A journalist at one of Johannesburg’s biggest radio stations Jacaranda FM, this former Witsie from Moruleng in the North West is making a name for herself in South African journalism. Phalaetsile graduated with a BA majoring in Political Studies in 2013.

She is also the founder of a group called The Black Wxman Healing Garden which she describes as “a safe space for black women to share their struggles and empower one another.” She is also a columnist for the Daily Vox, known for her bold and honest opinion pieces on social injustice.

 

How has your journey been as a woman in the media space?

My journey has been great. I wish the media industry paid journalists more. We do a lot of work, work that is tiring and emotionally draining. But I love what I do.

What is the most exciting thing about your career?

 I love current affairs. I want to know what is happening locally, nationally and globally and the details thereof. It gives me broader understanding of society and my job challenges me to on the forefront of this.

What does feminism mean to you as an individual?

Feminism is survival. I cannot think of being anything else but a feminist. It would mean I accept the status quo that is patriarchy, capitalism and racism. Feminism has empowered me to speak my mind in a space where I was never meant to be loud. Feminism has taught me that I am valuable and human hence I fight and surround myself with women and groups of people who only seek to rattle and shake the status quo.

How do you successfully merge activism with your work?

Success is a very tricky thing to speak of as the idea of success itself is problematic. However, journalism allows me to tell stories that are close to my heart and ask questions that are important to powerful people. Journalism can be a tool to speak truth to power. I don’t believe society has voiceless people, like Arundhati Roy puts it, “there are only the deliberately silenced and preferably unheard”. With the job I do, I get to meet such people and not only speak to them on the record but also off the record. I watch them get a space where they can exercise their voices.

How do you respond to the controversies that come with the nature and honesty of your opinion pieces?

When I started writing, the criticism made me uncomfortable. I was hurt by some of the violence people spew when one writes something that makes them uncomfortable. But I have been sharing my views for five years. And I keep going. I don’t really care much about the hate that spewed, although it reflects that more work needs to be done. I give people the agency to choose I cannot force my opinion down anyone’s throat. But my work is not just for me and about me and that’s what keeps me going, the broader picture.

How do you think young people in other professions can incorporate activism in their work?

I don’t think activism needs to be incorporated. For me one cannot be part of an oppressed group and not fight back in any way. People are fighting the status quo in whatever way they can. Activism doesn’t have a do’ s or don’t’s, it’s a way we survive. I chose to be vocal and use my profession as a spring board for that.

What is the biggest challenge about writing on social injustices?

The biggest challenge is knowing you are not reaching everyone you want to reach out to. This is why I’ve decided to do public speaking. Because this gives me an opportunity to reach even further. But this space can be lonely.

Where do you see the future of journalism in South Africa?

Journalism needs to take a back seat and reflect. We are becoming the mouth piece for the middle class and upper class. We have forgotten the working class. We are rushing for being the first to break news without verifying facts correctly.

We need to reflect on how we contribute to the current state of our country and not act like we are not part of this. The media is a powerful tool for people. I hope the next five years we would have had a wake-up call.

Where do you see your career in the next 5 years? What avenues do you seek to explore?

I want to tell people’s stories, human stories and incorporate that with my social justice journey. So probably end doing documentaries. That’s what I am aiming for.

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