ahead, despite a walkout by all the other parties in the legislature in protest at the IFP’s heavy-handedness. In trying to bulldoze its constitution through the legislature, the IFP has been accused of demonstrating extreme hypocrisy. It suspended its participation in the Constitutional Assembly (CA), which is drawing up the national constitution, because it wanted an effective veto over the final constitution. This they did despite every effort by the CA to reach consensus in the forum on as many issues as possible.
Yet when it comes to the provincial constitution, they refuse to acknowledge the views of parties which have substantially more representation at a provincial level than they have at a national level.
There is no desire on the part of the IFP to ensure that there is broad public consultation on the provincial constitution; that its provisions are thoroughly considered by specialised theme committees; or that the constitution which is finally adopted is accepted by the overwhelming majority of people in the province.
Provincial legislatures are empowered by the interim constitution to pass a constitution for its province by a majority of at least two-thirds. The Constitutional Court would need to certify that the constitution which was passed was not inconsistent with the national constitution and the constitutional principles. The provincial constitution may, however, provide for provincial legislative and executives structures different from those in the national constitution. It can also make provisions for the role, status and institutions of a traditional monarch.
The vote in the legislature follows a decision by the IFP’s national council to reverse agreements reached in the province’s constitutional committee and to replace their nominee for chairperson of the committee – for the second time since the process began. ANC MPL Dumisani Makhaye says that the outcome of the IFP national council confirms that the IFP has lost direction and is at war with itself.
By showing so little regard for the role of the committee, “the IFP is showing contempt for the other parties participating in drafting a constitution for the province,” says ANC provincial spokesperson on constitutional affairs John Jeffrey. It shows the depth of crisis the IFP is in, he says.
The IFP has threatened to call fresh elections in the province if its version of the constitution is not passed by the legislature, since it needs the support of all other parties in the legislature to pass its constitution without the support of the ANC. IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi last week instructed the director general of Home Affairs to provide assistance to KwaZulu/Natal premier Frank Mdlalose in drafting provincial legislation which would empower Mdlalose to call new provincial elections. Buthelezi said he wanted the legislation ready by this sitting of the legislature.
While the IFP deny that their constitutional proposals are secessionist, their proposals include provisions for a provincial constitutional court and a provincial militia.
Delegates to the Beijing Women’s Conference agree that the conference document can serve as a basis for improving the lives of South African women, writes Khensani Makhubela.
The South African delegation to the United Nations’s Fourth World Conference of Women, held in Beijing from 4 to 15 September 1995, considers the Platform of Action produced in Beijing a very positive consensus document “which unequivocally locates women’s quality of life in all development sectors”.
In a statement to the media on their return from Beijing, the delegation said the Platform of Action gives detailed attention to the areas which it calls `critical areas of concern’. The critical areas of concern are to:
- tackle the increasing burden of poverty on women;
- promote women’s access to education at all levels;
- improve access to health care;
- prevent all forms of violence against women, and improve mechanisms for supporting those who have suffered such violence;
- meet the needs of women who are living in a context of war or other forms of conflict;
- ensure women’s access to participate in economic structures;
- set up effective mechanism to promote the advancement of women;
- promote and protect women’s human rights;
- promote women’s participation in positive representation in the media;
- promote women’s involvement in the achievement and protection of a safe environment;
- protect girl children from discrimination and promoting their advancement in society.
From an African perspective, the conference was particularly successful in putting the experiences and concerns of Africa on the agenda. Based on a substantial process of preparation, African positions were developed in relation to the Platform of Action, which allowed them to speak with one voice on key issues such as poverty.
The conference brought South African women together for the first time. They shared their diverse experiences and learnt from others from all over the world an essential process for breaking away from the history of isolation. They shared their extraordinary experience of struggle and victory, and ensuring that they do not repeat mistakes others have made.
The South African delegation’s experience of human rights abuses made them well placed to argue convincingly for the protection of such rights, irrespective of the national cultures, religions and other divisions. The South African NGOs focused on their specific areas of concern, such as disability, the needs of young women, workers’ needs and the position of rural women.
The right to physical integrity of the person and protection from rape and sexual abuse were issues of concern to women in developing countries. After much debate, the final wording on this issue says the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
The South African delegates believe that South Africa’s participation in the conference was most worthwhile. They feel they contributed a new and considered voice to Africa and the world.
The initial challenge of the conference is to inform both the government, at national and provincial levels about the Platform of Action. There is no doubt that they will identify areas for government’s action and lobby it at all levels to implement the commitments made in Beijing. They feel that this will make for a healthy environment of national, provincial and local debate and action.
Khensani Makhubela looks at what the National Assembly is and how it works.
The National Assembly is one of the elected houses which makes national laws. The other house is the senate. The South African National Assembly consists of 400 members elected in accordance with the system of proportional representation.
According to proportional representation, candidates’ lists are compiled by each political party for the election of the members of the National Assembly. These lists have a national and a provincial component.
Every candidates’ list contains the names of candidates in the fixed order of preference of the political party concerned. A maximum of 400 names appear on a party’s list. The Independent Electoral Commission determines the number of National Assembly seats allocated to each province.
The provincial seats together make up 200 seats in the National Assembly, which are allocated from the provincial list. The remaining 200 seats are filled from the parties’ national lists. A person nominated as a candidate on a provincial list has to be, at the time of nomination, ordinarily resident in that province.
Should a political party’s list contain fewer names than seats allocated, these seats are forfeited and proportionally divided between the remaining political party lists. The other 200 seats in the National Assembly are then filled using virtually the same formula of the largest remainder.
No person can become or remain a member of the National Assembly unless he or she is a South African citizen and is qualified to vote in an election of the National Assembly.
If a person is serving a sentence of imprisonment of more than 12 months without the option of a fine; if they are of unsound mind or if they are an unrehabilitated insolvent, they may not become a member of the National Assembly.
A member of the National Assembly has to vacate their seat if they cease to be a member of the party which nominated them.
At its first meeting, with the Chief Justice or a Supreme Court judge acting as chairperson, the National Assembly must elect one of its members to be the Speaker and another to be Deputy Speaker. If the Speaker is absent or for any reason unable to perform their functions, the Deputy Speaker must act as Speaker.
The National Assembly sits at the houses of Parliament in Cape Town, unless the Speaker, in consultation with the President of the Senate, decides otherwise on the grounds of public interest, security, or convenience. The National Assembly decides when it will sit, though the President may convene an extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly to deal with urgent business. Sittings of the National Assembly are held in public. The media, too, has access to such sittings.
Recommendations to reform schooling should be implemented as soon as possible, writes Blade Nzimande.
Three important developments in education took place in the past month. These developments represent significant steps in our agenda for social transformation and the attainment of equity in South Africa. We witnessed the submission of the report of the review committee on organisation, governance and financing of schooling, and the passage in parliament of the South African Qualifications Authority Act and the Education Policy Bill [see accompanying story]. All these developments have been the subject of much controversy and vitriol over the past few weeks.
The report on the organisation, governance and funding of schools was commissioned by education minister Sibusiso Bengu as a sincere attempt to find the best way of eliminating the inequities and enormous waste of resources – both human and material – that currently characterises our education system. These inequities are in terms of our per capita funding. It is unacceptable that in this democratic dispensation, the state still spends five times as much money on a white child as it spends on a child in the former Transkei.
There exists inequity in the ownership of schools by communities. With their Education Renewal Strategy of the early 1990s, the National Party ensured that they transferred state educational resources to white communities, in the form of the model C and model A schools, before the advent of a new system. This the NP did in an attempt to maintain white educational privilege and to allow white parents to exclude other groups from utilising these resources.
Not only did the review committee attempt to address these inequities, they also offered the authorities a way out of the confusion. Instead of the many categories of schools that we have at present, they are proposing two types of schools – public schools and private or independent schools. Placing all public schools in the same category will more adequately expose the inequities that exist between schools and allow for the development of common standards in terms of provisioning.
We welcome the proposal that all school communities be endowed with all the same basic governance powers, with the possibility of acquiring additional powers as capacity develops. We are especially heartened by the fact that the report has as a component for capacity building in schools that in the past had no governance powers. The most welcome proposal in as far as governance is concerned is the report’s suggestion on the composition of governing bodies. This proposal accords with the MDM position on the democratic governance of schools. If this proposal is accepted, then all the important stakeholders in the schooling community would have an effective say in the governance of education. We would strongly urge the acceptance of the committee’s proposals on the governance of schools by the minister and the MECs for education.
