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Welcome | Zubeida Jaffer
Healing our wounds through story-telling PDF Print E-mail
The keynote address delivered on November 27, 2015, at the Vodacom Journalism Awards 2015, Johannesburg
By Zubeida Jaffer
 
All the finalists in this room here tonight are winners. You have come from all over the country and viagra next day uk have already made your mark. Before the final selections are announced, I want to congratulate all of you. For our profession to grow, we need a percentage of the journalist corps to strive for excellence in order to pull the rest forward.  Some social scientists argue that you need as little as ten percent of a group to push beyond their limits to influence a broader group and effect change. Others say 25 percent. 
 
Whatever the percentages are, we know that it does not require many people in any institution to continue to break ceilings that curb progress.   Many of you in this room, including the Judges of these awards, the Vodacom Executives and the Finalists in this competition are together engaged in pushing the boundaries to ensure higher levels of excellence.
 
The steady improvement of skill is one of the most urgent and pressing problems facing our country. If each of us commit to improve our skills every year, the country in itself will move up a notch in having citizens who are more able and capable of executing their tasks efficiently and effectively.
 
We do however need clear direction, clear leadership, a clear commitment to such a path and a determination to stay the course.
 
Illustrated in this room tonight is such clarity of purpose and superactive levitra I wish to commend all of you. Thank you.
 
Countries that succeed are those who build credible institutions and have skilled people. Several of our institutions such as the Ombudsman’s office are under severe economic pressure.  Time does not allow me tonight to dwell on this challenge. Instead I want to share my thoughts on healing through storytelling.
 
The more developed our skills are the more we can use our knowledge to weave our stories to craft narratives that are genuine and touches the hearts of our people. 
 
We have to ask ourselves the question whether we are doing enough to develop and retain skills in this sector?
Does the media industry create conditions to support their most valuable assets or do they work them to the bone and then spit them out? 
How is it possible that a company can retrench its workers, cut back on tea and coffee for their staff at the same time when its CEO walks off with millions? 
The time has come to keep a tight watch on inequality and unfairness at all our media companies. 
 
All of you have to organize yourselves and wow it's great buy pharmaceutical viagra make sure that you are placed on a path that will grow your skill so that you can be masters of your craft. We cannot be working ourselves silly for the purpose of profits to be repatriated to other countries or for the benefit of a few individuals. In the end, we are the storytellers of our country. We help shape the context of joy and sorrow of all our people. We interpret events to millions who rely on us to make sense of their shattering experiences.  We record events that will eventually be the foundations of our historical records. We must assert our right to fulfill our role with dignity and on our own terms.
 
And we must strive to reproduce our knowledge so that all South Africans can be fully informed. I have spent the last two and a half years going through journalistic records stretching from 1870 to 1939. If it were not for Sol Plaatje and his contemporaries, I would not have been able to piece together the life story of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, our first black female graduate. They were the pioneers of journalism in South Africa and their reports in newspapers such as Abantu Batho and Umteteli Wa Bantu left behind the detail of significant events at that time.
 
It was a painful process piecing together Charlotte’s life because I could not interview any of her contemporaries. They, like her, were all passed on.
So I had to rely on the written reports and pharmacy selling viagra in israel poetry of that time.
 
Charlotte was born in 1871 and died in 1939 at the start of the Second World War. She obtained her degree 114 years ago, in 1901. I hope her story will help us understand the historical context within which the major dramas at our universities unfolded this year.
 
I am sure we will all agree that 2015 will be remembered as the year that signaled major change in higher education.  More has been achieved in this year at universities than in the past 21 years. What were the students saying to us? They were saying that their institutions were not expressions of themselves. They were saying that they were no longer prepared to study within a context that fails to affirm their own experience and fails to draw on the knowledge of their communities and intellectual giants.
 
