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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK


Jane Standley answers your questions




Jane Standley has reported for the BBC from Africa since 1994. She answered your questions LIVE from election headquarters in Pretoria.

Jane Standley joined the BBC graduate training scheme in 1989 and worked in BBC local radio as a reporter.

South African Elections
She quickly progressed to foreign news reporting with the World Service (first radio then TV) in 1992. Jane took up the East Africa correspondent's job in mid-1994 - as the Rwanda genocide was coming to an end.

Mid-1997 she returned to London for a few months - on mainly the domestic TV and radio beat - but with some foreign excursions. "A trip to Bosnia and the comparisons it brought with central Africa was very interesting," she says.

In June 1998 she returned to Africa to a more senior job - that of Africa Correspondent - with a brief to cover the entire continent.

See below for a transcription of Jane's replies to your questions


Vera Standberg, Israel: Do you think there will ever be an effective opposition in South Africa?

Jane Standley: I think the opposition is small at the moment, certainly, because the ANC is looking at about a two-thirds majority - it might be just under, it might be just over, but they have certainly got a huge amount of the vote.


BBC News Online's Jo Ross puts your questions to Jane Standley
But the opposition are doing quite well and they're tackling the ANC on issues. One example is the democratic party which is currently getting about 10% of the vote. In the last election, it only got 1.7% of the vote.
The analysts here are saying the reason why it got such a big increase in its vote this time is because its leader, Tony Leon, has been really pushing the ANC and picking at them in parliament. It's making him quite unpopular with a lot of black people in South Africa. He's ridiculed in the paper as a Chihuahua, a small dog that nips at the heels at the ANC.

Besides from that, there are concerns of course that with such a huge vote, the ANC could become a monolithic undemocratic government in this country.

Jonathan Fine, USA: The ANC stated prior to the Elections that it sought the two thirds majority in Parliament so that it can change the constitution. What areas or issues does the ANC regard as needing changes? If the changes are really so obviously needed, won't other MP's support the ANC in voting in such changes?

Jane Standley: We should clarify that just a little bit. The ANC did originally say it wanted a two-thirds majority, but it never said that it wanted to have that to change the constitution. It soon back-peddled on that and said no two-thirds doesn't really matter, we just want a huge mandate.

In terms of the areas of the constitution, it is actually quite muddy, South Africa's constitution was only drawn up five years ago. But in between the muddiness, certainly the two-thirds majority could allow them to change the bill of rights and also the independent institutions like the reserve bank. But alongside that, the ANC would need to have the support of six out of the nine provinces, but it's already won six, so that's pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Now, other areas of the constitution would need 75% of the vote, so, not all of the constitution is open to being attacked by a two-thirds majority.

In terms of what the ANC would want to change, things like the bill of rights where there is a lot of protection for individual rights, that might possibly be watered down. One example is South Africa is experiencing huge problems with crime, very, very violent crime. There are some people who believe that the ANC might decide to water down the constitution and protection of offenders because of this huge crime wave.

Fred bright, UK: Why do you think the ANC leadership object to the limit on the Presidency to two terms? The tradition of over-powerful long-term Presidents and the entrenchment of political power has a very poor record in Southern Africa. Why should this be aspired to?

Jane Standley: It doesn't really have a poor record in South Africa. We haven't seen a huge long-term presidency as opposed to countries like, say, Kenya where President Moi is on his 20th year in government or Malawi for example or in Zaire. I don't think that is a particular issue here.

I actually don't think the ANC does want to change that part of the constitution and have a president for life. Nelson Mandela could easily have been president for life here. He stood down and made that clear years ago. If Thabo Mbeki wants to serve two terms, there are plenty of other ANC leaders. It was when the ANC were negotiating with the other opposition parties in the run-up to the last election. I think it was more that they wanted as free a constitution with as little restriction as possible on it.

Dr Mamaru Limeneh, UK: In your opinion what are the most important lessons other African countries can learn from the experience of post-apartheid South Africa?

Jane Standley: From my experience of working in dozens of African countries, and particularly when I lived in Kenya for a long time and worked in East Africa, would be the non-tribal basis of this democracy. Black people here identify with a black government with a black liberation party, the ANC and they don't vote on tribal lines.

We've seen the danger that tribalism has caused in other African countries, many, many of them and again I go back to Kenya where people vote on the basis of tribal leadership. That doesn't happen in South Africa. They're trying to create a non-racial society but they have already created a non-tribal society. That is a great lesson for the rest of Africa, because with tribalism there generally comes conflict and chaos.

John Lloyd, UK: What has happened in Natal where the Zulu/Inkatha seems to have been eclipsed and their violence diminished?

Jane Standley: Violence has certainly been diminished. That is a great achievement for all South Africans, but in the run-up to the last election, about 2,000 people were killed in political violence. There hasn't been anything like that this time. I think it's a real tribute to everybody in South Africa that there hasn't been that violence.

This has been kind of like a normal, almost boring, election, and that's great, that that is an embracing of democracy and political tolerance, and in a very short period of time.
But the IFP is not being eclipsed. That's really surprised everybody. At the moment, they're neck and neck for control of that province with the ANC and they're doing much better in the national polls than anyone expected, looking at about eight or nine per cent of the vote instead of the three or four per cent that was predicted in the opinion polls.

Charles Leme, Sudan: With Thabo Mbeki (a stronger nationalist character) taking over soon from Mandela, do you think there is going to be hope of grreater move towards Pan-Africanism in Africa spearheaded by South Africa? If it does, isn't there going to be a greater stability in Africa with S. Africa as the main backer?