The committee’s proposals on the financing of education had to deal with an aspect that had wide ranging ramifications. The inequities in funding of education are so deep-seated that any proposed transformation had to take into consideration various factors:
- The effect on national expenditure on education. This would determine to what level you increase funding in the disadvantaged sectors or to what level you decrease funding to the advantaged sectors, and the speed at which we shall be able to attain equity and redress in spending.
- The question of `standards’ will raise its head because any attempt to attain equity and redress in spending, given the current fiscal constraints, would entail significant reduction in spending on education for the advantaged.
- The issue of additional resources, which will clearly be needed if we are to attain equity, raises questions about user fees and the ANC’s commitment to ten years of basic free and compulsory education.
- The question of the redistribution of teaching and administrative staff in schools, which accounts for 90 percent of spending in education then rears itself, because equalisation in spending will mean redistributing teachers from the over-supplied areas to where there is a shortage. This has political and other implications.
The committee members have been prudent in the way in which they dealt with the financing question. In my opinion, they have been too prudent. They were so cautious that the proposals they make do not seem to address the question in a satisfactory manner.
The first proposal they put on the table, the `gradualist minimalist’ approach towards achieving equity, is aimed at causing the least discomfort to the privileged sector. In fact if this approach were to be adopted, then the inequitable dispensation in education funding would basically remain in place, and equity would be achieved only in twenty to thirty years. It is not surprising that this approach has found favour with the likes of the NP, the DP, the Sunday Times and others of the same ilk. It is preposterous to think that we would countenance the possibility of waiting another twenty years before we have equity in education in this country.
The second proposal, their so-called `equitable school-based formula’ adopts a more radical approach. This proposal is based on “the premise that the achievement of per capita equity in the allocation of resources to schools (and hence to all children) has to be a fundamental objective of the process of educational transformation”. This kind of logic cannot be faulted, because the achievement of an equitable dispensation remains the primary objective of our transformation agenda. In addition, the constitution obliges the state to provide an equal basic quality education to all. The fact that this option also makes allowances for funding for redress purposes over and above the basic formula funding for disadvantaged communities based on an index of need addresses the redress question satisfactorily.
The possibility of instituting this kind of funding should be examined more closely. Even though I understand the point that this form of funding would require more sophisticated education management information than we currently possess, I think the Ministry of Education should seriously consider this proposal as a real option if we are serious about addressing the inequities in education.
The third option proposed by the committee, the `partnership funding approach’, suggests a partnership between parents and the state in the financing of education. It suggests that for costs other than capital and personnel costs, parents pay for the education of their children with payments on a sliding scale with zero rating for a certain minimum category of income.
I have serious reservations about this approach. Firstly, it seems to represent a significant abdication of our commitment to free and compulsory education for ten years. Secondly, given the extent of poverty in the country, it might mean essentially exempting up to 70 percent of parents from paying fees. If you are going to exempt that many parents, you might as well not charge anyone.
On the whole the report represents an important step forward in our effort to transform education in this country and I urge the minister to implement the positive recommendations of the committee without delay. Prompt implementation will ensure that we start the next school year on a sound footing.
To help the reconstruction of education in South Africa, Sadtu is considering a three year bargaining strategy. Kate Skinner outlines its bargaining themes.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) is discussing within its ranks a new three year bargaining strategy. This marks a major departure from the union’s ritualistic annual wage bargaining, often characterised by conflict and confrontation. As part of its agenda to reconstruct education and empower teachers it has outlined the following bargaining themes: improvement of conditions of service for educators; new salary grading; improved training; and time off and secondment for union officials.
Sadtu believes that the massive exodus of well-qualified teachers from the profession, particularly in understaffed fields like maths, science and commerce, is due to uncompetitive salaries and poor working conditions. Teachers are lured by lucrative packages from the private sector. On average teachers earn substantially less than their counterparts with equivalent qualifications and responsibilities in business.
Conditions of service
There are major problems with the teacher salary scale. For one thing, it is qualifications driven. Other criteria such as level of responsibility, level of teaching, experience and performance are largely ignored. This has led to a qualifications `paper chase’ which has encouraged a situation where teachers are more committed to their own studies than to those of their pupils.
Also the discriminatory policies of the past have resulted in an exceptionally broad salary scale with a ratio of almost 10:1 between the highest and lowest salaries. The vast majority of teachers who earn less than the average are unqualified or underqualified.
Average salaries are skewed in terms of race and gender because of the historically uneven distribution of qualifications and post levels among teachers. This results in african teachers earning 75 percent of the average of white teachers, and women teachers earning 85 percent of the average of male teachers.
The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) must undertake as a matter of urgency the task of addressing these anomalies. The objectives should be to:
- achieve a living wage for teachers;
- eliminate disparities with the education sector;
- begin to de-link remuneration from qualifications and give due recognition to performance;
- reduce the present categories to an acceptable number and flatten the salary structure to reduce the apartheid wage gap;
- eliminate disparities between teachers and their counterparts in the private sector.
One of the most important service benefits in the public service as a whole are the non-monetary service benefits. These include pension benefits, home owner allowances and medical aid. The state’s contribution however has not kept in line with the rise in the cost of living. A key component of our bargaining strategy must therefore be to secure favourable, inflation-related service benefits.
Sadtu has recently won a major victory in terms of the home owner allowance scheme – this has now been extended to all female educators.
One of the legacies of apartheid education has been the over concentration of teacher training in the humanity and social science fields. This has led to the overproduction of teachers in subjects like African languages, biblical studies and history. This has contradicted the law of supply and demand and has led to a situation of severe teacher unemployment.
The union’s belief is that teacher training should now be geared towards an overall strategy of building the economy and should thus be located within the realm of economic growth and development.
Sadtu has thus called for a special `training needs’ task team to be set up in the ELRC. Its brief should include to:
- review the status of teacher training colleges and make recommendations towards their restructuring in order to ensure that they meet RDP imperatives;
- review existing education and training curriculum and support services;
- make proposals on the education and training needs of educators;
- make suggestions on the structuring of development centres both at national and provincial level.
Secondment and time off for union officials
The right of union officials to perform union functions while employed by the state is recognised internationally. In South Africa many trade unions have concluded agreements with their employers, which guarantee secondment and time-off for union work. With the advent of unionism in the education sector, there has been an increasing need for employer and employee organisations to negotiate an agreement on this issue.
Sadtu has won this battle in the ELRC. A resolution says that time off will be guaranteed to bona fide union officials to do union work during school hours. But this will be built into the school timetable to ensure a balance between school and union work. Union officials will retain their full pay benefits and their leave days will not be interfered with.
In terms of secondment the state and employee organisation will determine an effective mechanism to ensure that the interests of pupils are not sacrificed. The period of secondment will be reviews after 12 months.
The primary function of seconded educators will be to ensure the resolution of disputes in the ELRC; to give effect to collective bargaining; to assist in the successful implementation of agreements; to provide teacher organisations with administrative assistance; to participate in forums and task groups and generally to coordinate the activities of teachers.
Kate Skinner is Media Officer of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union.
Students in Cosas are proud of the advances made in education, but still feel a lot has to be done. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.
The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) believes significant strides have been made in the struggle for a non-racial democratic education system, according to Cosas national general secretary Tshilidzi Ratshitanga.
However, the organisation, which holds its annual national conference in December, is concerned by some of the delays in passing important legislation, particularly the National Education Policy Bill. The bill was rejected by the National Party, Inkatha Freedom Party, Pan Africanist Congress, Democratic Party and African Christian Democratic Party first because they felt insufficient consultation had taken place around it, and secondly because they thought some parts of it was unconstitutional.
Cosas, however, maintains that the bill contains the principles “we stood for in the struggle for a non-racial education system”.
The bill would give power to the Minister of Education to bring about practical changes with the introduction of a framework for the free choice of language systems, school level curriculum and school budget priorities.
Cosas believes the bill, which has been referred to the Constitutional Court, needs to be passed as a matter of urgency. “If it is delayed until next year a chaotic situation in schools will be inevitable,” Ratshitanga said. Although students were not properly consulted on certain sections of the bill, the bill’s limitations could be addressed and tremendous strides made towards the long-term goals of students, he said.