This is a very important step towards ending their schizophrenic existence.  They understand that they are studying in a context defined by colonialism. Our professional schools expose us to European and American knowledge but what about African knowledge? What about Indian, Chinese, Russian, Cuban, Brazilian knowledge?  
Twenty-one years after the birth of democracy, they no longer accept a situation where they are uncomfortable in their skins within educational institutions.
 
Training schools and universities lie at the heart of reproducing our professional knowledge. I am based at the University of the Free State in the Communication Sciences Department and for the past four years have had a close up view of foundational education in the profession.
 
It has been an eye-opening experience for me. I made the false assumption that after 20 years into democracy, that journalism schools or departments will be teaching about the pioneers of the profession and provide insights that were largely excluded previously. I took it for granted that all undergraduates would be familiar with Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa that celebrates its 100th year next year.  It is a South African classic and approach levitra cheap us pharmacy no prescription I would have imagined compulsory reading for all journalists.
 
At the UFS, a few of us got together last year and launched a website called The Journalist (www.thejournalist.org.za) to share information that is commonly known by a few of us in the profession but definitely not taught at universities. We will build The Journalist as a knowledge bank to give history and context to many of our issues in the quest to build self-confidence and esteem trusting that with time it will soak through the skins of our students at all journalism schools. We are telling the stories of our pioneers stretching from the 1800s. We are telling stories that will help heal our wounds. The Africa Editors Forum has proposed that we work towards relaunching the site as The African Journalist so that we will learn to know our continental pioneers. We have agreed to do this within the next two years.
 
For now, much of our journalism education continues to be presented in a European context. It is Thomas Pringle, a young British man who visited our shores for six years who is presented as the lodestar not Sol Plaatje.
This is a realization that has come to me quite late in life because I too knew most about Thomas Pringle. I respect the work he did in the small Cape colonial set up and will not wipe his contribution to Cape colonial history out of the history books. But please lets place it in its context. How offended would the British be if they were to discover that their children were taught that Sol Plaatje (who spent some time in Britain) was the beacon of journalism for all British students?
 
I am offended. I am deeply offended.
 
The majority of our families have been subjected to grave injustice.  For three quarters of my life I had to battle just to be a full citizen of this country. We are a wounded nation at so many levels. Four years ago, I reflected on some of our challenges of healing our woundedness in a pocket book called Not By Dread Alone.   Copies of the little book will be gifted to you tonight courtesy of Vodacom.
 
I write there that as journalists and storytellers we need to bring the concerns of our communities to the centre of our public life. We need to give space to more than just dread alone, so that the rich tapestry of our lives can unfold and hold us within a warm embrace.  We cannot throw a blanket pall of cynicism and negativity over our country where no light at all is allowed to come through.  It cannot be our role to only highlight the bad. 
 
This competition needs to question whether it only rewards those who focus on the dark side of our life? Does it have to be like this?
 
There are so many silver linings piercing through the fog of doom and gloom.  I am particularly pleased to see the affirming images on the front page of the Cape Times every morning when I collect the paper inside my gate. The images are unusually thrown across the newspaper’s master head making a strong visceral impact on my brain. They make my heart sing. I was hoping to throw the images across the screen but have left it too late to make the technical arrangements. 
 
Western Cape High Court Judge President, John Hlophe, marrying fellow judge Gayaat Salie-Samuels.
The Riel Dancers arriving at the airport after winning the World title at the International Performing Arts Championships. The colonialists treated them as less than human al those many years ago.
Clothing workers participating in a beauty pageant and protesting at the same time. These women are the backbone of industry.
Iranian women celebrating in their sports car after the historic nuclear deal with the US in July. 
How will we find our balance when the world is in upheaval and features of a looming Third World War are in sight?  Galal Amin, one of Egypt’s leading political scientists and a regular newspaper columnist said to me recently that the scramble for resources is happening by stealth. Now 80 years old, he said no one would dare declare a Third World War but all the elements were present. There were so many forces at play that for the first time he could not clearly make sense of what was happening in Egypt. To make sense of what is happening, we have to understand what is happening globally and how it pans out locally.
 
