Martin Plaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa


Soweto uprising

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, I was educated at the University of Cape Town and Witwatersrand, before going on to Warwick University.

While I was at university in Johannesburg I was involved in the Soweto uprising of June 1976. It was a traumatic event, but eventually led to the freedom of South Africa with the end of apartheid in 1991.

I have worked on Africa since the 1970’s, first for the Labour Party and then for the BBC.

I was Africa editor, until I retired in November 2012 and I am currently a Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in London.

I have written a number of books, including:

My current research is on Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

35 thoughts on “About

      1. Hi Martin, my name is Laurence (French from Cape Town). I hope you are well. I am looking for information on the Eritrea drinks industry and market. Can I make direct contact with you?

  1. G’day Martin, as an expatriate South African, and a Capetonian, I still follow any interesting snippets from back home seeing how I lived through the segregation period into the apartheid era. I found that most interesting how monies that were salted away is still outstanding and doesn’t seem to want to be recovered by the now government. Seems like a bit of funny business going on there and maybe they want to pocket it for themselves. Any way, cheers mate from Oz.

  2. Hi Martin, you don’t know me, but I remember you from Asmara, Eritrea. You did that famous interview where some one we both know said ‘It is not a democracy. It is far from a democracy…’ back in 2006. Just wanted to let you know that it is great to have some one from Europe knowing exactly how hard it is for Eritreans. I am not an Eritrean and I was an expat at that period in Asmara. Thank you for placing that ‘’.

  3. Martin, have just read your article on our Vice President, Guy Scott. First, the constitution of Zambia does not state that both parents of a presidential candidate have to be born in Zambia – it states they have to be citizens by birth or descent which is rather different. Indeed we need to get over Scott being white – and so does he, as it has not been helpful for him to boast that he is the first white democratic leader of an Africa government (erroneously as you point out) and then tell us that he may be white on the outside but inside his blood is black. In Zambia there are some vociferous racist and xenophobic voices out there who have always questioned Scott’s right to participate in Zambian politics or to represent Zambians. There are also those who claim they are not racist and do not use overtly discriminatory language but who instead clothe their prejudice in innuendo about culture and such-like – witness the statement by Chikwanda, Minister of Finance on 4th November when Scott tried to fire Lungu: “This decision may cause a massive cultural shock among mourners countrywide”. There are many examples of overt and not-so-overt discrimination including comments by Sata about his Vice President not enjoying such privileges in “his” country (UK). So whilst many Zambians have no problem with Guy Scott’s skin colour, he evidently does and there are equally many who do have a problem. It is hard to get a handle on how relevant it is nationwide and whether the majority don’t care or do care in some way or another. But yes we do need to get over it and that includes all Zambians.

  4. Hi Martin, I am currently doing my history coursework and have come across one of the articles you wrote about the ex-servicemen who worked for the British Army. One quote stood out to me and I thought that I could use it in my essay, it was a quote from the Nigerian Marshall Kebby who stated that “…many of us revolted against injustice, what I might call man’s inhumanity to man.” This quote is particularly useful as my essay is about the significance of World War Two and how that influenced nationalism. As part of the essay I have to evaluate the primary sources. On the BBC website it doesn’t specify when Kebby said this and so I was wondering if you have the date it was said. This is vital to my coursework as without the date it means I cannot use this source, so I would really appreciate it if you could help me regarding this issue. I have also included the link of the article you wrote just in case you don’t know what I’m referring to.

    Kind Regards, Sima Akter

  5. Dear Mr. Plaut, I have undertaken during the last months and will continue pràobably for a couple of years a research about the first years of the TPLF. This will also include a field survey. I remember that at least in the beginning of the 80’s I received English translations of the scripts of some programmes in Tigrigna of the radio of the TPLF, Voices of the masses. Do you know if these translations are available somewhere? Thank you very much in advance. René Lefort

  6. Dear Martin, Sorry to use this place to contact you but i can’t find another way. I’m trying to learn more about your parents’ Plaut Interior Design Boutique where you worked for a few years in your youth. Perhaps you could email me directly?