The mass democratic movements should have expected that the NP would try to delay the passage of the Bill since its positions had created havoc for black children for many years, Cosas national president Songezo Jongile added.
“The NP will always strive to maintain the status quo. Their delay in the process of change is the strategy that we will have to live with. This designed to enhance their racist political strategies,” he said.
The democratic government had done its best in practically removing the NP’s racist tradition of separate education systems. Cosas was committed to ensuring the undemocratic system of education was defeated, even if it meant prolonged mass action. The NP would never be allowed to maintain certain privileges for the whites, he said.
“We applaud the review committee for its wide-ranging recommendations calling for the total scrapping of the Model C schools and the democratisation of private and public schools,” the Cosas leaders said.
They said they still have a way to go in demonstrating their support for the implementation of the recommendations. “The recommendations lay the basis for fundamental practical changes. But the main thing is that we want all schools to fall under the public sector because we have reservations about inflated government subsidies granted to the private schools – some which cannot deliver the real education. There is a need for redress and equity in this regard,” they said.
The report also identified racism, inequitable funding arrangements and the lack of democratic structures in the entire education system as having militated against the development of quality schools. It found that schools lacked democracy because not all major stakeholders – teachers, pupils and the broader community – were involved in the governance of schools under the old system.
Cosas believes it is a waste of state funds to continue pouring vast sums of money into some unscrupulous institutions: “There must be a way of integrating private schools into the public.”
Priorities must be given to public schools to redress imbalances, otherwise the victorious struggles would be doomed to failure; Cosas had to ensure that these victories were sustained.
Cosas rejects the Azanian Students Movement’s (Azasm) call for the removal of white teachers from African township schools. Azasm had “no history of struggling for the democratic rights of the school students,” Ratshitanga said.
Cosas maintains that the Azasm campaign is racist and it does nothing to address black employment. White teachers in black schools constitute less than five percent of teachers.
“It does not contribute to building a nation, while the mass democratic movement is in the process of building one nation. Cosas took up the initiative of fighting for the rights of black teachers and students, which shows that Azasm’s call is political opportunism. Its death is inevitable since they do not have a constituency and their campaigns are not even supported by the unemployed black teachers they purport to represent,” Ratshitanga said.
On the abolition of corporal punishment, Cosas said the education minister and MECs for education were in line with Cosas’ view: “We support it [abolition of corporal punishment] since it was a barbaric implementation of responsibility and discipline. It should be remembered that through the learning process the South African society has always linked corporal punishment with discipline.”
Teachers were not trained creatively on discipline, and there was no scientific proof to show that corporal punishment was effective: “What we are saying now is that the ministry should move in a responsible manner by ensuring that all the educational stakeholders are on board to discuss alternatives to corporal punishment, like the code of conduct for students or disciplinary committees that would be representative of students and teachers as well.”
“The process [of transformation] is a tricky one and depends on interpretation and the will to act speedily. We need to see that all schools are transformed into public schools. Though we do not expect funding immediately, the budget must be channelled into disadvantaged black schools and the ANC ministers must press for the transformation of the former white schools into democratic schools, accessible to blacks,” Ratshitanga said.
“Let’s redirect resources, though it can mean reverse discrimination against the privileged schools. The emphasis should be on disadvantaged schools. We need to plan priorities because this will frustrate the aspirations of the community,” he said.
Ratshitanga said a consultative relationship existed between the education ministry and Cosas. This makes it easier for the student body to exert influence on the ministry. Already this has brought dividends for the disadvantaged schools, he said.
Cosas is also concerned about the number of reports of alleged sexual abuse involving teachers and parents: “We are saying justice must introduce severe criminal sentence against the perpetrators.
There is also a need to put in place a curriculum on sexual education as a matter of urgency. It is important that justice be strengthened to wipe out sexual abuse on children.”
These and other issues of concern to the student body would be discussed at their December conference.
Education in South Africa needs to be changed, according to the people Khensani Makhubela spoke to in Mpumalanga.
Isaac Mbete of Wesselton, a township in Ermelo in Mpumalanga, is very concerned about his children’s education and education in South Africa in general. “There must be a standard education in our country. Division in the education sector should come to an end,” says Mbete, a teacher at Lindile High School.
“There is a lot to be done about black people’s education. We have very few electricians, pilots, civil engineers, mechanical engineers and town planners and our society needs these people,” says Mbete.
He says that the teacher-pupil ratio should be changed. He is concerned that classes are overcrowded and the teachers cannot cope with the situation.
“Black people need financial assistance. People who cannot afford school fees should be given free education, because education is vital and everyone must be educated,” Mbete says.
“In our schools we need language therapists, psychologists, nurses and doctors that can help the teachers to identify the children’s problems. We also want a better infrastructure for our schools,” he says.
Sindi Xaba says that education in South Africa should be changed. She says black people need a better education, like what white children get from their schools.
“In the past the education system was so unjust that we never got a chance to learn and prepare ourselves for the future. We did not know about aid programmes, which are so important for our children.”
Xaba says that it is very difficult for children to concentrate at school because the schools are dirty, the toilets are blocked, the class windows are broken. In winter, in particular, this makes it very difficult for the students to concentrate because it is cold.
“In our schools there is a very high rate of failure because we do not have adequate equipment,” says Xaba. “Our children should also be taught computers at a very early age, not at tertiary level like what there are doing now. Education is the key to better life and we all need it.”
Moses Mabizela wants the standard of education and the availability of bursaries to be improved. He says that education in this country is very poor among the black people. To opt for an education like white children are receiving is very expensive.
“Our children do not have enough school material and equipment and this makes it difficult for them to learn. We do not have proper school transport for our children and our schools are normally far from where we live,” Mabizela says.
“It is so unfair and unjust that our children are not exposed to international sports and sports facilities. I might have missed the chance myself but I want all these things for our children, they should be given best education as well,” says Mabizela.
Zodwa Chilundo says that it is a pity that our children do not even know why they go to school because they do not have a good starting to their education. She says the education system in South Africa should change, people should be given equal and better education.
“In South Africa education is made to look like it is a favour for the black people. It is not a favour or privilege to be given a better education but it is a right and our children deserve this right,” Chilundo says.
“Our children should also be taught other skills right from the beginning of their education so that they can also cope with the outside world. And all the white training schools and universities should accept everyone regardless of race,” she says.
Siphiwe Ndlovu says that in the black schools a child’s talent is not recognised at the beginning. She says teachers themselves are not experienced or qualified because they underwent the same poor education, which was meant to degrade black people.
“A teacher is not able to concentrate and identify a child’s problem because classes are overcrowded,” Ndlovu says. “It is not possible that one person can teach sixty pupils, it is frustrating for the teacher and the students to go trough this process. It is very easy for a teacher to lose patience with the students.”
“Our children should be given guidance right from the beginning. We should not force them to do what they are not good at, but in the black schools it is not possible because teachers do not have the experience in guiding the pupils into their suitable fields as they have never been given the chance themselves,” she says.
Busisiwe Ndlovu, a determined and dedicated teacher, has had enough with the unjust education system in South Africa: “The black people’s education system is appalling, it is very disappointing and discouraging. It is fortunate that we are determined people, otherwise we would not be having intellectuals and progressive people amongst black people.”
“Our education should be made practical, especially when it come to languages. Our people are not able to communicate in English in schools but at work they are expected to present themselves in the that language,” she says.
“Another problem is that our pupils do not practice English language in class or outside the class, but they are expected to do their studies and exams in English language, and this causes a high rate of failures. We do not fail because we are dull but because we lack language practice, equipment and school material,” says Ndlovu.
“The education system must change as soon as possible because our children’s brains are still affected by the old system and we want them to adjust to the changes while their brains are still fresh,” Ndlovu says.
Parliamentary paries on the right are doing everything in their power to block the necessary transformation of education, writes Blade Nzimande.
The attitude of opposition parties towards positive change in education was demonstrated last month by their resistance to the passage of two key pieces of legislation – the South African Qualifications Authority Act and the Education Policy Bill. The resistance to these two pieces of legislation came from the parties of the right and from outside parliament from one of the most conservative, white male-dominated bodies, the Council of University Principals.
