WE MUST ALL DEFY INJUSTICE
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