This week, for the very first time in its 34-year history, BBC Question Time is going to be televised outside the UK, in Johannesburg. [Correction: not only not the first time it’s been televised outside the UK – it’s been to Moscow, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and others – BBCQT has been to Johannesburg before, in 2005. My bad.]
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) December 6, 2013
David Dimbleby is chairing as usual, though next year will be his 20th anniversary and it’s long past time he retired from the post. (I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. Dimbleby is a very, very poor presenter.)
Besides Dimbleby, there will be six people on the panel:
Pik Botha, 81, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1977 to 1994 under apartheid – passing for a liberal in apartheid South Africa, consistently as a minister defending the apartheid system abroad – and Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs from 1994 to 1996 under President Mandela.
[Tokyo Sexwale, 60, Minister of Human Settlements from 2009 to July 2013: first Premier of Gauteng (the province of South Africa that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria) from 1994 to 1998. As a teenager he joined Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement and was a local leader of South African Students’ Movement. In the early 1970s, he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe, and he was imprisoned at Robben Island from 1977 to 1990. In 2005, he was the host of South Africa’s The Apprentice. ]
On the night itself, the ANC politician was Lindiwe Zulu, 55: Ambassador of South Africa, Chief Director of the Western Cape and Central Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs: a member of theANC Women’s League NEC: she did military training in Angola with the Pan Africanist Women’s Organisation.
Andile Mngxitama writes for South Africa’s Mail and Guardian but the BBC describe him as “radical black consciousness activist”: he is a member of the central command team of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). (And he’s on Twitter: @mngxitama.) :
Our decision is to fight for the economic emancipation of the people of South Africa, Africa and the world. Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) locate the struggle for economic emancipation within the long resistance of South Africans to racist colonial and imperialist, political, economic, and social domination. This glorious resistance started with the Khoi and San people rising against colonial domination, marked by the arrival of settler colonists in 1652 in the Cape. This basically represents more than 350 years of Africans’ resistance against colonial and economic domination and exploitation.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, 33, is leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of South Africa. (She is not leader of her party, the Democratic Alliance: that is Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape.) She’s been MP for North Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, since 2009, and also Shadow Deputy Minister of Communications. In an “how old were you when?” game, she was nine years old when Nelson Mandela was released from jail. She will be the only woman on the panel. (She’s on Twitter as @LindiMazibuko.) From her speech during the special Joint Sitting of Parliament:
I remember watching Nelson Mandela disembark from a small aircraft – stooping as he exited the plane – and walk towards the airport building. Only a handful of journalists were there to meet him and there were virtually no other members of the public. Although I was only 9 years old, I knew that I was standing in the middle of a page in history, watching it being written before my eyes.
As he walked over from the tarmac, Nelson Mandela looked straight at our small family and raised his fist in the air. And then an extraordinary thing happened: I watched my father respond by raising his own fist in the air. That small act was the first time I saw my father express himself politically and in public.
Because of the violence and political strife in my home-province, my father would never live to see the dawn of our democracy, or cast his vote in a free election, that moment remains indelibly etched in my memory, and on my heart.
Eusebius McKaiser is a talk show host on Talk Radio 702, anchor of the daily evening slot, Talk At Nine. (Talk Radio 702, originally Channel 702, was an independent radio station founded in 1980 and broadcasting from the “homeland” of Bophuthatswana, which gave it a certain independence from apartheid government controls.) McKaiser has been in broadcast journalism since 2009. He is the author of A Bantu In My Bathroom, and he’s on Twitter: @Eusebius.
Peter Hain, 63, was born in Kenya, but his family moved to South Africa when he was a year old. His parents, Walter and Adelaine Hain, were “banned persons” because of their anti-apartheid activism with the Liberal Party: in 1966 the family moved to the UK to escape security police harassment. Peter Hain has been the Labour MP for Neath since 1991, and is now Shadow Secretary for Wales. He and David Dimbleby will be the only two white men on the panel. (This will doubtless further annoy British racists.) (Twitter: @PeterHain.) This will be Peter Hain’s 10th Question Time appearance: the last was on 17th May 2012 in Cardiff.
And then there’s David Dimbleby, 75, born in England, the great-grandson of Victorian press baron Frederick William Dimbleby, the son of the broadcaster who covered Churchill’s funeral, the graduate of a world of white male privilege: Glengorse School in Sussex, Charterhouse School in Surrey, Christ Church, Oxford: President of the Christ Church JCR, editor of the student magazine, Isis, and a member of the Bullingdon Club, the Oxford society for very rich sons of very rich men who like getting drunk and vandalism.
When Nelson Mandela’s death was announced, just after 9:30pm on Thursday night, BBC Question Time had been recorded, but not broadcast: it would have been broadcast ordinarily at 10:35, but eventually was put on at 11:30pm. #BBCqt is one of the BBC’s most successful hashtags: but not that night. Mandela – one of the most significant politicians of the 20th century, and a man who was a hero all over the world and in his own country – was being remembered, and mourned.
I think the motivation for moving BBC Question Time to South Africa this week is showbiz egotism: the BBC can’t bear to think their flagship programme was being ignored. I think this is poorly motivated and David Dimbleby is hopelessly the wrong presenter for the job: Dimbleby can’t even bear to let Scottish or Welsh politicians talk about what’s going on in their countries when the programme is being broadcast from Scotland or Wales. How is he going to cope with this panel, with a Johannesburg audience?
But. But, damn, that looks like a really interesting panel, an exciting lack of the usual faces, and hopefully, an interesting audience, too. (And at least, there was no excuse for Dimbleby to invite Nigel Farage: count your blessings.)