The National Party, the Democratic Party, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African Christian Democratic Party all opposed the passage of these two laws, especially the education policy bill, on the grounds that there was not sufficient transparency and consultation before the bills were voted. They said that the education policy bill was unconstitutional in that it would give the minister of education powers that they believe should belong to the provincial MECs for education. So `incensed’ were these parties with the lack of transparency that they staged a dramatic walk-out during the committee deliberations of the bills. They also tried to stop the education policy bill from becoming law by having it referred to the constitutional court. The president cannot enact the bill until the court has ruled on its constitutionality.
Is this apparent concern with democracy and transparency on the part of these parties real? Has the NP been rehabilitated from its culture of covert operations? Has the DP become a credible watchdog for democracy?
Their motivation for these actions has little to do with democracy and transparency – they want to delay and obstruct the transformation of the education system. The NP and DP are concerned only with the maintenance of white privilege. To them it is imperative that racial domination in the guise of continued economic dominance by whites in this country continue, so that they might crow in their congresses that the ANC might have the political power but that they, the whites of this country, will remain indispensable as they continue to hold the levers of economic power. The evidence of the racist character of the NP was demonstrated with their reaction to the policy bill. Here they had an opportunity to show that they supported the transformation of education by supporting the bill. Instead they threw a tantrum and walked out of the committee when they could not get their way. Now these parties are holding change to constitutional ransom. I am sure that the eminent judges of the Constitutional Court will see this act for what it is – an attempt to block the much needed transformation of our education system – and rule in favour of the minister.
The DP’s action smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. It is nothing but racism. They have sat for years in the white apartheid parliament, and never even contemplated the boycott tactics that they now apply. Not even in the face of the most repressive and barbaric legislation promulgated by the National Party did they ever walk out. One has to ask the question now: are they doing this because the minister of education is black?
The only agenda of the IFP is to oppose whatever the ANC does and to tear this country apart with their secessionist programme. The policy bill would bring about transformation and would benefit the very people that the IFP purports to represent, the poor and especially rural people. Yet against all reason they gang up with the NP against this bill.
What these parties are saying to the GNU through their opposition to the bill is: `You dare not touch white privilege. You dare not change the inequitable educational status quo in this country.’
We cannot let them get away with this. For the sake of our children, for the sake of our country, we have to transform education, and nothing should stand in our way.
At a time of great change in South Africa’s broadcasting environment, community television is coming into its own as the RDP of the broadcasting sector, writes Karen Thorne.
After years of resistance struggle and a subsequent focus in public policy work, community media activists are having to come to grips with the real and far more challenging realities of working within a developmental context in the building of community access television in South Africa. This challenge has been taken on by the newly-formed Open Window Network (OWN), a national network of 22 community based video and television initiatives as well as service organisations working in training, production, distribution and exhibition. OWN is advancing a national programme aimed at promoting community access to television in South Africa.
The long term goal of OWN is to develop a community television sector that is viable, sustainable and meets the needs of communities in the context of development and democratisation. The concept of community television is simply a practical delivery mechanism of access to training, production, distribution, exhibition and broadcast facilities to historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Community television is the ideal tool for development in relation to the broadcast sector because:
- Community television is by its nature a potentially self sustaining medium. The IBA Act allows community broadcasters to generate income in the form of advertising. Community television projects are viable development projects in that they can generate income from the sale of programmes, services and advertising space.
- Community television fits in directly with the government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme in that it is development that is community driven and controlled. Community broadcasting goes a step further than public broadcasting in that it recognises the central role of communities, at the local level, in owning and controlling the broadcast medium, unlocking resources, building partnerships between role players, effective delivery mechanisms and properly assessing diverse needs within communities. Community television is the RDP of the broadcasting sector.
Redressing the imbalance of the legacy of apartheid has to be the first consideration in any movement toward the development of community television in South Africa. This will include human resource development for the broadcasting sector as a whole in a way that promotes an upward flow from communities to the public and private sector.
Community television stands to play an important role in a broader developmental sense. The government’s RDP recognises that information and an informed population will be vital to the success of the programme. Equally important will be people’s ability to engage in dialogue about community approaches and solutions to the fundamental challenges still confronting the majority of South Africans. If people don’t have effective means to express their needs, they won’t have effective control over the development process. In a largely illiterate society, broadcasting has a critical role to play in the development of a participatory democracy.
There is no guarantee that access to video and broadcast technologies contributes to a participatory democracy. If community television is to play this role effectively then we need to take the notion of access a step further. South Africa’s unique history has given South Africans a deep sense of participation and ownership of the political process. Communities, or at least sectors of communities, are well organised and coherent.
The social foundations for the success of community television have been sown. Community television can contribute to this by enhancing communities’ ability to communicate with itself and the world.
Communities as well as NGOs and CBOs need to be trained as effective communicators. The focus should be on the message and not simply on access to the medium. Community participation must go beyond that of access or community control.
In order to make this possible, community television needs to be developed from the bottom up over a period of time through distinct developmental phases. The first priority is to build production capacity in historically marginalised communities. This will be achieved through the coordination of a national training programme involving numerous training institutions around the country and the building of Video Access Centres (VACs) in areas where no such production capacity exists.
Training will be integrated with, and partially financed by, production. OWN intends to leverage government funds through the offering of services to the South African Communications Service, as well as seeking contract work from the NGO sector. OWN is also building a strong relationship of cooperation with the national public broadcaster where a mechanism for the showing or commissioning of community originated programming is presently being negotiated.
When VACs build up sufficient capacity they will apply to the Independent Broadcasting Authority for a community television licence to broadcast. The network is presently debating various signal distribution options, looking into ways in which community television stations can share programming material over the long term. Serious attention is being given to the consortium model. This model has already been through two test transmissions in the Durban and Cape Town metropolitan areas. Satellites are also being looked into as a future means of redistributing community programming nationally.
The objectives of the Open Window Network in community broadcasting complement the efforts of community radio and print. Hence the organisation works in close collaboration with fraternal organisations in these related spheres through formal links and structures aimed at the establishment of the National Community Media Forum. Together we are advancing a vision of community broadcasting during a time in which the future telecommunications policy and regulatory environment is being shaped. Now is the time to enshrine the notion of community access and participation within the new South Africa by linking it permanently to information and communication technologies.
Karen Thorne is General Secretary of the Open Window Network, PO Box 32022, Braamfontein, 2107. Tel: (011) 403-2750
The way the press reacted, one would have thought that someone had been murdered, or detained, or tortured. There were front page stories, harsh editorials and prominent opinion pieces. Someone had dared mention `media diversity’.
It all began when City Press editor Khulu Sibiya resigned as chairperson of the Conference of Editors, a structure established to forge unity between English and Afrikaans-speaking newspapers. ANC spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa issued a statement saying that the ANC could understand Sibiya’s frustrations. The media in South Africa still reflected apartheid patterns of ownership and needed to change in the interests of diversity and democracy, the ANC statement said. The statement also made reference to the sale to a foreign interest of controlling shares in one of South Africa’s four main newspaper groups. This, the statement said, should not be seen as a substitute for creating a diversity of ownership within the country itself.
The response from the press was swift and severe. Notably the papers of the Independent Group, which is largely owned by Irish magnate Tony O’Reilly, carried articles condemning the ANC view. The ANC was accused of “itching” to control the press. An editorial in The Star suggested that the ANC “grow up”.
The authors of these diatribes against the ANC were all senior editorial and management figures in the Independent Group. They tried to make it clear that ownership had in fact very little impact on the content of the newspaper or on the quality of its journalism. The journalists, the editors and the managers would be adhere to the same basic journalistic principles, no matter who owned the paper, they said. So it didn’t matter if Anglo owned the paper or a baked bean conglomerate or Cosatu, they suggested. They would always tell the truth.
Yet in embarking upon their fearsome attack on the ANC, they demonstrated the faults inherent in their own argument. They showed that there is in fact a direct relation between ownership and content. The ANC questioned the value to democracy of having the nation’s media resources concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority. In doing so, they referred to the ownership of a particular newspaper group as an illustration.