      1. Dear Mr Plaut – apologies for contacting you like this. Like Sarah I can’t find another way.

        I’m an amateur photographer in Cape Town. In the early 1980s I was asked to photograph your parents at their home by 2 friends who were interviewing some of Cape Town’s artists.

        Recently I came across the negatives and have made some prints. I discovered that you are their son when I googled Erwin Plaut to find out what had happened to them. I’m trying to find out what happened to my friends’ project.

        In my view the photographs are great and I would like to send you some. Please get in touch if you’re interested.

        We have a common friend in David Sanders, who says he knew you in London in the late 70s in the context of the anti-apartheid struggle. At the time he was involved in the Zimbabwean struggle for health while working in London as a paediatrician. I’m also a retired paediatrician.

        Cheers and all the best

        Louis Reynolds

  7. Hi Martin, excellent work on “Silence and pain: Ethiopia’s human rights record in the Ogaden”. An under reported story. I’m wondering if you have any 2015 updates on the violence in Ogaden? Thanks, Bryan Simpson

  8. Hi. I’m an assistant producer for Global Journalist ( and we are doing a show on Ethiopian media restrictions in the wake of the upcoming elections. We would like for you to be a guest on the show. If you are interested, please email me ( Thanks!

  9. Dear Martin,

    I’m currently writing a chapter on he very small Australian contribution to UNMEE and am looking for a first hand description of Badme as a town. Any ideas where I might find one? There’s a very brief impression in Alexander Last’s chapter in ‘Unfinished Business’ but I’d like something with a little more detail.


    Dr Garth Pratten
    Australian National University

  10. Dear Martin. My name is Tesfazion and I am Eritrean. I want to talk to you about a book I want publish. I don’t know how I can talk to you because I don’t have your phone number or email.

  11. Dear Martin,
    Thank you for your last post regarding Israel’s deportation of Eritrean refugees. I’m an Israeli activist against the persecution of African refugees in Israel and I would like to discuss related issues and information with you. The intensified policy of these procedure is now under appeal in Israel’s supreme court.
    Many thanks,

  12. Hi Martin though we have not met we have crossed paths. I have not yet posted much on my blog still getting the hang of it. I have however posted on Africa express a corriere della sera site hosted by Massimo Alberizzi.

  13. Martin do you have any photos on Woodstock (Papendorp / New Brighton) – if sp please contact me at Regards Theo

  14. Martin do you have any photos on Woodstock (Papendorp / New Brighton) – if so please contact me at Regards Theo

  15. Dear Martin Plaut
    We are helping a young Eritrean woman at her appeal for asylum in France. She urgently needs credible, substantiated evidence about some internal Eritrean issues to support her case. I am sure you can imagine her situation with no documents and a brutal existence as a domestic slave in Saudi. Would you be willing to help? Please get in touch with me if you are. I am at
    Many thanks

  16. Hi Martin. Could you kindly send me your email so o can send a lengthy reply to one of your excellent recent posting?

  17. Dear Martin Plaut,

    In 1976 you wrote an article for South African Labour Bulletin where for two pages you discussed the deferred pay interest fund in SA mining industry. You wondered how the interest was spent. I’ve written a history article which focuses on answering the question you posed, and I wonder if you might be willing to glance and maybe comment before I submit. Thought you might be interested

    Couldn’t find another to contact you, hence the above.

    With good wishes,

  18. Hello Martin, you spoke to my class (World Literatures with Dr. Negash) in Ohio University and your blog is my new go to place to build more knowledge on Africa! Thank you for writing.

    1. That’s very kind. I do hope you search more widely as well! Personally, I try to read what the BBC Africa and Al Jazeera Africa have to say most days. But even then Africa is such a complex and wonderful continent it is hard to grasp what is taking place. Good luck with your course.

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