How will we help ease our pain when we face grave inequality, poverty and poor leadership in our own county? 
 
It is not going to be at all easy to heal our wounds under such trying conditions.  All indications are that 2016 will be a year of student and worker revolt. 
 
I see myself as a long-distance runner. I have lived through the assassination of Verwoerd, the murder of Hector Petersen, Biko, Chris Hani and countless challenging times.  I was detained, tortured and continue to suffer from the after effects as do many others. I have seen us teetering on the edge of despair. Yet so often we muddle through our mess and stumble back onto the right path.
 
 Remember. It is not just about telling the story. It is about finding the strength to tell the stories on our own terms, to face both our dread and revel in our ability to overcome. We cannot live by dread alone. We have the right to record our experiences, as we understand them, including the triumphs and disappointments of freedom. I ask you all to join me as long-distance runners growing your skill and the institutions of this great profession. Decide how each of you will nurture yourselves and how you will contribute to the whole. I have no doubt we will succeed if we stay the course through both good and bad times facing us as a profession and as a people.
 
 
I thank you.
 

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 November 2015 14:34
 
The man with 50 000 books – for ever a journalist PDF Print E-mail

By Keabetswe Magano

Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet and witness the brilliance of Bennie Bunsee, the man with 50 000+ books in his home. At first I thought we were meeting him in a small community library but it was his home. There were book shelves filled from left to right, from the first shelf, a few centimetres from the celling right to the last one just a few centimetres from the ground. They stretched wall to wall from the sitting room right through to his bedroom and even some in the kitchen.  

He collected these books over the years as he travelled to various countries when he served as an active member of the then-banned Pan African Congress (PAC). The books ranged from Ancient history to UFO’s, literally everything one could think of.  He might not have read all the books but he knew all the ‘main’ books in each category clearly labelled on the shelves. Not only was this man living in a library, he was also a “walking library”. And now he is gone. He died last week after unsuccessful heart surgery, two weeks before his 80th birthday.

The level of insight that he had on African history could surely constitute a whole course on African studies at any University. What I learnt that day was all new to my ears. I had never been exposed to African history through my schooling years, well expect for the typical basic Apartheid history of 16 June, Freedom day (based on the public holidays that we celebrate today).

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 November 2015 14:27
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CELEBRATING WOMEN THROUGH STORIES PDF Print E-mail

By Zubeida Jaffer

The women of Cape Town remind me of the grey-blue mountains that hug our shores. They are forever present. They have been here for thousands of years giving life to those who have lived and live here at the furthermost point of Africa.

Their stories of times gone by shape the present.  Past energies cling to the mountains and the old trees, perhaps remnants of when they wandered freely along these shores, seeking shelter in the mountain caves and leaving their footprints in the sand. They lived close to nature but were also subject to its vagaries. It could not have been easy yet by all accounts it was a full life peppered with music, song, art and dance. They were able to feed and shelter themselves and have left us with knowledge of medicinal plants, advanced tracking techniques, musical instruments that some are playing again today and rock art that stretches beyond the Cape.

They must have watched with dismay when the Dutch East India Company brought ways that harmed them, their men and their children. The company introduced a complexity into this town by not only settling Europeans here and displacing the KhoiSan but also shipping in over 60,000 slaves from India and Indonesia, holding them in archaic bondage for 176 years.  As a child, I heard the stories of some distant relatives who were believed to have come from Java, one of the many islands in the Indonesian Archipelago.

Added to the complexity was the human impulse of love that drew colonial men towards young slave and KhoiSan women. While many were forcibly taken, there were also cases of genuine love.  As a result, we have a mixture of cultures searching for a way to live together today with greater equitability.

It is a pity that all those years ago we did not have the sense to live together and evolve into a genuinely inclusive society. The possibilities for this were there in embryo.  Instead, the Cape was organised for the ease and comfort of the colonialists, excluding the natives and those of slave origin.