Within a day the `challenge’ to the owners of the Independent Group had been met by extensive editorial space in their own newspapers dedicated to the defence of the owners. None of the papers of the other groups reacted in such a way. Not because they weren’t in agreement with the Independent’s arguments, but because their owners weren’t directly mentioned. Had the ANC specifically mentioned Times Media, Nasionale Pers or Perskor as examples of the extreme concentration of media ownership, the papers of these groups would most likely have responded in the same way as The Star or the Sunday Independent.
One of the problems of the media diversity debate so far is that the wrangling over the foreign ownership of the Independent Group has obscured the real heart of the debate: the fact that any concentration of media resources of the sort found in South Africa is unacceptable, whether those resources are held by local interests or not. Through their input into this debate, the South African media as a whole has shown itself to incapable of servicing in its present form our fledgling democracy.
Women pilots are a rarity in southern Africa. Khensani Makhubela spoke to one pilot who has found there is no glass ceiling in the sky.
Thirty-year-old Sakhile Nyoni is an outstanding figure in the civil aviation world. This Air Botswana captain has not made it as a women in this `man’s world’ without a lot of hard work. She is a professional woman, a mother and a wife.
Nyoni’s career has its roots in her school days at Gaborone High School in Botswana. At sixteen Nyoni felt she wanted to be in the civil aviation field, and she told her English teacher that she wanted to become a pilot.
“He believed in me and he actually encouraged me in a quiet way. He didn’t say `do it’ or `don’t do it’. Maybe if he had encouraged me loud I would have lost courage and given up,” Nyoni says.
“That was a testing ground for me, to tell somebody and not get a negative reaction made me go ahead and think seriously that one day I’m going to fly people around,” she says.
After her completing her Ordinary Level (O Levels), Nyoni went to the University of Botswana to study science subjects and later went to do her Advance Level (A Levels) at Maruapula High School. During that time it was a matter of waiting for an opportunity to go into the aviation industry.
In 1985 Nyoni joined the department of civil aviation. She was a safety officer in the controlling body. Later she was assigned to do the testing for all the people holding Botswana air licences. In preparation for being a testing officer Nyoni was asked to do a pilot’s licence, because she wouldn’t be able to test others while she could not fly herself.
“It was then when my dream came to reality. I got the opportunity to fly. I was sent to Scotland and that’s where I got my instrument rating licence, international pilot’s licence, instructors rating licence and airline transport license,” says Nyoni.
Back at home in Botswana Nyoni’s dream was shattered, since the department of civil aviation at that time did not have any posts. But her enthusiasm for flying was not dampened, she was seconded to Air Botswana to fly the Donia, a plane with two engines and 16 seats. In 1988 she was formally transferred to Air Botswana and she started flying ATR 42, a 42 seater plane with two engines.
“Later I started to fly the British Aerospace 146 which is a four engine jet with 75 seats. I continued to fly it until 1993, the day I waited for all my life, the day that I became an air captain. Once I started I made sure that I succeeded maybe because there was a lot of challenge and many people expected me not to succeed,” Nyoni says.
Air Botswana’s crew is divided into three categories – the captain, co-pilot and flight attendants. The captain is the one that is in charge of the whole crew. The duties are varied but it is a duty of the captain to see that the crew is neat, is on time and their behaviour is of acceptable standard. “Apart from flying the plane I have to take care of the passengers, make sure that they are as happy as they can be and safety is of importance,” says Nyoni. “I also have to check whether the plane has enough fuel and make sure that the crew is up to date with everything,” she says.
“Its not easy to be an air captain, there are many challenges. All the responsibilities fall on you. You have to be aware that you are carrying passengers and they paid to be carried by you and you are also aware that the passengers rely on you to get everything right, especially when things go wrong,” says Nyoni.
“On a day-to-day basis it’s not too much strain because generally I get on with my work and don’t worry about the challenges. But on the other hand I find that the weather can be a challenge and at the moment we are in summer in Botswana and we are expecting thunderstorms and high temperatures. Obviously one has to meet them in such a way that safety is of paramount importance, safety has to be stressed all the time,” she says.
Nyoni says she never thinks of herself as being in a man’s world. She doesn’t think she is a threat to her colleagues or them a threat to her. “The main reason for this is they don’t treat me like a woman, but they treat me like a pilot. They have the same respect for me as they have for everyone in the same rank as me, so I don’t notice that they are men and I am a woman,” she says.
Nyoni spends a lot of time with her family even if she flies a lot. “I am always at home in the evening like any mother or wife. Of course I need to do a bit of planning ahead and one needs an understanding partner especially when called at odd times and that seems to have sorted itself out well with me,” she says.
She says her husband is very encouraging and supporting, he is an author and he does freelance editing. “This suits us very well because he works from home and he supervises our son and our helper. As I fly 80 hours a month on average, just within the legal limit, I spend an equal amount in the air and on the ground,” Nyoni says.
Before we can end the interview Nyoni looks at her watch, reminding me that her plane will be leaving soon for France where she will be going as a passenger to write her yearly instrument rating test in order to renew her instrument licence. This is the part of her licence which allows her to fly in bad weather without looking outside but only using the instruments.
“By using the radio and the instruments you know exactly where you are at any given moment and you can estimate your time overhead at any position along the route. Obviously your proficiency can lapse if you only get good weather during the year that you fly, that’s why the licence is only valid for 13 months,” Nyoni says.
Even in a hurry Nyoni does not forget to give advice to young up and coming pilots, especially women. “All they have to do is to apply themselves. It is not difficult to became a pilot but there is a lot of work. It is a challenge but it is not impossible. You can do it after matric with English, Maths and one science subject, preferably Physics,” she says be rushing off into the sky.
Among the departments at ANC headquarters is one dedicated to servicing the president and other top officials. Khensani Makhubela introduces the presidency.
A lot of people forget that Nelson Mandela is not only the State President, he is also president of the ANC. As such he is the head of the ANC presidency – a department at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg – which he visits at least one day every week.
The presidency serves two main functions. Firstly it is responsible for ensuring ongoing contact between the president and national chairperson and their offices in government and ANC head office.
Secondly, it provides administrative support to the deputy president. Within the presidency there is the Office of the President, Office of the Deputy President and Office of the Chairperson. In addition, there is the office of Walter Sisulu, who often has to stand in for the three top officials.
A collective staff was formed around the president, not only to facilitate a support base for him in his professional and political work, but to ensure that he enjoys an acceptable quality of life.
The objectives of the presidency are to project the president to South Africans and the international community; to integrate the work of the president, deputy president and national chairperson and to take initiatives to build the ANC and to enhance its image nationally and internationally.
The greatest challenge to the department has been the transformation from the `liberation movement’ mode to a `political party’ mode. Coming to terms with the ANC as a majority political party in government is another aspect. Contact between the presidency and ANC leadership has become a lot more difficult, as most leaders are in government or parliament.
The department spends a lot of time consulting experts on various matters. This was not a problem in the past because the experts needed were in the ANC. Now they have joined the government and it is not easy to consult with them, although the department has started to find alternative resources.
The department projects itself as a frontline office. A large proportion of the presidency’s work is dedicated to public relations and relieving the pressure on the president. One of the most essential aspects of dealing with the president’s programme is to ensure that he does not become over-worked.
The presidency is one department that is difficult to define. It covers a bit of all the ANC’s departments – all the ANC departmental problems are taken to the presidency. It is a problem-solving department not only in the ANC, but also externally.
The department deals with ANC’s incoming and outgoing correspondence; it consults other departments concerning their correspondence; it coordinates between the diary of the president in government and ANC; it liaises with official structures like the NEC and NWC and it ensures that there is continuous communication flow from the President to other structures in government and in the ANC, and vice versa.
The department facilitates the president’s work within the Mandela Children’s Fund; his private matters and it also liaises with security in government and ANC. The department deals with diplomatic community, top level management, the general public and ANC structures.
As Mandela is a very people-oriented president one of the tasks of the department is to ensure that every piece of correspondence that goes to his office is responded to. There are people who write, particularly children, and ask to meet the president. Where possible arrangements are made to allow this to happen, since the president is not only interested in meeting the world’s leaders.
The story of the secret underground communications network of Operation Vula, by Tim Jenkin.
Part 6 – Vula Winds Up
Nineteen ninety was a momentous year for the ANC. It was the year that the apartheid regime unbanned the organisation and released its leaders from prison. Although this should have been accepted with jubilation, most of us were extremely sceptical and carried on as if nothing had happened. It was too difficult to trust a regime that had always acted with such duplicity.
