NEWS: PRINCIPLES CAN’T PAY THE BILLS

I’ve heard it being said a million times in the blue corridors of the embattled public (state) broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Journalist after senior journalist and editor after senior editor giving us newcomers, the young ones, sage advice. Lay low, do your job, keep your head down and let the storm pass and it will, we’ve been through this many times. We have worked under Apartheid and under different chiefs; Mandela, Mbeki, Mbeki again, and now Jacob Zuma. We have been here since Barney Mthombothi, Matata Tsedu, Snuki Zikalala etc. They all come and go, like the revolving door.  Each one comes with their own policies and rules, but we’re still here. Unless you’re a trust fund kid, have wealthy parents or loads of money stashed away somewhere for you, a nest egg of a lifetime, unless you’re connected to powerful people in powerful positions who can intervene on your behalf  – you just better keep your mouth shut if you want to keep your job. If you make a noise, you are on your own. Stay.

There are other ways to fight the demon of censorship. Leak the story to the outside media. Call in anonymously on 702. But don’t make yourself a target. The media space in South Africa is pretty small, everyone knows everyone and sooner or later you’ll have to knock right back at the door you slammed a few hours ago. Unless you are a media demigod, insert a name of your choice here.

Are you a member of a union? Are you an ANC member? Do you have connections? So, don’t let other people’s battles become yours. Mind your own business. It doesn’t matter, you have here an opportunity to do wonderful work, to contribute to the archives of our history, to tell stories like no other organization can.  To be a voice for the voiceless.

Your story will be heard in 18 radio stations across the country, in all 11 official languages. And if you work for TV, your work will be screened in all four Television stations broadcasting in four, five or more official languages. 

SABC’s market share for audiences is still very large, even though the higher income earners in the LSM 7-10 bracket have moved on to other free-to air and or private media such as E-tv and Mnet, Multichoice and the internet. The majority of the nation still listens to SABC channels whether it’s Television or Radio. Don’t let them fool you. If you want to do real work that matters, if you want to speak to South Africa today.  This is the place.

While the actions of the SABC8 journalist who are now sadly fired are commendable they will join a long line of former SABC journalists who also stood up and took up a principled decision to walk out the door instead of doing what they were told. Some never returned, some left only to return again and again.

The SABC8 were vindicated with the SANEF Nat Nakasa Award for showing exceptional courage and integrity in their work. Donations are pouring in to assist them to weather the storms of unemployment while they fight for their jobs, in a show of unprecedented compassion for those who were brave enough to speak truth to power. Maybe the SABC8 will win their case in court and get their jobs back, maybe they won’t. Who knows, anything can happen.

But in the meantime, censorship still continues at the SABC. At least 3 thousand employees will wake-up and go to work tomorrow. Someone will fill in the vacant positions from inside, someone will pick up where the SABC8 have left off and act in their positions until the situation is normalized and the storm dies down and the current Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng is replaced by someone else. A woman this time.

Because in this game called life…

 iJob iJob.  Local elections are around the corner, there are other stories that need to be covered, soapies to broadcast, Somizi’s new radio show to put on air, advertisers need to be billed, programs need commissioning, slots must be filled. At the core of it all, it is about power and influence – and these potent but  invisible things are not easy to give up. 

 So then, life will continue as it does even after someone we once loved deeply, like freedom, dies. The grief subsides and the pain slowly fades away. And we find ourselves laughing again, because we must.

Nothing will change at the SABC until the day that principles can pay the bills.  Then only will the entire staff or at least the majority of it, down tools, stage an internal black-out or stay away from work in a form of protest. Just take a cursive glance at the recent events in Zimbabwe.

Until then, others will continue to live off the sweat of a few who dare to face the heat and are now faced with a future of eating principles for lunch.  This is true for most media houses across the world. Nothing new there.

Didn’t you know? That’s how democracy works. The majority rule.