My great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mother, born at the Cape, understood they were legally less. They did not have voting rights in the country of their birth. They did not enjoy full citizenship. They understood that they had to step off the pavement and give way to the white man or woman.  I grew up with these stories and it provided me with a picture of myself that suggested that I was less and other.  My daily experiences confirmed this.

Once I was a teenager, I grasped fully that I had no rights and became part of those young people who fought against this degrading system of exclusion. For half of my adult life I had to fight for the right to be fully South African.
Some of those old barriers are now gone and all of us need to make a great deal of effort to craft a living arrangement that shakes off the exclusionary habit forced onto us more than 300 years ago.
In this book, a few of the Cape’s women tell their stories of transcendence very eloquently. They have overcome great obstacles and moved forward in their lives. By doing so, they are leaving footprints of hope in the sand again. They must feel comfortable not only in their skins but in familiar surroundings that do not define them as other because within them lies the seeds of healing the divisions that linger on.

As they tell their stories with passion and confidence, they should hold their heads high and not step off a pavement for anyone. That time has passed.

Their stories should swirl around the tall buildings and cling to the trees of this town providing the energy needed to find a fairer way of living. Others should join them and add their voices.  In doing so, they affirm themselves and their experiences and come to understand that only they can relegate the cruel idea that they are less to the dustbins of history.

Their voices have the potential too of cutting across old boundaries reaching into and across sealed off spaces that isolate so many people from the joy of diversity and enjoying just being human. Should enough women continue to write, speak, listen, help one another and and take action, we have a great chance of feeling genuinely comforted and at home again in the shadows of the grey-blue mountains that hug our shores.

ends

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 August 2015 20:45
 
UCT Academics lock horns PDF Print E-mail

By Zubeida Jaffer

Two senior University of Cape Town academics have locked horns about a range of matters related to higher education transformation challenges, stirring interesting exchanges. The viewpoints of professors Xolela Mangcu and David Benatar were aired on the pages of The Cape Times in recent weeks. (see www.thejournalist.org.za) Today, the Publisher of The Journalist, Zubeida Jaffer, wades into the debate, directing a letter to Professor Benatar.
Professor Benatar

I see that you and Dr Mangcu have locked horns in The Cape Times. What an interesting time of intellectual ferment in our country. I don’t always agree with Dr Mangcu especially when he posits that UCT should have Black Studies. Black Studies in America where African-Americans constitute a minority, is appropriate.  Here I agree with you. Instead, it would be more appropriate to have White Studies or European studies.
Be that as it may, we are a country that needs all our skilled people to pull us through at this point. I respect those who were my teachers in the seventies at UCT. They helped broaden my mind. But my mind was further broadened off campus when I read texts that were banned or not easily accessible to us as students. In 1980, I was charged with possession of three banned books, one of it being Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. I was a young journalist then and had to hide my books. Let’s not forget we were living then in a country under white mis-rule.

All our academics must grapple with the injustice that has been perpetrated on most of us for a long time. Unlike in Britain where students attend universities steeped in British history and philosophy that are absorbed through their skins quite naturally, our students have to struggle to connect university teaching to their lived reality and the knowledge base of their families.  Students at the University of the Free State where I am based often find themselves drawn into this different world and then do not know how to fit into their families back home. Instead of academia taking them from where they are and broadening their horizons so they can take their communities with them, they are taught to stand separately from their communities and gaze down their noses at them. University is about critical thinking so students must subject all their experiences to intense criticism and hopefully gain insights that will result in progress for themselves and their country. I have no argument against this.

I am not sure if I can describe myself as an academic even though I am based at a university and impart knowledge about my professional life as a journalist. It has been an eye-opening experience for me. I made the false assumption that 20 years into democracy, that journalism schools or departments will be teaching about the pioneers of the profession and provide insights that were largely excluded previously. I took it for granted that all undergraduates would be familiar with Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa that celebrates its 100th year next year.  It is a South African classic and I would have imagined compulsory reading for all journalists.

