Broadband needed for SA journalistic revolution

Cheaper, faster broadband will rapidly transform South Africa’s journalism industry, said Esmaré Weideman, Chief Executive Officer of Media24.

She was speaking at Stellenbosch University’s journalism department on Monday, where she discussed the state of print media in South Africa and other related topics.

“We are in the middle of this incredible revolution in the media. I sometimes wish that government would just sort out broadband so that it can become cheaper and faster, because when that happens this industry is going to change at the speed of light.”

Professor Lizette Rabe, from Stellenbosch University’s journalism department sympathised with Weideman: “I can just imagine how frustrated you are, waiting for government to provide cheaper, faster broadband. It is the key to the new world.

“What is being done?”

Weideman said that the former Minister of Communications said that “government does not have money”, whilst the Minister’s successor said that the broadband issue is a “key priority”.

Finally she said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what is going to happen”.

Arlene Prinsloo, National Digital Content Coordinator at Media24 believes that low-cost, high-speed broadband would result in more people subscribing to digital versions of newspapers and other publications.

“This shift will also lead to an increased use of interactive graphics or data journalism, because it will not cost as much to download. It would lead to a digital explosion.”

Weideman noted that “there is this impression that people do not read anymore, it is untrue”.

Research by the South African Audience Research Foundation, which “measures readership in South Africa has just come out, and guess what; the Media24 newspaper readership is still on the increase.

“There are people who read, that might be reading very differently nowadays, but the point is that they read.”

Prinsloo was less positive about the future of print media: “I currently have mixed feelings about print media in South Africa; because I think that it lacks innovation, it is stagnating … we focus too much on print.

“Unless we dramatically change our content, so that people would want to read print, I believe that in the next five years there will no longer be printed Afrikaans newspapers, but I hope the future proves me wrong.

“If print dies it does not mean it is the end of journalism. Journalism should not be so closely associated with print media. Journalism can survive on numerous other platforms, as it already does.”


My 24 hours as half of a human, half of a man.

Journalist and self-proclaimed feminist Sherlin Barends attempts to immerse herself into the typical lifestyle of a Saudi Arabian woman.

In the Quran, Surah Al-Ahzab, Allāh speaks to the wives of Prophet Muḥammad:

“And abide quietly in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the old days of pagan ignorance; and be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto Allāh and His Messenger: for Allāh only wants to remove from you all that might be loathsome, O you members of the [Prophet’s] household, and to purify you to utmost purity.” [33:33]

My hands. My face. These are the only parts of my body that are exposed.

Every other Saturday I am scantly clad in my Pioneers hockey club uniform: a tight fitting, sleeveless, red shirt and a grey skirt that only just covers my buttocks, as I run down the road to the sporting grounds.

This Saturday, with my father’s permission, a family member escorts me to the hockey field that is a mere 250 meters from my house. I’m wearing a loose-fitting tracksuit that matches my black headscarf.

There is a “long-existing ban on sports at girls’ state schools” in Saudi Arabia, a country which is considered to be one of the most sexist societies in the world.

Thankfully I am allowed to play as I am part of an all-girls team that is only interested in recreational hockey. I have exchanged my skirt (or “cookie curtain”, as my close friend Anastacia Slamat aptly refers to the 20 cm long piece of material) for one of my brothers ill-fitting pair of shorts that cover my knees. A long sleeved top, knee-high socks and a headscarf completes my modest attire.  

An opponent’s father looks at me for a second longer than what is deemed appropriate, but then forces himself to redirect his gaze. His 4/5 year old son however, continues to stare. Fully in control of his outside voice, but not his inhibition, he shouts “Look there!” at the top of his lungs, as he points in my direction.

Surprisingly I find his candid response refreshing. The same cannot be said for the little man’s father, who wordlessly reprimands him with a tug at the trousers and a fierce glare.

The sky is blue and cloudless; still the wind pierces through my skin. Within the first ten minutes of the game the cold is soon forgotten. I’m already sweating, I struggle to breath, it sounds like my heart is beating in my ears and all I want to do is rip the constricting scarf off my head.

I don’t. But 20 minutes into the game I weakly raise my arms, indicating that I want to be substituted. This never happens.