There was no slowing down of activities related to Operation Vula until much later in the year, well after negotiations had got under way. In fact, the high point of Vula was reached in the middle of the year, only to be brought down by the arrests of a number of key activists in July.
At the time of the unbanning on 2 February 1990, a number of people were lined up to enter the country to bolster Vula. Ronnie Kasrils was the most important of these, but a number of others, mainly recruits from Conny Braam’s stable, had been prepared and were later sent in to do support work.
After a number of delays Ronnie Kasrils entered South Africa on 23 March. Under heavy disguise and with false documents he made his way through passport control at Johannesburg airport with no problem, and was able to inform us from the airport of his successful passage.
Ronnie’s entry marked the changeover to a far more sophisticated communications system. He brought in with him the software and hardware required to allow the comrades to use proper electronic mail via an international service provider. This moved Vula’s communications to a higher level and allowed us to put aside our quaint, but effective, acoustic modem/tape recorder communications system.
The amount of information moving along the `hotline’ immediately increased ten-fold. The implementation of the new system appeared to release the pent-up literary strivings of the comrades. Report after report flowed down the line to Lusaka. To the frustration of the comrades very little flowed in the reverse direction. The unbanning of the ANC had thrown all structures in Lusaka, including Vula’s, into turmoil. Everyone wondered what happened to all these reports and Lusaka took on a new code name – `the black hole’.
Despite the apparent void at the Lusaka end reports were carefully scrutinised and distributed among the leadership who were preparing to return to South Africa. There is no doubt that the reports helped brief the leadership about the situation `on the ground’ and gave them a feel for what to expect when they returned to the country.
The flow of arms into South Africa during the first months of the ANC’s unbanning also did not decrease. On the contrary, the number of `contacts’ increased as the months passed. There was a great debate on the role of the underground in the `new South Africa’. If negotiations with the apartheid regime did not work out the ANC needed an `insurance policy’, and this would be provided by the underground. And it had to be a strong underground, not one that had no weapons at hand.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February and by the end of the month was in Lusaka to meet the ANC leadership. His release stirred up activity on all fronts and for a month or two attention got diverted from Vula. Little information on the movement’s responses to the unbanning and releases reached comrades inside the country.
When minutes of meetings did begin to be sent in this only aroused the ire of the comrades, for it appeared that important decisions relating to internal matters were being taken without consulting them.
Despite repeated criticism from Mac Maharaj and others the views of the Vula comrades were largely ignored. Part of the problem was that no one was supposed to know that they were in the country, making it difficult for those in the know to give much weight to the views emanating from the underground.
This so frustrated Mac that on 24 February he announced his resignation and asked for the structures to arrange his exfiltration. This shocked everyone greatly for his extreme reaction seemed unwarranted. The best way to respond to this, everyone agreed, was to not respond. The tactic worked, for by the time there was a response several weeks later Mac had simmered down considerably. Eventually he was spoken to by Mandela and at the beginning of April he retracted his resignation.
Once again, the value of a dynamic communications channel showed itself. If there had not been the capacity of all to discuss the matter Vula would have been seriously incapacitated.
Comrades leave in order to return
At the beginning of June it was becoming clear that Mac and Ronnie would have to leave the country in order to return. They were to return as members of the ANC NEC in order to attend NEC meetings now being held in South Africa. For obvious reasons they couldn’t just pop up, so elaborate plans had to be made to get them out of the country and back in again. Ronnie, everyone had been told, was in Vietnam recovering from a serious motor accident. Suddenly there was a remarkable recovery and he would soon be released from the hospital and return to South Africa. Mac had also made a miraculous recovery in the Soviet Union. The comrades were now going home and the truth could come out if necessary. In any case, everyone had their attention on the exciting developments at home so never noticed that the personal tales of these two did not match reality.
On July 14 some bad news arrived:
“VERY URGENT. It appears that Vula may be facing serious and major casualties.”
Three days earlier contact with Ghebuza (Siphiwe Nyanda) had been lost. Shortly before this Ghebuza had reported that a certain comrade had been missing for a week. A number of other comrades had been arrested, as well as Ghebuza’s assistant. This created a `BIG PROBLEM RE COMMS’ as the assistant was in the habit of moving around with Ghebuza’s program and `key’ disks as well as his data files. This was against all the rules though we had always suspected that some of the comrades were less than meticulous about observing them.
All these disasters had taken place in Durban and so immediately all communications with that area were stopped. It was possible that all the `key’ disks and books of that area had fallen into police hands, and as they probably had the program disks too they could gain access to the links in use. There were e-mail links between Durban and London and between Durban and Johannesburg. The old acoustic modem/tape recorder system was still operational too, which meant that the numbers of the answering machines in London would be known. There were pager and voice mail links too and these would also probably become known to the police.
Fortunately our communications system was so sophisticated by this stage that it took but one day to repair the damage. It was easy enough to alter the access passwords of the suspect e-mailboxes and switch the most important links to other channels already in existence. The voice mail system too had excess capacity so it was easy enough to bring on line a new set of numbers. New code words were devised and new coding books agreed upon.
To assess the damage and assist with damage control Mac and Ronnie, now legally in South Africa, dashed down to Durban. Their first report was that, while considerable damage had been done, the structures were developed enough to contain the damage and prevent any further arrests and police penetration.
Four `legals’ and six underground comrades had been arrested. It appeared that the police stumbled on Vula quite by chance. Two comrades had been arrested while on a mission unrelated to Vula. These arrests provided the police with information about a meeting that the two were due to attend. Police waited at the venue to arrest whoever turned up, and this led to the arrest of further Vula comrades.
On 16 July police actions spread to Johannesburg when they raided the house of two Vula support personnel. Mac and Ronnie were unsure if they themselves would be detained by the police as they were leadership figures and had received indemnity from the regime. But they could take no chances so made sure that all existing `safe houses’ were cleared out and all communications equipment moved to safe venues. Arms caches and other incriminating materials were also moved. But on 25 July Mac was arrested. This prompted Ronnie to go back underground. Janet Love had never surfaced but moved even further underground as she was key in maintaining the communications links.
The comrades were able through the various modes of communication used by Vula, including pagers, to contain the damage almost totally. The police made very little headway in that region and within a very short time `normal’ activity was resumed.
The SACP claimed that the arrest of Mac was a clear move by the government to undermine the relaunch of the party inside the country, due four days later. Others in the ANC condemned the action as a provocation aimed at hindering the talks taking place between the ANC and the government.
The regime itself went overboard with the arrests, claiming that they had clear evidence of a sinister `communist plot’ to overthrow the government by violent action if negotiations failed. They said the evidence coming to light showed that the movement was acting against the spirit of negotiations by still maintaining an underground and smuggling weapons into the country.
The details of Vula that the regime released to the press revealed that indeed a number of important documents had fallen into their hands. It became clearer by the day that the comrades in Durban had violated all the rules of security that we had so assiduously tried to impress upon them. Data files of confidential information were kept `in clear’ on disk and keywords and key books must have been easily obtainable. The minutes of an entire underground conference were quoted by police as evidence of the plot to overthrow the government.
Those of us in London and Lusaka were shocked by the lack of measures taken by the Durban comrades to protect their information. What was the purpose of all the encryption programs and security manuals that had been sent in at such risk? Such measures are of no value whatsoever if the rules are not obeyed. The entire communications system had been designed to withstand this sort of disaster but when the time of reckoning came the police found an open book.
After this there was a tremendous tightening of activities relating to communications. Janet Love, now in charge of communications from the inside, made sure that all stored documents were kept in encrypted form and that the data disks were placed in the care of people who could only be reached through `cutoffs’. Program disks were kept apart from `key’ disks and only brought together when files had to be enciphered or deciphered. Additional people more remote from the `frontline’ were recruited to do the actual transmissions. All printouts were carefully destroyed after being read.
Comrades in court
On 29 October Mac appeared in court with seven others on charges of `terrorism’. The indictment was extremely revealing and exposed to the public for the first time the scope of Operation Vula.
The main charge was that the accused had between July 1988 and July 1990 `performed acts aimed at causing, bringing about, promoting or contributing towards acts or threats of violence’. The accused had `conspired to create an underground network the task of which would be to recruit, train, lead and arm a “people’s” or “revolutionary” army to be used to seize power from the government by means of an armed insurrection’.