For more than 300 years, many of our families have been constrained and learned deep within their bones that they are less. For two-thirds of my life I had to fight just for the right to be South African as had millions of others.

As academics we have to grapple with this historical fact that most of us have not seen ourselves in our academic institutions or in our history books. We have not seen ourselves affirmed through the study of some of our greatest intellectuals, artists, musicians and scientists. We have not been exposed to the intellectual treasure of our continent. I have just returned from a conference in Egypt that gathered together academics and writers from 22 African countries in the midst of that country’s dramatic political developments. The Cairo International Conference on interaction of African Cultures – Identity in African Arts and Literature was the second round. The first was held five years ago and now organisers plan to host it every two years. With the support of the Supreme Council of Culture, Egyptian intellectual, Dr Helmi Sharawy was the driver of this initiative. He harks back to the heady days of early independence under Gamel Abdel Nasser.

For three days, I shared a space with these brilliant minds that our students are cut off from. Comfortable in an African context, jewels of poetry, song, philosophy and history were lightly dropped amongst us. I heard the Sudanese sociologist, Dr Haider Ibrahim Ali on the problem of identity constructs, the Nigerian academic, Dr Adermi Raji-Oyelade’s re-examination of the idea of the African Renaissance and Tanzania’s illustrious Professor Mwalemu F Senkoro examining contemporary youth culture.  The names of giant intellectuals rang in the corridors – Sheikh Anta Diop, Ali Mazrui, Archi Mafeje, Samir Amin, Issa Shivji, Mahmood Mamdani and the great Kenyan Wangari Maathai.

All that was said confirmed Dr Mangcu’s argument that some of the European, if not most, has its basis in this African context.  If we read Basil Davidson’s The African Genius, it is all well documented.  I would respectfully argue that this should be a primary text in UCT’s Philosophy Department. Scientist and political activist, Dr Mosibudi Mangena, our former minister of Science and Technology, has this year released his latest book, Triumphs and Heartaches. He makes a considerable effort to piece together his understanding of African history and scientific achievement. There is nothing to be proved. There is a need for UCT to broaden its understandings. Are students aware that there are medical professionals in this country studying African approaches to dealing with anxiety disorders and finding advanced understandings that will contribute eventually to existing models? Do they know about the famous beadwork artist Nesta Nala in KwazuluNatal whose work is presently helping academics develop a different way of teaching mathematics?

It is sad that our universities lag behind in knowledge accumulation when they should be leading all of us from the front. UCT definitely is advanced when it comes to European and American knowledge but what about African knowledge? What about Indian, Chinese, Russian, Cuban, Brazilian knowledge?

Our journalism students do not read the work of Gabriel Garcia Marques, one of the most active journalists and authors in South America who died last year. His speeches published this year are a remarkable collection of journalistic insights that have much meaning for the South African context.

At the UFS, a few of us got together last year and launched a website called The Journalist (www.thejournalist.org.za) to share information that is commonly known by a few of us in the profession but definitely not taught at universities. We will build The Journalist as a knowledge bank to give history and context to many of our issues in the quest to build the self-confidence and esteem of our students and trust that with time it will soak through the skins of our students at all journalism schools.

You see, Dr Benatar, our journalism university education continues to be presented in a European context. It is Thomas Pringle, a young British man who visited our shores for six years who is presented as the lodestar not Sol Plaatje.
This is a realisation that came to me quite late in life because I too knew most about Thomas Pringle. I respect the work he did in the small Cape colonial set up to convince his peers that the authorities should not interfere with the rights of a journalist to tell the truth. I will not wipe this interesting contribution to Cape colonial history out of the history books. But please let’s place it in its context. How offended would the British be if they were to discover that their children were taught that Sol Plaatje (who spent some time in Britain) was the beacon of journalism for all British students?
 
Surely this would be untenable.
What an inspiration it would be if you and Dr Mangcu combine your strengths and lead us on a magical journey to bring our scientific, philosophical and artistic heritage to our halls of learning where they belong.

 

 


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