During the second half of the game I’m back on the field and manage to bypass three opposing players. I wish I could say it is because of my remarkable ball skills, but I have a suspecting feeling that these girls, who have never met me, are being soft on me.

Final Score: 1-1

I shake the ladies’ hands, but avoid all contact with the male referee.

I am exhausted. Al my body wants to do is soak and unwind in a steaming hot bath. Instead I bathe the dog, clean the bathrooms and the dirty laundry gets washed, hanged, folded and packed away.

These tasks would have been more bearable if I listened to the soulful sounds of India Arie or Corinne Bailey Rae.

“The general attitude for many religious people is that music is forbidden; malls and stores do not have music playing through speakers in order not to offend religious customers.”

Before I drag my sweaty self upstairs I am suddenly filled with a sense of accomplishment. The smell of chemicals fills the house and I inhale deeply, as if smelling a fresh bunch of flowers.

It is a Saturday evening and I am in bed by nine that night.

With my father’s permission I go to work the following morning. To be more specific, my father drives me to work.

“Women are banned from driving: This is the most notorious ban involving Saudi women. Women have never been allowed to drive unless they drive in the desert or inside private compounds. The main arguments for preventing women from driving are that it may cause women to leave their houses more often than they need to (which is frowned upon); they may have interactions with unrelated males and the need to uncover their faces.”

I then ask my father to escort me to the MFM92.6 radio studios, located on the third floor of the Neelsie. He does this without hesitation in his role as a Saudi Arabian father, but more so as the concerned father of a Matie student. 

Under certain circumstances Saudi Arabian women are allowed to work.

Now wearing a shapeless black dress and a headscarf, it is almost as difficult to avoid my male co-hosts’ hugs than it is to avoid the music.

For the next four hours we host the Weekend Breakfast between six and ten that Sunday morning.

Strictly speaking a Saudi woman will not be left a lone with a male that is not family, then again Robin De Cauwer is part of my MFM family.

We agree to avoid eye- and physical contact and I wear earplugs and kill the volume on my headphones to ensure I don’t listen to the music.

De Cauwer is accommodating the fist 30 minutes or so, but thereafter he is visibly annoyed: “Are you just going to sit there like a hot potato?” he mutters.

As I can not hear the music and because I’m not familiar with the newer songs, I struggle to comment on them: Did I like it, how did it make me feel, is it a potential chart toper? I don’t know. Needless to say this is frustrating. 

Instead of making use of public transport to get home after my show, as there is no male family figure around to escort me, I wait (not so patiently) for my father for the next two hours.

I just realised that I can’t recall the last time I spent so much time with my father in one day. Also, during the past 24 hours people, men have been staring, but not one of them looked at me like a piece of meet that they are just dying to devour.

This is refreshing, like the little boy’s frank response, the smell of clean linen and constant feeling of being cared for.

Stellenbosch University celebrates 20 years of democracy

This week Stellenbosch University celebrates and commemorates 20 years of democracy and freedom, with interactive art, amongst other things.
A potentially colourful wire construction has been erected on the Rooiplein, but they need your help.
All you need to do is take a piece of material from one of the provided containers and weave it to the wire. Each colour signifies a different response to the question: “How do we spread freedom and cultivate belonging?”
Red: By acting on great ideas
Yellow: By living unashamedly ethical
Green: By fostering diverse relationships
Black: By giving credit where credit is due
Blue: By looking on the bright side
The fittingly titled 20 years of Democracy (20YD): the story continues takes place between 12 and 16 May. Besides the interactive art, it will also include a film festival and a special Mandela/Parks exhibition at the Sasol Arts Museum.
Ms Monica du Toit of the Centre for Inclusivity and co-coordinator of the celebrations, says “The programme aims to emphasize multiple discourses in the stories of democracy at Stellenbosch University, showcase engagement with 20 years of democracy in the teaching and learning space and create strong visual experiences and student engagement with art works.”
For more information: check out this website or follow @20yofstellies on Twitter.

Despite Nkandla, long live ANC!

“The ANC will be in power for the next 50 years!”