Well that is,  until further notice…

 

JUNE 16: ” Entitled”

The issue of  “title” or “entitlement” takes a different tone during the month of June in South Africa with cries by media commentators, politicians, business leaders, social activist and others claiming that today’s (black) youth has an attitude of “entitlement” and they are not willing to work for a living.  I think it is useful to remember that there is  a difference between knowing what you are entitled to, claiming it and being lazy.  But  all too often these attitudes are either confused or used interchangeably and the word “entitlement” has become a synonym for laziness. The youth of 1976 would not have stood against the Apartheid regime on that fateful day if they did not believe that they were “entitled” to learn in a language of their choice. No one can say with a straight face that black youth took to the streets because they didn’t want to be educated or that they were lazy. I think it’s important that we are careful not to discourage citizens from claiming what is rightfully theirs when those claims threaten the status quo. In this week’s blog post constitutional court journalist Candice Nolan writes about the ongoing struggle for land title in South Africa with a test case being deliberated by the highest court in the land, the constitutional court.  In this story she asks:

Who is “entitled” to this land?  

An all too familiar narrative is playing out on South Africa’s rural landscape. People are being pitted against their traditional leaders in a battle over land ownership. Numbering some 350 thousand households, the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela people live in 32 sub villages in the Moses Kotane Municipal Area in the North West Province. The chief, Kgosi Nyalala Pilane successfully won a land claim on behalf of his people, approved by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. That was back in 2006 and some nine years later the people say they are yet to see the benefits of that land claim. The people unanimously chose a Community Property Association as the vehicle to manage that land, setting them on a collision course with their chief. This battle has reached South Africa’s highest court – in a case  testing the validity and  authority of Community Property Associations (CPA’s). The court is yet to make its decision but government officials and indeed the Bakgatla Chief had a tough time answering questions during the hearing. Bridgeman Sojane the Secretary General of the Community Property Association says  the land sits on rich platinum deposits on which the Chief concluded mining deals with Anglo-American Platinum. Sojane complains that while the land is said to be owned by the Bakgatla community, they are yet to see any of the proceeds. “They are in the direct control of the Chief and his traditional council,” says Sojane, “they are the people who now, at the end of the day, decide what to do with the finances generated from this”.

Tara Weinberg, a specialist researcher on Community Property Associations at the Centre for Law and Society says this is one of the very few cases that gets to the heart of the land reform dilemma in South Africa.   Weinberg says there seems to be a general shift within government policy away from democratically elected structures in which people have chosen to hold land (such as CPA’s) toward traditional council’s or traditional leaders. She reckons that this may be because it is far easier for investors to negotiate with a traditional council or a Chief, than to have mining deals considered by democratically elected structures which are beholden to the will of the people. The Bakgatla CPA was never made permanent due to admitted bungling by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The argument now,  is that the provisional CPA expired after 12 months and that it therefore cannot hold land. Tara Weinberg says the people are now looking to the Constitutional Court to give the final word on the matter.  Kgosi Pilane asked the Constitutional Court to order that the matter be sent back to the vote by the community. This despite the fact that a previous vote was unanimously in favour of a community property association as the vehicle to manage the land. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform backs the legitimacy of the Bakgatla CPA. But they insist that Kgosi Pilane must be part of any decision on who should manage the land. There was a spirited debate in the Constitutional Court on how to resolve the present impasse. Justice Bess Nkabinde pointed out an age-old African adage “Kgosi ke Kgosi ka morafe” or the King is  king by the will of his people. Certainly, Kgosi Pilane would argue that this does not mean that his power is subject to popular vote. He maintains that he is the rightful administrator of the land on behalf of the people. The Constitutional Court has reserved Judgment – meaning its judges will deliberate the issue and announce their decision on a date yet to be determined. Candice Nolan is a senior constitutional  court reporter with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Her stories can be heard on SAfm 104-107. Follow her  @Candice_Klein on Twitter.

