Veteran SA journalist Stanley Uys dies aged 92

Veteran South African journalist and author Stanley Uys has died in London at the age of 92. 

Uys was a former political editor for the Sunday Times and a regular contributor to publications in several countries, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand. 

James Sanders, in his book South Africa and the International Media 1972-1979, described Uys as "somewhat of a legend among journalists in South Africa".

He interviewed former ANC president Oliver Tambo in exile in 1983, in a wide-ranging piece which dealt with the ANC's views on violent means of struggle. 

 Uys continued to write extensively on the state of the ANC and the Democratic Alliance, well into his later years.

Sanders said Uys was a "liberal Afrikaner who had been appointed political correspondent of the Sunday Times in 1949".

"The South African version of a Kremlinologist", and a specialist in the study of the "vagaries" of Afrikaner politics, Sanders wrote that Uys was a stringer for the News Chronicle in the 1950s, and wrote "extensively" for newspapers in India, New Zealand and Ireland. 

He became bureau chief of the South African Morning News in London in 1977, while continuing to write for the Rand Daily Mail and other media.

Uys also interviewed Nelson Mandela twice – he is one of the few journalists who interviewed Mandela before and after imprisonment. And, according to Martin Plaut, veteran journalist and a fellow and the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, it is a testament to Uys that Mandela remembered him 30 years after their initial meeting. 

"Some years ago I interviewed Stanley for the BBC World Service, about a moment in his past for a programme called <em>Witness</em>," he said.

"It took place after Sharpeville in the early 1960's when Mandela was on the run. Stan was working with a young journalist, called Ruth First, with whom he was  on very good terms.

"One day Ruth asked him whether he would like to meet Mandela. 'Oh yes,' replied Stan and so they set off on a long, circuitous route to a flat in central Johannesburg … There Mandela was in hiding, but not at all happy about his fate. 'He was pacing up and down like a caged lion, said Stan. 'We chatted, but I didn't get much out of the interview, which in any case could not be published'," Plaut explained.

"After they left the flat, Ruth turned to Stan and said, 'you didn't think much of him, did you?' Stan &ndash; who was always both polite and diplomatic &ndash; said it had been fine, but the impression remained.

"Years passed and Mandela was finally released and became president. Stan &ndash; still a practicing journalist &ndash; got an interview with him … This took place at the Union Buildings and after the allotted 20 minutes were over, Stan said he had very useable material … He thanked Mandela, who then walked him to the lift. They were almost there when Mandela put his arm around Stan and said, smiling: 'Last time we met you didn't think much of me, did you?'"

"It it characteristic of Stan that he would have made such a strong impression on someone he interviewed some three decades earlier, but also that he would choose to tell this story to another journalist," Plaut said. 

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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