SLICE: Why I am wild for wildlife

As a South African, I have a renowned sense of love and respect for all the wildlife we share our land with. However, when tourists arrive and make their own rules, it not only upsets the animals, but also disturbs me.

One morning a few Septembers ago in the Pilansberg Nature Reserve, a group of us went on an early morning bush walk. The crisp, fresh air whipped around our ears. The only audible sounds were leaves crunching beneath our feet and the game ranger’s quiet whispers. Then, suddenly, an elephant emerged, strolling leisurely through the dry savannah. Beside it, a baby, probably just a few weeks old, trudging along and almost stumbling beneath its mother’s big tummy — seemingly, without a care in the world. It was a sight to be savoured, in silence, with respect, for the wild is exhilaratingly awesome, but remains unpredictable.

In the international Wild for Wildlife month of July, I could not help but recall just how much I both love and admire wildlife, a proudly South African thing to do. These thoughts of pride are however interrupted by the stories of tourists performing traitorous acts in our nature reserves that have serious consequences for both humans and animals. It is a privilege to experience nature in its purest form and we must remember our place as a visitor in wildlife’s home.

But why are humans so drawn to nature in the first place?

Well, the term “biophilia” describes our humane tendency to seek connections with earth’s living forms. In the 21st century, we are more disconnected from nature than ever before due to the fast-walking and quick-typing world in which we now live. Being in the bush allows us to rekindle a lost relationship and slow life down to appreciate its intricate details.

However, these wild animals which we love are not cute, fuzzy, domestic creatures; they are incredible but wildly wild animals and should be treated as such. I have entered their home countless times and have left this natural habitat without a scratch. This is paradoxical to other tourists’ experiences who venture off and find themselves in harm’s way.

Whilst there have been cases of tourists getting out of their vehicles for a closer snapshot of primitive scenes, I have always heeded the instructions of game rangers and signposts dotted about nature parks. No matter how much I wish I could pick up a lion cub for a cuddle, I know it is not a smart thing to do if its mother is watching. If we put ourselves in the animal’s shoes, we would find their emotions and actions are not so different to ours. Unbeknown to many, wild animals do not view humans as prey and will only attack if provoked.

However, humans are the ones who have the ability to think about their actions instead of just acting on instinct. This comes with the responsibility of understanding that wildlife will never halt in their tracks, and we should not expect them to.

This is the moral behind Wild for Wildlife and for the many days left, I will be thanking my lucky stars that I get to live in the heart of nature.

FEATURED IMAGE: Victoria Hill, Photo: Leon Sadiki

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SLICE: The true essence of academic freedom should unlock potential

International Academic Day is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating academia, but what does academic freedom mean in South Africa.  

According to the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) academic freedom is a right that allows students and lecturers to research, teach and express their views without any fear or interference. 

The Academy of Science states that in the South African constitution, under the freedom of speech clause, academic freedom is guaranteed. This right was reinforced by the 1997 formal document titled: White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education. This document highlights academic freedom as the pillar for transforming higher education after Apartheid. 

The first International Academic Freedom Day, May 20 was announced by Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) in November 2023, with the goal of promoting and defending academic freedom globally through various activities, such as lectures, seminars, and debates.  

For many academia might evoke images of complex theories and debates. For me, however, academic freedom is about the opportunity to pursue knowledge, and exploring the subjects that ignite my curiosity and passion. Whether delving into the depths of physics or literature, academic freedom should empower me to choose my career path and follow it. 

This freedom is more than just a curriculum to me; it is about nurturing my talents and transforming them into skills. It is through the space of academics where my God given talents have been nurtured, and further strengthened. I’ve always known I had a talent for radio presenting but didn’t know how to pursue it. As a student journalist, I’ve realized I can leverage my innate talent as a skill in broadcast journalism. I’ve also developed other abilities like writing and digital content creation in this academic setting. 

Additionally, I believe academic freedom is also about resilience and triumph. It is about overcoming the challenges that come with being a student, whether they are academic, financial, or personal challenges.  

This freedom is about standing victorious and emerging stronger not just because I have completed a degree or passed an exam, but because I have grown intellectually and personally. Academic freedom for me is a constitutional right that has allowed me to explore, grow, and unlock my full potential. 

SLICE: Audiences seek fresh narratives from the SA film industry 

While South Africa’s TV screens lack no new telenovelas; the industry constantly fails to produce interesting story ideas that can keep viewers intrigued.   

On February 23, 2024, Thabang Moleya, a South African Director, who has worked on projects such as Gomora (2020) and The Herd (2018) posted a question on X, asking his followers what stories they would like to see more of. Moleya explained that he posed the question because he is aware of audiences’ dislike towards the typical South African stories surrounding politics, taxi wars and “unnecessary sex scenes.” 

What followed was a deluge of reposts and replies with people vocalizing their dissatisfaction with the industry. “It is not even about the storylines. The cast has no diversity. Everything looks like characters in a room reciting dialogue,” X user Siwe Memela replied. Another X user suggested a South African Science Fiction like the existing film Snowpiercer.  

Popular telenovelas like “The Wife and The Queen have had their fair time in the spotlight; keeping viewers glued to their screens for a nightly fix of scandal-infused storylines – specifically stories about the drug industry.  

After The River ended in 2024, BET launched Queendom, featuring familiar faces like Sindi Dlathu, Linda Mtoba and Hamilton Dlamini. Queendom follows Nthandokayise,  community leader who discovers she is the heir to the Khahlamba Kingdom’s throne – a storyline previously explored on Mzansi Magic’s The Throne

This is one of the problems viewers and inspiring actors face as the industry tends to recycle the same talent– which often leaves no room for diversified storytelling as actors get typecast; and new talent has no room for entry.  

Despite Moleya’s question, audiences have always expressed their fatigue with these familiar storylines, and unfortunately the entry of streaming giant Netflix has meant more of the same.  

Netflix South Africa requires writers and filmmakers to pitch to established agencies or a production companies with a proven track record, before they can get on the platform.  

These agencies and production companies can be risk averse and often shy away from hiring new talent, preferring to collaborate with established industry professionals.  

While broadcasters like SABC, Mzansi Magic, and Moja Love provide direct pitching opportunities, my experience as a religious viewer of South African series and telenovelas suggest that these platforms rarely produce fresh ideas.  

According to News24, three aspiring content producers claim the Moja Love channel commissioned their proposals without informing or involving them.  

However, South Africa’s law, as explained by a legal blog PopLaw, ideas themselves are not protected by copyright. “In order to qualify for copyright protection, an idea needs to be reduced, using the author’s own skill and effort, to material form.”  

I believe the industry could be transformed by getting new writers into writers-room; and by recognizing that South African audiences want to see stories that reflect the current times.