A BLUE MONDAY: THINGS FALL APART BUT THE CENTER HOLDS

It is perhaps a little ironic that the statue of Cecil John Rhodes should fall or more aptly be removed from its pedestal in the same week that South African journalist, writer and cultural activist Peter Makurube passed on. As the University of Cape Town students staged protests on campus grounds demanding that #RhodesMustfall, I was busy writing a proposal applying for the second time for the annual Ruth First Journalism Fellowship hosted and adjudicated by Wits University.  Applicants for the fellowship were required to write a one page research proposal on how conversations about race in the country have progressed.  While I kept one eye on the racial bigotry disguised as debates making headlines on all major news media outlets and resulted in the suspension of SABC Newsroom Anchor presenter Eben Jensen for losing his cool while interviewing an EFF member of parliament on the same issue, I attempted to do the impossible and write a compelling one page proposal on race relations in South Africa with the other. In another corner of the same universe Bra Peter as he was affectionately known by those who knew him, was struggling to breathe. You may be wondering just now how these three seemingly unrelated events are connected.   It was never my intention to comment or write about the #RhodesMustfall campaign here.  I was hoping that my thoughts on the subject would find their voice through a public lecture at Wits University after becoming the recipient of the 2015 Ruth First Fellowship.  My aim was to begin the conversation where it ended with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and work my way to where we are today.   The TRC hearings were meant to promote reconciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of Apartheid by the full disclosure of the truth.  Perhaps the dismantling and removal of the symbolic and concrete structures of Apartheid should have been part of the recommendations and actions taken back when the idea of freedom was still fresh and real to our minds.  But my quest to achieve this failed as I sat at our dinner table and listened while my sister read to me yet another thank you rejection email. I went on Facebook to seek some relief for my bruised ego only to be met with rest in peace acronyms with Bra Peter’s name next to them. It always seems like just the other day we were together debating how to get out of this mess we find ourselves in in this  country,  when most of us can’t even afford to keep a roof over heads let alone afford to pay for our own funerals if we were to die today. It was 2013. The year I had a one on one conversation with God for two months isolated in a foreign country, the year I ended up sleeping on Johannesburg’s streets after a close friend chased me out of their home at 3am in the morning without prior warning. It was the year I tasted real poverty not only of material things, but of hope. It was a year I discovered the continuation of the dual mandate which informs South Africa’s economic policy, a policy which has left most of Africa and Africans quenched. When I saw he was gone I was speechless but had no intention of writing about him. I didn’t know him very well. But the last time we were together he said ” keep writing”. We were both up in the middle of the night, I on my laptop writing and he with his papers in the kitchen. He made me coffee.  It was the first time I had a silent conversation with him. We were both trying to stay alive in our own way. So here I am, still writing. I had long known about the legend of Bra Peter Makurube. All the artists living in Beryl Court, Troyville told me about him every chance they got when I moved in there years ago.” A prolific journalist who once worked for the Mail&Guardian who lives on the top floor of the building, in a corner flat”. I was a young radio reporter working for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at the time. We never met in all the years I lived in Beryl Court, he remained an elusive character for many years until some years later when a friend suggested I show him my writing. I was shocked by the mere suggestion because I had written not a single word. But I was more amused by the fact that people assumed I was a writer in the literary sense of the word when all I was doing every day was writing radio news  and current affairs scripts. Though I harboured a desire to make the transition – to one day write a book as my predecessor Antjie Krog did, following her teams’ award winning coverage of the TRC hearings for the SABC. Even though I wanted to write a book on the TRC from a different perspective, I had written nothing then. So I avoided him. This solitary, lone figure, always dressed in dark, black clothes, his hair kept short in loose unintentional dreadlocks, chewing on a match stick or with a cigarette in hand.  He had a serious countenance with creased lines on his face so that he looked as if he was permanently in the depths of deep, formidable and life changing thought.  To tell the truth I was afraid of him, intimidated by his very presence.  I knew that he was someone way above my league. He was not my peer. And by extension he was someone whose respect and time one had to earn. And one night in 2013 through mutual friends I found I had earned enough respect to be in his company.  To share however minimally stories of our common struggle. I was disarmed by his gentleness, by his kindness which occupied his internal space just as easily  and as comfortably as his defiant, angry, spirit.  