They had arranged for the transfer of large sums of money from outside to finance the project’s activities. They had assisted with the infiltration of other persons who were to participate in the project. They had rented a number of “safe houses” and set up a communications network by means of which the accused and their co-conspirators could communicate in code. They had also procured equipment for communications by means of invisible writing and modified cars for the clandestine importation of arms.
It went on and on. The accused had smuggled in and secreted weapons and explosives, procured material to prepare propaganda, recruited people for training inside and outside South Africa, provided training in the art of warfare and approached foreign powers. They had assembled and kept intelligence on the location of strategic targets, such as police stations, fuel depots and army unit headquarters, as well as personal particulars of members of the police.
There were lists of foreigners who had been infiltrated to assist the project and details of 15 “safe houses” in Johannesburg and Durban. There were details of vehicles and vast numbers of “revolutionary” documents.
On 8 November the comrades on trial were released on bail totalling nearly R300,000. It was clear that the regime’s hopes of using the trial to drive a wedge between the ANC and SACP while negotiating with them had backfired. There was no more mileage to be gained from pursing the trial so the trialists were released.
At the same time the police announced that they were looking for four suspects – Ronnie Kasrils, Janet Love, Charles Ndaba and Christopher Manye – in connection with the illegal importation of arms, ammunition and explosives. The suspects were said to “armed and extremely dangerous” and continuously made use of “all sorts of disguises” to hide their identities. Rewards were offered for information leading to their arrests.
The timing of the announcement by the police – four months after the arrests of the others – raised suspicion that they were using it to cover up the possible deaths in detention of Charles Ndaba and Mbuso Shabalala. They were the first comrades to be arrested in July and were never heard of again.
On 22 March 1991 the nine trialists and Ronnie Kasrils were indemnified against prosecution in terms of the government’s commitments to the Pretoria and Groote Schuur Minutes. This put paid to the trail and nothing more was heard about it after that.
Ronnie and Janet remained in hiding because the police never said that they had given up their search for them. But three months later the two were instructed to break cover and did so with little fanfare. No further action was taken against them.
Right up to the early months of 1991 the channel to Vula remained open and continued to carry heavy traffic. Most of this was in the form of prepared documentation that the comrades could use internally. It saved them the bother of having to prepare such documents and allowed them to concentrate their efforts on production and distribution.
The question of the role of the underground remained unresolved. So long as the regime maintained its arrogant attitude and the situation could not be said to be irreversible there was a need to maintain structures that could be aroused to carry on the struggle. Even after the ANC renounced the armed struggle there was a need to ensure that weapons were securely stored in the event of a sudden reversal.
Vula’s communications network had proved so valuable that there was talk of moving the whole thing to South Africa. There was no need to keep the London outpost as there was no longer anyone to communicate with in Lusaka. With the entire leadership now based in South Africa it made sense to bring Vula’s external resources home to ensure that internal links were maintained and strengthened.
But as the months passed the underground came closer to the surface and it was soon indistinguishable from the surface. The communications needs of the movement did not disappear but no longer was there any need to maintain a clandestine network. Communications too could come in from the cold.
The lessons of Vula are clear. Without first-class communications you cannot carry out a successful underground operation. Underground does not mean silence, it simply means operating at a different level – one that operates in parallel but separately from the above-ground. Both levels need to be able to communicate in order to operate effectively but in the underground communication links are more critical as they are the cement that binds together the parts.
Vula carried out its activities over a two-year period and during that time more structures were created than during the previous twenty years. Although perhaps fewer weapons were smuggled in than during the previous twenty years, fewer ended up in enemy hands and fewer people were captured.
It is clear that the regime received a major shock when they uncovered Vula. They had no idea of what was going on and it would be fair to say that the sophistication of the operation must have convinced the enemy’s negotiators that they were not dealing with the ANC of old. When they discovered that their security apparatus was thoroughly infiltrated with `moles’ who were passing confidential information to the ANC via Vula they must have felt very unsafe indeed. And when they realised that they were dealing with an underground that could easily contain itself after receiving a severe knock their complacency must have been shattered.
Vula should serve as an example for the present. The need for good communications are as important today as they were in the days of the underground. Good communications will ensure that the party shares the same information and approaches key issues with a united voice.
The complete Vula story is available from the ANC web site.
The IMF and the World Bank
The South African democratic transition is happening in a world in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank play a major role. Many Third World countries, including the majority of African countries, are dominated by the policies of these major international financial institutions.
In the next instalment of this series we will look more closely at the role of these institutions in the Third World. But, to understand better their role and power, it is useful first to look at the origins of these institutions.
Towards the end of the Second World War, in July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at Bretton Woods, a small holiday resort in the US. The countries included all the major capitalist countries in the soon to be victorious allied camp. The purpose of the conference was to establish a system of governance for the post-war capitalist economic order.
All of the delegates, especially those from the US and Britain, were very mindful of the lessons of the First World War. After that war, the defeated nations (notably Germany) had been forced to pay heavy reparations. The victorious nations cut off access to international money for the defeated nations.
The result of these harsh economic measures was a massive depression in countries like Germany. Unemployment grew, and the resulting crisis contributed directly to the growth of fascism. In turn, this led to the Second World War.
A different approach
In 1944, the soon to be victorious countries were determined to conduct themselves differently. Rather than punishing the defeated nations, the priority became stabilising and rebuilding a new capitalist order.
This time, there was a strong commitment, especially from the US, to:
- Raise capital for reconstruction of war-ravaged economies, especially in Europe. The prime institution for this effort was at first the World Bank, as it is widely known. Its official title was (and still is) the International Reconstruction and Development Bank.
- Stabilise the exchange of different national monies (currencies). The idea was to establish fixed rates of exchange. The governing institution for this system was to be the IMF. Because of their origins in the 1944 conference, the World Bank and IMF are often referred to as the “Bretton Woods institutions”.
European reconstruction and development
In the late 1940s, private banks and investors were unwilling to risk investing in war-ravaged Europe. In this period, the World Bank played a very important role in kick-starting investments in reconstruction.
In the early 1950s, with the sharpening of the Cold War, the World Bank tended to fall out of favour. It was replaced by other major investment mechanisms, like the Marshall Plan. But, generally speaking, the Bretton Woods objective of reconstructing a stabilised capitalist western Europe was to succeed.
IMF, 1945 -1971
Equally successful, at least for some years, was the plan to stabilise international currencies. Key to this was an extremely strong US dollar.
The US had emerged even more powerful than ever from the Second World War. It was the one major economy that had not been directly within the war zone.
With post-war reconstruction under way, and with Europe and Japan hungry for US goods, there was a big demand for the dollar. The dollar was, as one writer puts it, “as good as gold”.
In fact, this was the basis of the IMF international currency system. The value of the dollar was fixed at $35 to an ounce of gold. The US undertook to exchange anyone’s gold for dollars, and anyone’s dollars for gold at that fixed rate. All other national currencies were fixed at different rates in relation to this dollar value.
When a particular country’s money could no longer hold its value, the IMF supervised the renegotiation of its value.
The dollar under pressure
For some years, this arrangement worked quite well. But it was all based on the overwhelming economic predominance of the US in the immediate post-war situation. A monetary system that aspired to be lasting was built on a particular balance of forces.
Inevitably, changes began to happen:
- West European and the Japanese economies began to recover, thanks partly to the Bretton Woods arrangements. Taking advantage of the massive flow of US dollars into their countries, industries in West Europe and Japan were often able to build new factories and technologies. In some cases, they were able to grab a technological lead on the US. There was less and less need for US dollars, because there was less and less need to import US goods. The demand for US dollars started to go down.
- But at the very same time, there was an ongoing build-up of dollars in these countries. The dollar was the world currency and so these other countries built up huge reserves. US troops stationed in Europe and Japan were paid in US dollars. This also contributed to a growing accumulation of dollars in West Europe and Japan. So, as the demand for dollars went down, the supply of dollars was going up.
The arrangement was under deep strain. The capacity of the US Central Bank to actually pay gold at the fixed rate for all the dollars that had accumulated outside of the US was in doubt. In 1971, US president Richard Nixon unilaterally ended the dollar’s fixed rate convertibility into gold. This was an admission that the US’s economic predominance was now increasingly under challenge.
