Financial Mail - - BETWEEN THE CHAINS - @Sikonathim mantshantshas@fm.co.za

Duma Ndlovu wrote an im­por­tant ar­ti­cle in City Press on Sun­day about the role some jour­nal­ists played dur­ing the tu­mul­tuous apartheid years in the 1970s. That en­vi­ron­ment and time has many par­al­lels with to­day. Jour­nal­ists and other peo­ple with a sense of jus­tice found them­selves be­ing forced to do a bit more than just their jobs.

Racial op­pres­sion and state vi­o­lence against the peo­ple were the in­jus­tices of that time. Cor­rup­tion (in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors) and law­less­ness are to­day’s. Bla­tant loot­ing of pub­lic re­sources is to­day’s state-spon­sored vi­o­lence, sim­i­lar to the ran­dom beat­ings and ar­rests of yesteryear’s cit­i­zens.

All pa­tri­otic cit­i­zens, what­ever their trade, are du­ty­bound to push back.

Ndlovu writes that he was part of a group of jour­nal­ists “that was con­stantly hounded and con­tin­u­ously ar­rested for our provoca­tive type of jour­nal­ism”.

Among them he men­tions such il­lus­tri­ous jour­nal­ists as Joe Thloloe, Thami Mazwai and Peter Magubane, who had nasty en­coun­ters with the un­just laws of the time. The “many oth­ers” Ndlovu didn’t name would prob­a­bly in­clude coura­geous peo­ple such as Nat Nakasa, Don­ald Woods, Percy Qoboza and He­len Zille. And there are many more who took the apartheid bull by its horns. Or­di­nary peo­ple, these.

“De­spite var­i­ous stints in prison, we con­tin­ued to ad­vo­cate the down­fall of the op­pres­sive regime,” writes Ndlovu. “We were quite ag­gres­sive . . . the lines be­tween jour­nal­ist and free­dom fighter were blurred.” For high­light­ing in­jus­tice, these men and women re­ceived the harsh treat­ment that the op­pres­sors meted out to any who chal­lenged their power.

The lucky ones among them sur­vived se­vere beat­ings and other forms of tor­ture and the forced clo­sure and ban­ning of their news­pa­pers. Ndlovu spent more than six months in prison, af­ter be­ing de­tained 12 times, be­fore flee­ing into ex­ile.

Oth­ers were also forced into a life of ex­ile. Many oth­ers paid with their lives.

“We were on top of the moun­tain call­ing for an end to an un­just regime,” says Ndlovu. “Jour­nal­ists were at the fore­front of that war [against apartheid].” So, too, should to­day’s jour­nal­ists be at the fore­front.

Lives full of hope

To­day’s jour­nal­ists and so­ci­ety should be eter­nally grate­ful to those anti-apartheid jour­nal­ists and other free­dom fight­ers, alive and dead. There is no bet­ter way to ex­press that grat­i­tude than to strive, ev­ery day, to re­alise the SA they died for.

And that is a coun­try free of in­jus­tice, one that frees the po­ten­tial of ev­ery woman and man to live their best lives, full of hope for the fu­ture; one in which ev­ery man and woman is at lib­erty to live and achieve their full po­ten­tial. This will be a coun­try in which even cit­i­zens with the least train­ing can de­velop them­selves to lead pro­duc­tive and fruit­ful lives so they can cre­ate hap­pi­ness and wealth for them­selves.

That can only hap­pen in a coun­try that is free of cor­rup­tion and theft of pub­lic re­sources by the elite close to power. It can only hap­pen in a coun­try where the rule of law is the norm. It must be the only rule. That will only hap­pen when the weak­est of cit­i­zens can con­front and stop the brazen theft that is so per­va­sive in our pub­lic life — when cit­i­zens make it im­pos­si­ble for thieves and fraud­sters, whether they are in fancy suits or look like crim­i­nals even from a dis­tance, to steal with not a care.

It is when we, the good and pa­tri­otic cit­i­zens — and with­out fear for our own safety — stand up to the bad guys that we can be­queath to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions a bet­ter SA than the one Ndlovu and his con­tem­po­raries helped bring about.

Jour­nal­ists were on top of the moun­tain call­ing for an end to an un­just regime. That is what jour­nal­ists should do now

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