I didn’t know how the two could co-exist peacefully but in him they did.  At times I observed that he had  so much more to say, so much more to share but found no place worthy of his mind, there was no place to  hold him,  his words and ideas away from the cold  piercing sun of  a Johannesburg winter.  I heard him listening, intently to us the younger generation as we tried to make sense of our new South Africa. He had been there before. In the 20 years of our democracy we had not saved up enough reserves either because we did not have enough to save or because we thought we didn’t need to, but our resources were running out. The façade of a rainbow nation was starting to crack, revealing the truth of the state of our nation. The invisible signs of apartheid had been removed by law. But South Africans still remained chained in their minds. We were caught unawares. Some of us believed the myth of a rainbow nation and acted as people who were free would, some of us knew a new nation will take years and a conscious persistent effort to rewire our minds, still some of us were knee deep in the muddy past trying to resolve and or conclude past puzzles abandoned in the euphoria of the morning sun. Most of us though had no idea how to combine the past and present to create a future we want to live in. His thoughts on the current systems of oppression were disparaging. Perhaps this is why he has remained on the very edge of  the cultural discourse in South Africa, perhaps this is why his views were unpopular and maybe too risky for the establishment. But he found a way to remain relevant in the public’s mind and provided a platform for hungry young minds and old souls to express their divergent views on the state of the nation in poetry and performance at the popular  Monday Blues sessions held in Melville, Johannesburg for a while there was excitement in the air.  They were always packed. The point is Cecil John Rhodes’ statue may have fallen, but his ideas still stand tall and prominently in the hearts and minds of millions of his black and white students who occupy positions of power and leadership in academia, government, economic, social and cultural sectors of our society.  Students who still believe and use western ideas and culture as the gold standard for progress and development despite evidence to the contrary.  It is a dangerous dogma that dresses itself up as progressive forward thinking policies.  But with the independence of Zaire came the fall of King Leopold the II’s statue which occupied a prominent yet despised place in the minds of the people. But its removal did not result in peace. It birthed the formidable character of Mabutu Seseseko, whose fall from grace also saw everything he had built during his totalitarian presidency vandalized. Yet these actions however empowering and symbolic in the moment did not result in the destruction of both King Leopold the II and Mabutu Seseseko’s  legacy of insane brutality.  The people forgot to also change their minds, their language, their writing, their thinking so that all the dismantling of the physical structures – however symbolic and necessary – had left no lasting positive material changes of any significance in the lives of the citizens of the DRC, a country which has struggled to remain stable since the assassination of its first Prime minister Patrice Lumumba.  Regardless of who is the target of our current wrath or who we blame for our lack of progress, it is not the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that is attacking African foreign migrants in Durban KwaZulu Natal and other parts of the country. It is not the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that is in government today. Whatever change we are able to attain in the moment will not last unless we change our minds about who we are and who we want to be, and then be prepared work and stand for it. I mourn for Bra Peter Makurube today not because he  died, but because we could not hold him. Because we let him go with his archive of knowledge, history, and experience. We didn’t value him enough to give him a place in our collective table to share what we had with him to make what we had larger and richer.  I mourn for him because he is not here to place a bandage over the wounds of indoctrination, to make the fall of a concrete figure meaningful. His voice is not here to speak its own brand of reason, of truth to help us heal in all the ways and in all the places we never thought were wounded. Perhaps the worst of what the oppressive governments have done is to make us blind to each other. To see no value in another human being or their particular struggle. I mourn bra Peter because I can find no place to read him and share him. I mourn because right now I think his voice would make sense. I mourn because we are in such a state as this. Perhaps it is indeed true that one cannot dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools. Yet since this is our house why aren’t we building? On that last and same night we spent together a group of us talked about money and what we would do with it if we suddenly had lots of it. Some of us said we’d buy land and build our  own homes, plant our own food. He said he would pull together all the city’s emerging artists and have a massive cultural festival where artists were paid what  they are  worth. I suppose in some ways, in a small but meaningful way, tonight his dream will come true. “They thought they buried us,  but little did they know that we were seeds” Mexican Proverb. Long Live Bra Peter. Thank you for holding me.