Some people speak of 1971 as “the end of the Bretton Woods arrangement”. But, as Third World countries know only too well, the IMF and World Bank did not disappear in 1971. But from this period their attention began to shift southwards.
In 1973 a dramatic turn of events came to the rescue of the dollar. In that year, a cartel of countries organised in OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) unilaterally increased the price of oil 400 percent. The OPEC countries insisted that oil should be paid for in US dollars. This provoked a huge scramble by non-oil producing countries for dollars.
In this period OPEC countries, especially the ruling elites in a number of Middle Eastern countries, amassed huge dollar profits which they invested in European banks. These were dollar fortunes, but held outside of the regulatory framework of the US. The European banks began to take chances and cut corners to attract more and more of these dollars.
These huge dollar holdings are often referred to as `Eurodollars’ (or `Petrodollars’). As one writer has said these dollars were “like children who have run away to escape parents’ discipline, but when hungry they come home for a meal”.
The debt crisis
Awash with billions of dollars, the banks began to look for ways of investing them, and making more profits. In the late 1970s Third World countries (and very often Third World governments) became the target for massive, and unscrupulous lending.
Private bankers in the West encouraged huge borrowing sprees by Third World countries. By the end of the 1970s the Third World debt had shot up to $400 billion, half of which was owed to private banks. By 1984 it had doubled again to $800 billion.
There is a saying: “If you owe your banker a little bit of money – it’s your problem. If you owe them a lot – it’s their problem.” By the early 1980s the private bankers began to realise they had a massive problem. It is against this background that the World Bank and IMF began to focus increasingly on the Third World. That will be the topic of our next instalment.
This month, David Adams wraps up the series on effective communications with a look at media liaison.
Press releases are probably the most effective – and reliable – way of getting your message across. From a journalist’s point of view, a press release presents all the facts in a clear, simple form, and it usually means less work for them.
From your organisation’s point of view, a press release means that your statement is down in black and white, so it won’t be misunderstood or misquoted. It allows you to think carefully before committing yourselves to words.
You can use press releases to:
- give advance notice of an event;
- provide a report of a meeting;
- announce new campaigns and provide progress reports;
- give background information on an event/dispute;
- give details of a report. There are several fairly obvious `rules’ regarding press releases:
- Use simple language, short sentences and short words. Don’t use cliches and don’t use jargon.
- Use vigorous language.
- Don’t use abbreviations or acronyms
- Use quotes. Use direct quotes from someone in your organisation, like your chairperson or secretary. They brighten up a statement, and journalists like to use them in their reports.
This is one of the most useful aspect of a press release. It enables you to delay the release of your information. For instance, if you intend embarking on a campaign, you can send a press release before the time giving the background to the campaign. This allows the journalist to do research, find illustrations, etc.
Another benefit of an embargo is that it allows you to choose who you release your information to. If you embargo a report until noon, it will be just right for an afternoon newspaper. If you embargo until midnight it is ideal for a morning newspaper. To embargo a press release write, for example, “Embargoed until 12.30 on the 10th June 1995”.
If possible, print the press release on your organisation’s letterhead. Try to have it typed. Number the pages, and avoid making mistakes. Don’t forget the date and the name of whoever is issuing it, with a telephone number if possible. The journalist may have a query, and they must be able to contact someone to solve their problem.
Dealing with the media
When the media approaches you:
- Don’t be rushed. If a reporter rings you up, in most cases it’s a good idea to say you are a bit tied up and can you ring back in five minutes. Ask for the gist of their enquiry before you ring off. Then spend a few minutes composing your thoughts, deciding whether its appropriate for you to answer and assembling any information you may need.
- Talk about what you know. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Don’t speculate or get drawn on issues which your organisation would not wish to comment on.
- You can decline to be interviewed if the terms aren’t right.
- If it is a radio or TV interview, you will usually have an opportunity to discuss the questions before the interview starts. Find out how long you’ve got and select the number of points you want to make accordingly.
Dealing with reporters
When dealing with journalists, be honest, accurate and factual:
- Remember that no matter how important your item may seem to you, it is only one of dozens of stories competing for space that day. So you need to make your story more appealing.
- Don’t telephone the newspaper or radio if you can write a simple press release. The best thing is to visit your contact, with your press release.
- Don’t lecture the reporters. They want the facts. Your opinion or position on a matter may be part of the facts, but don’t talk as if you are trying to persuade a reporter that you are right.
- Don’t be provoked. Don’t lose your cool and don’t take things personally.
- It’s always useful to identify the reporter whose responsibility it is to cover your particular interest, and develop a good relationship with them.
A press conference (or news conference) is an occasion when an organisation invites a number of journalists from different media to hear what the organisation has to say and to ask questions. Some organisations, however, hold press conferences when they have nothing newsworthy to say.
A well-run press conference allows an organisation the opportunity to:
- get its message across to range of media outlets all at one time, saving work and time;
- provide more detailed information and explanation of your organisation’s case than you can give in a press release;
- present your organisation’s case on your terms and at a time and place of your choosing;
- meet face-to-face with reporters you may not have met before or have only dealt with over the telephone. Holding a press conference usually involves a bit of preparation:
- Get an invitation out in time to all the relevant journalists you know, giving the basic information about the conference (Who will be speaking, when and where) and some brief information about what the speaker(s) will say and why the conference is being held.
- Give careful thought to the timing of the press conference. The best time is often to hold it mid-morning if you’re going for the next day’s morning paper. The right length of time is generally 30 to 45 minutes. You will need someone to chair the press conference whose job will be to introduce the speakers, take questions from journalists and wind up the conference.
- Choose a suitable room for the conference in an accessible place and with enough seating. Make sure it is reasonably quiet so that the conference is not disturbed and that any radio reporters present can make a clear recording. If you have the time and resources:
- Make available at the conference a written statement or any other background paper you think useful.
- Telephone key journalists a day or two before the conference to check that they received their invitation. On the day:
- Arrange the chairs seating your speakers as a panel (preferably behind a table) at the head of the room facing the seats for the journalists. If you have any relevant posters, placards, banners or other similar material arrange them in a way that will make a strong visual background for photographs.
- Keep a record of the journalists who attend by asking people to write down their name and newspaper on a sheet which you will provide as they come in. Make sure your chairperson also asks journalists to identify themselves in the conference when they ask questions. It is useful to have a complete list of the journalists you invited and then after the conference tick them off to see who is missing.
- Be generally helpful and hospitable. For instance if reporters or photographers want a special session to interview or photograph one of your speakers, try to help set this up and find a suitable place for this. If it is possible to lay on tea or coffee after the conference this can provide an excellent opportunity to meet journalists socially and get to know each other better.
If publicity is important for your organisation, then you should consider appointing one person as the organisation’s press officer.
One person who is given special responsibility for dealing with the media will be more effective than a number of different people doing a little bit of press relations work now and then. A press officer can:
- provide continuity to your organisation’s publicity drive, learning from and building on past experiences with the media;
- keep your organisation up-to-date with press contacts and with the press coverage the organisation gets;
- plan a positive strategy towards the media rather than simply reacting to press enquiries and journalists’ ideas of stories.
From the journalists’ point of view, it is much easier to have one person in the organisation to deal with than a chain of changing names and telephone numbers.
But if the job is to be done well, the person who is appointed press officer must be someone who is reliable, efficient and really knows the organisation. The press officer must be able to give press comments or answer journalists’ queries as spokesperson for the organisation. The organisation must feel sure that the press officer can represent it publicly.
The role of a press officer is to:
- Act as the main channel of communication between the organisation and the media;
- study how the media works and how it can be used to advance the organisation;
- make a proper list of all the media outlets which might give coverage to the organisation;
- develop good contacts with journalists and help journalists who are making enquiries about your organisation;
- monitor the newspapers and radio for mentions of your organisation and coverage of relevant issues. Cuttings should be kept of all important stories;
- draft press releases;
- arrange press conferences;
- give briefings or interviews to the press or arrange for other suitable people to give them;
- think up stories and `sell’ them to journalists;
- give advice to other people in the organisation on being interviewed and encourage them to use the media;
- consider making a complaint when coverage is unfair.