Jane Standley: Hopefully stability would come, but South Africa has shown itself, apart from its incursion into Lesotho last year to try to restore peace, South Africa has shown itself reluctant to get involved in other conflict outside the region and also in the rest of Africa. I think that they are concentrating at the moment, in ways quite rightly, on building a safe, secure and prosperous South Africa and hoping with this immense transformation that is still taking place here from the old apartheid-era days.

I've spoken to Thabo Mbeki two or three times at great length about his vision of pan Africanism. He calls it the African renaissance. He's very committed to that. It's quite inspiring when you do talk to him that he doesn't want to see Africa as on the TV, on the radio, in people's mind as a continent that is always in distress, it's getting handouts from the west. He doesn't want to see famine like in Sudan where the person has written from. He wants to see a proud and strong Africa and he does have some examples of how South Africa is leading that.

Mike, Uganda: Education's the best way to model the future so say our fathers. Do you believe that South African education will help create a better society after these elections?

Jane Standley: I would hope so, but I have to say that with reservation, because education is going through a very, very difficult period here in South Africa. You're seeing incredible violence in schools, in a lot of black schools, it must be said. In terms of white schools, a reluctance to allow black pupils.

I went last week to the town of Fryburg in north western province which is famous - rather infamous, for black students being whipped in the schools by a group of white parents about 18 months ago. Those racial tensions continue there - it's very upsetting to see that. There's a huge problem with resources, with properly trained and committed teachers here.

I think that the ANC needs to make that a huge priority in this term of government because we are left here with an age group of people who fought the battles against apartheid in the black townships, when the slogan was liberation, not education. Crime, for example, the huge level of violence in this country, comes from that lack of education. So I just hope desperately that the ANC will prioritise education. But I think Thabo Mbeki will definitely push it as an issue. He's a classic example. He came from a very poor, rural community in the Transkei and there he was an average school-goer. He goes to England, gets a good education comes back after 30 years in exile equipped with those skills in education. He knows personally how important education is.

Jeff Seth, USA: As a journalist who has covered Africa and the Balkans, do you think the conflicts in Ethiopian/Eritrea, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have received as comprehensive coverage as compared to the coverage of the Kosovo conflict. What reason would you give for the lack of coverage by the West in conflicts in Africa?

Jane Standley: I have to say probably two controversial things here that, no, there's been nowhere near the necessary coverage, let alone a comparison with the conflict in the Balkans. I searched my soul to think why. I think Africa is faraway from the main centres of the media and its people are not white. They're not on the doorsteps of the European powers. This is something that really upsets and infuriates me.

I look at the coverage of 1996 and 1997 in Zaire, we were working there, recording there, financed to go there, very expensive trips by our organisations - I'm not just talking about the BBC, but all the media organisations from North America and Western Europe, the people who had the money to cover these conflicts - and this time there is really no interest.

I do a lot of arguing on the phone with other correspondents from all over the world about why, and also what we can do to change it. It just isn't happening. That makes me very, very disappointed. I was in Rwanda, for example, at the end of March, preparing material for the fifth anniversary of the genocide later in April. They were saying, "We finally see you, but everyone else is in Kosovo where Nato are going to bomb to prevent genocide." Genocide happens here and nobody is interested any more. It's a very, very humbling experience to have that said to you as a white reporter in Africa because you know we are in the wrong.

I think Africa - conflict aside - has so many things to offer, so many insights, too many uplifting things that I would like to see more of those actually get on to the main news outlets, whether it is newspapers in the United States, radio in Italy and television in England, I would really, really like to see that.

Osamu Mikoda, Japan: Until a few years ago, South Africa had a big problem of racial discrimination between black and white. But now there has been Mandela, the first black president, can I consider this situation to have finished racial discrimination?

Jane Standley: I really wish I could tell that person in Japan that was the case. I have lived in many African countries, worked in many, and I've never seen a society so racially divided still as South Africa. But things are changing. It's only been five years and I think we have to look at the miracle of transition in - before the 1994 election when President Mandela came to power, people were dying in racial and civil violence every day. That is no longer the case. There are many, many problems here, but things have changed.

In terms of racial discrimination, it's outlawed in the constitution, and people who committed that discrimination, white people in this country, know that they cannot do it. But on a day-to-day level, you see it the whole time. I go to buy a newspaper in a shop, a white person behind the counter will serve me first rather than the black person who's been standing in front of me.

There are numerous examples that are very, very petty, but it's how you feel as a person. And black people I talk to in South Africa say they still feel like second-class citizens in their dealing with whites, but they feel like first-class citizens when they know they're dealing with their government and they know that their government is there and fighting on their behalf.

Ed Edet, Nigeria: How true is it that the corporate South Africa is not actively helping the ANC government in meeting social goals?

Jane Standley: I think it's very sad actually because the main challenge facing the government and this country - and it's related to all issues like crime, insecurity, how people feel about living here - is due to the lack of jobs. And it's really perceived here that the white businesspeople, they still own the wealth of assets here, they have a huge economic power, completely out of ratio in terms of their population, are not really extending the economic hand of friendship, not trying to really help this country get going.

You know, you can see that some people have seen the reality that if the black government is not going to change, let's work together. As more and more people actually adopt that mentality, things will change. I think that will happen. This is a second administration now with a new President, when Thabo Mbeki is inaugurated. I think that little mind shift will actually happen. It's not just Mandela, the old political prisoner who is in control. This is a new guy, this is here to stay. I think attitudes will start to change more.



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