Picture Credit: Muntu Vilakazi

“Surreal But Nice…”

 

rare moments of genuine laughter - more to come.

rare moments of genuine laughter – caught unaware

Romance Could Happen to YOU too…

These days finding reasons to smile and laugh can be as hard as trying to find a needle in a hay stack. Luckily through my younger  brother, Immie, – bless him – I have a copy of  Nottinghill (1999)the movie starring American actress Julia Roberts and British actor Hugh Grant, and regardless of my mood or how many times I’ve seen it, which has been many times, it still makes me laugh and laugh out loud. The dry British humour never fails and its interplay with its rival Americanese makes me laugh each and every time.

I like romantic comedies. I am coming out.  I won’t hide it anymore. Romantic comedies are a reminder to me one who is always so concerned about matters ever so serious that life is also equally if not  more importantly about play, enjoying life and having fun with laughter being the main essential ingredient.  The happiest people are those who have fun 80 percent of the time.  Fun is possible in Politics, in real love. Romance is just as possible.  I love romance.

Anyway  Julia Roberts pretty much plays herself in the character of a Hollywood A list Actress Anna Scott, who walks into  Hugh Grant’s  unassuming  character William Thacker ‘s travel book shop and purchases a book while Thacker deals with a petty  shoplifter who hides a book down his trousers: “ excuse me bad news… there are cameras in this bit of the shop”   is just one very polite line with which he persuades the shoplifter to return the book without him ever having to admit that he had in fact stolen it . As destiny would have it the two later bump into each other on the street – literally. Thacker spills orange juice all over Scotts’  white t-shirt and persuades her to go to his house to clean it off  saying ‘ I’m confident that in five minutes we can have you spik and span , in a none prostitute way obviously“;  referring to Julia’s role as a prostitute in the movie Pretty Woman. For a wanna be actress – the movie keeps me glued, in stiches; it’s well written and superbly performed by each actor, Spike, Thacker’s lodger being my most favourite character by far.

These are just a few of my favourite lines:

Spike to Thacker: ‘There’s something wrong with this yoghurt”

Thacker:” It’s not yoghurt it’s mayonnaise”

Spike continues eating “oh alright then”

Anna to Thacker after she kisses him “: Probably best not to tell anyone about this”

Thacker: “Right, right no-one, I mean I’ll tell myself about it sometimes but don’t worry I won’t believe it”

Thacker to Anna: “It was nice to meet you, surreal but nice” then after he closes the door berates himself wincing “surreal but nice, what was I thinking???”

My favourite part of the movie has to be the part where Thacker is invited to see Anna at the Ritz Hotel where she’s staying.  What Thacker does not realize when he gets there is that he’ll have to fall in line with a group journalists waiting to interview Anna Scott on her latest movie, which he’s never seen. He thinks he’s been invited to a private date with the star. Asked about which publication he’s from, he blurts out “Horse and Hound” the name of a magazine within eye shot. He brings her flowers, and walks into the interview room full of large and expensive bouquets of roses, embarrassed he launches into an excruciating mock interview in the presence of Scott’s publicists who huffs and puffs in displeasure – it’s hilarious.  He’s later roped into doing more interviews with other cast members without having seen the film which has a few gems such as…

Actor to Thacker: Did you enjoy the film?

Thacker: Yes Enormously

Actor: fire away then…

Thacker; “right did you enjoy making the film?

Actor: Yes, I did

Thacker:  “Good any bit in particular?”

Actor:  “You tell me which bit you enjoyed the most and I’ll tell you if I enjoyed making that bit”

This scene reminds me of a similar interview I did with Bollywood mega star Amitabh Bachchan in the early years of my career as a journalist, needless to say I knew nothing of Bollywood other than the dancing, let alone Amitabh! I mean the entire movie is full of great lines.  Anna later offers to accompany Thacker to his sister, Honey’s birthday dinner party as his date. Honey on meeting Anna gives the most droopingly impassioned fan monologue. .. Which is -just Classic!

Honey to Anna: “OH holy Fuck! Oh god this is one of those key moments in life when it’s possible you can be really genuinely cool and I… I’m going to fail just a hundred percent. I… I absolutely, totally and utterly adore you, and I just think you are the most beautiful woman in the world! And more importantly, I genuinely believed, and I have believed this for some time now that we could genuinely be best friends! What do you think?” then later adds “Oh marry Will, he’s a genuinely nice guy and then we could be sisters!”

On a morbid note, just to illustrate my point – and not to spoil the fun, during an interview with SABC’s veteran journalist Sophie Mokoena, notorious–serial killer Joe Mamasela said he coped with the trauma of killing and torturing people, through humour.  “Humour helped me deal with it” he said.

This basically means, no matter what you’re going through ( Mamasela’s example aside) – if you can laugh about it, you can get through just about anything!

If you love literature and movies, go watch the movie!  Again. Doctor’s orders.

Notting Hill is one of my most favourite Romcoms by far!

What Marikana Meant for Me.

write now.

write now.

In The Public Interest

I wrote this for Press Freedom Day recently.  Working on the Marikana story revealed how important it is that we get counselling and psychological help for people experiencing trauma (the widow I interviewed specifically asked for some kind of psychological counselling) it also revealed to me that though I was empathetic and wanted to help I could not help her since I needed counselling myself. I did try though. She was suicidal.