So says Ntombende Landingwe, African National Congress’ provincial executive committee member. She was speaking at the ANC Constituency Office in Stellenbosch.

When asked who would come in to power after the “estimated 50 years”, Landingwe responded, without pause: “still the ANC”.

“Because of where we come from, the struggle of the comrades, those who were forced to leave the country and those we died, that is why people still believe in the ANC.”

Jacobus Davids, wearing his black, green and yellow shirt, believes that “the ANC has consistently delivered to the poorest of the poor. Nkandla has been used as a tool by the opposition to portray the ANC as a corrupt organisation, a view upheld by the white minority of this country.”

Welile Dimon, also clad in ANC attire, feels that “the ANC is the only organisation that cares about the interest of all people in South-Africa. It is also the only party that has experience in delivering services to the people.”

When asked if the Nkandla scandal swayed his opinion of the ruling party he said “not at all, also it is as ongoing matter. This has nothing to do with the elections or what the ANC has achieved over the past 20 years.”

Anastacia Slamat, political analyst, says that “the ANC is a liberation movement turned political party. Loyalty to the ANC is thus not something that would just change”.

“Party loyalty and affiliation can be attributed to much more than rational choice. Instead it is usually engrained in what can be called ‘emotional knowledge’”.

“That is what one generation passes on to the next generation, what they believe to be true about the world around them, how they are socialised and what values and beliefs they hold true. These beliefs about themselves form the basis of their identity.”


Mynhardt Kruger, Democratic Alliance Students’ Organisation (DASO)chair, said that he will not vote DA if they were to be associated with corruption. The DA has a mantra: “If we don’t do our work, vote us out. I am waiting for the day the ANC will say such a thing.”

Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela released her report into security upgrade at President Nacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead earlier this year. It is “conservatively” estimated that the upgrades amounted to R246 Million.

During the first democratic South-African elections in1994, the ANC received 62% of the votes. They are expected to win again this year, by a similar margin.

Secrecy Bill: blessing in disguise?

“The Secrecy Bill was a real gift,” said activist Mark Weinberg from Right2Know, a campaign which formed in reaction to The Protection of State and Information Bill.

He was speaking at a seminar at the Stellenbosch Journalism Department, to commemorate World Press Freedom day, on Friday 2 May.

“This bill was so outrageous and remains so outrageous. It really fired up the South African population and made them realise how central transparency and freedom of expression is to our democracy.”

Yet the bill is not the problem, it is “simply a symptom of a deep-rooted one”. Weinberg thanks securocrats for this “gift”: “People from the ruling party, who look for undemocratic solutions to our problems, people who have a vested interest in power that is not transparent.”

The other guest speakers who formed part of the esteemed panel were Jo van Eeden, editor of Volksblad and Tim du Plesis, Media24’s head of Afrikaans media.

Media Freedom after 20 years of democracy was the topic being discussed.

Van Eeden stated that “press freedom did not come cheap and should not be taken for granted. It is the right that protects all other rights.”

“We have more press freedom now then 20 years ago, yet if we don’t nurture it we won’t have it in the future.”

Du Plesis maintained Van Eeden’s sentiments, yet went on to say that “the digital revolution will make it difficult to control information.”

Doing so or even attempting to do so is “unjust, immoral, and unsustainable, it will wither and die like the Apartheid regime. Government is too inept to suppress media freedom.”

Rego Mamogale, a journalism student who was in attendance, asked what these opponents plan to do should the ill be passed.   

Weinberg responded: “The bill is ready for signing on the president’s desk. Yet we are armed with the best legal team in South Africa and are prepared to take this issue to the constitutional court.”

Doctor Simphiwe Sesanti who also attended the seminar was not impressed that The Protection of State and Information Bill was frequently referred to as The Secrecy Bill.

“We are entitled to our interpretations, comments and opinions, but to rename and misname things is arrogant and wrong. We claim to be journalists who strive for accuracy.”

The South-African government persists to defend this controversial bill. In a press release they claim that The Protection of State and Information Bill is “aimed at protecting and promoting the national security of the Republic.”

“This Bill is not regulating the media. There is no single mention of the media in this Bill.”