It’s not a classic Censorship Story.

By Jedi Ramalapa.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation( SABC) broadcasts news and current affairs daily to more than 48 million South Africans, through 18 radio stations in all the 11 official languages, including Swahili and French through Channel Africa. The public broadcaster has  three television channels which can be accessed  and are available  in the remotest parts of the country.   It is more powerful than any of the broadcasters put together in swaying public opinion and more importantly winning votes.  Having control over the “public broadcaster” is having control of the country.  Business and Politicians understand this fact all too well.  As long as it’s not on SABC, it can’t be completely true. It is a powerful machine which has consistantly made vulnerable to grave abuse.

I think I only realized a moment after they walked outof the editing studio just what had happened.  I was busy editing an interview with one of the Marikana widows, whose husband was killed along with 50 or so other mine workers on the 16th of August.  It was the kind of interview I had done a thousand times before, speaking to grieving relatives about their loved ones. It was in my opinion nothing out of the ordinary nor controversial.

But this time and for the first time in a 12 and a half-year public broadcasting career,  at the South African Broadcasting Corporation,   they asked to listen to the final cut of the interview which we planned to air later that day.   They listened as the widow spoke of her grief and her anger. “I blame the government, the police, the unions and Lonmin for what happened” she said on tape.   Play that again, said the executive producers. They listened and said cut out that part.  Which part I asked? Like a naïve little girl. That part where she says “I blame the government, the unions, the police and Lonmin for what happened”. Why I asked. “Because there’s no one to blame, we don’t know who is responsible and we just don’t want to have to deal with questions.” What questions I asked myself in disbelief thinking that even in her grief the widow had managed to be “impartial” in apportioning blame to everyone involved in the Marikana massacre, not many people were able to do that.  But I couldn’t fight it. I had woken this woman up at 6am to do the interview, which had taken me at least three days and a string of phone-calls to convince her to speak to me.  We cried together during the interview in which I tried to convince her that life was still worth living. She had trusted me with her heart.  I was not going to let her down.  So I did as I was told and cut out the offending parts like a surgeon saving a life.

The widow had been censored in the most subtle of ways, by omission and not only was I not prepared for it, I was a part of it an accomplice.   Even today I don’t know who to blame for that moment in my life, myself for doing the interview in the first place? Or for failing to defend her / my work when I was told to cut out certain parts? I don’t know.   But I am writing this to honour the Marikana Widow who in a moment of great loss and pain managed to do what I and Public Broadcaster failed to do, speak truth to power and remain impartial.

 

THE HANI MOMENT

Chris Hani

Chris Hani

10 April 2013.   I was 12 and I had just woken up from a bad dream, it was a Saturday so happily I along with my siblings would be staying in at home.   My father had recently installed black and gold iron gates the next step in the fencing off our township home.  Putting a fence around one’s   home was considered then   (as I am sure it still is now in some quarters) as a sign  of prosperity   and increasing wealth. Even though the brick wall around our home was not yet complete, it re-classified us as one of the more affluent families in the Proper Township.

My dream involved our new black gates; something horrible had happened on our drive way or somewhere near though there was no sign of the incident on the red gravel earth.  All I could see in my dream apart from the “eerie” feeling was  the ground.  Street lamps cast yellow light, highlighting menacing tall thin shadows of young men walking as if parallel to the steel rods which made up our golden black gate.

They were just shadows but I could not shake the bad feeling as I walked into the lounge in search of my mother, where I found her  and my father as if frozen in mid-action staring at the television screen as if shocked by electricity.

Noxolo Grootboom our favourite Xhosa news reader was being interviewed a crowd had assembled around her, she must have just woken up, unkept  with a doek (scarf) on her head, she was saying something I couldn’t understand. Then the camera followed the crimson trail leading to someone lying face down his head and body barely covered with red blankets. I am guessing the cameraman must have been equally stunned by the fresh blood trail which seemed to still flow from South African Communist Party Leader Chris Hani’s motionless body.  He was laying face-own-his paved driveway.  A tragic end to what had started off as a perfect  Saturday morning, it was a beautiful day.  Chris Hani in track suits had gone out to buy the paper, which I assume he would have read with a good cup of coffee on a kitchen table – why is there no movie about his life? Then came the cry that  I will never forget ; Tokyo Sexwale’s grief stricken agony reverberated throughout  multiple TV screens  all around South Africa but ever more loudly in my head! Chris Hani was dead, the nation was in morning and I didn’t even know who he was.  I had forgotten all about telling my mother about my bad dream. It had all   become too real.

ON-AIR!

Radio Rocks my boat still. But I have been hard-pressed to find a program I can listen to here at home – a program I can be in tune with,  an artistic creative  radio show that can draw me in so high on air  I start to dream big… this Talk Talk Talk has turned the air-waves  into a  black board with chalk screeching and scraping down your ear over and over all over …..  talking heads, music being the only peaceful break we get from loud screaming, shouting, voices laughing, talk,talk,talk,talking heads about nothing on a stale formats. Maybe it is a South African thing, what’s on air in your country?

What made me fall in-love-so deeply with radio was its captivating quality,  in the form of  radio Dramas and Plays, which left room to be a little creative about what I was hearing, I engaged in a creative-give-and take relationship with my radio.   And the  any beautiful voices that presented dry(news) information or difficult subjects as if it were the most delicious dish on earth, sultry and beautiful, oh, the hair’s on my back stands up at the thought.

A good  radio voice does not seem to be part of the requirements of being on air. if you can talk its cool, which is also cool but…

I have fallen in-love with radio voices, even though the people behind the voice were well not exactly my type. But there is some-thing in the voice that can just speak to you, touch, pierce deep into you (if the messaging, content is right)  in places only you are aware of  or never thought anyone could reach,  people who can sing well understand the power of voice – which can at once captivate, and transfix people, regardless of their race, colour and or creed. Music is Powerful still.

So you would think that those given that platform (radio-platform) today, would know what to do with it  and be aware of the power they have in their hands, on a daily basis, and treat their work with the serious consideration it deserves. But very few people seem to think about radio beyond the sound of their egos. I’m still working on mine. I think the radio platform is still an underused even – abused canvass… people are not using it creatively  enough in the same way they are on print and television, everything today is about the image…. the face

There is something about it that so captures my imagination in a way that Social Media still doesn’t for me today. Sometimes I wonder why with all this technology we have at our disposal, we still  have tired and boring radio  formats, like how many talk-call-in-shows about Politics do we need? Anyway to be fair, I have tuned out of what’s on air  because it hasn’t captured my imagination least of all “entertain me” we’re all sounding like each other, doing the same thing everyday, someone has got to try a pie in the sky method to make radio  the theater of the mind it once was.

I used to enjoy the World Radio Network, (WRN) I would listen to it around midnight while sleep paid visits to more deserving people, it felt like i was travelling around the world listening in to what makes other societies tick, what problems they are facing and how they are dealing with them. It almost always felt like eave’s dropping in private nocturnal conversation people were having around the world, but as an invited guest. For an hour or so I could step out of my bedroom and spend time with this woman living in a monastery in Holland talk about the flours that were booming there and how she ended up living there alone…

The US-based National Public Radio (NPR)  – has good examples of what makes for a  good news and current affairs radio show, just the right balance in terms of pace, delivery, content and intensity. The hosts have nice warm pleasant voices that really want to make you listen, as if to say, come in you are  invited.

In Africa? BBC Africa is what Africans listen to if they want to know what’s going on in other parts of the continent. I still haven’t found one that speaks to me. With all my varying tastes, languages and my short attentions span there’s not a calm voice I have found on-air.  Radio is still the most basic way to communicate on the continent, now people listen to radio on their phones every-where they go, imagine how that could revolutionize the dissemination of information… educate, inform, entertain.

This America Life : Is FUN and FACTUAL, and is indeed the theater of the mind. This I used to spend hours and hours listening to online, because you can and it sounds like its recorded live – and really its a good example of what we can do with radio, while driving, or waiting for something to happen.

Radio is not only about the personality, it’s not only about the  voice, it’s not only about content, it’s not only about the presentation, but if you can get all these ingredients together in a nice mix then I you have a captive Audience. But if you ask me  the Voice is still remains the most important ingredient of all.

So I think I might just have to do something about it…..Image

Stay tuned….