Q & A with Sello Lenyaro

Wits alumnus Lenyaro Sello, studied Honours in journalism with the aim of telling stories. She is currently working at eNCA. Lenyaro took Wits Vuvuzela through her fast-paced career.

Why did you pursue journalism?


ON THE MOVE: eNCA multimedia journalist.

ON THE MOVE: eNCA multimedia journalist.                                                                    Photo: Provided

Well, it is a weird story I don’t speak about much. It was around 1993 when the country was on the brink of a civil war after South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani was killed. There was panic at the time and there were various violent stories making headlines. Newspapers were all carrying stories of violent clashes – a war brewing.
At the time I was eight and I remember clearly sitting with my grandfather as he read stories from the newspaper to me. One day I asked why people do bad things like killing others. And why do people write about it? And he simply answered – “We live in an ugly world and we need journalists to keep us informed and tell those stories to the world.” I knew then that I want to tell stories for the rest of my life.


What do you hate about your job?
Journalism is a tough job. You need to ask tough questions and go where others won’t. The worst thing is that we often find ourselves in danger. Just recently on Friday (July 22) in Meyerton while I was covering protests I was attacked, assaulted and my camera smashed on the floor. All this because I was trying to report on the protest – and that is the worst thing about the job – sometimes things are unpredictable and we may find ourselves in dangerous situations.



How has journalism affected your personal life?
The bad ways – as journalists we see and go through difficult situations. I have covered gruesome court cases, for example the case of a baby whose parents were sentenced for abusing her. She died a painful death and the details of her death that I heard in court still haunt me today.
I have also covered death, going to funerals and having to report on people’s pain – some things just don’t leave you. On a brighter note, however, journalism has made me more aware of the country and the world we live in. Through covering different stories you begin to appreciate the different cultures, traditions we have in the country and that becomes lessons in my personal life.


Highlight of your career?
Co-winning the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award for online in 2015 (Northern Region) together with my colleague Bianca Ackroyd. This award was special because it was for a story related to a story that touched many across the world and especially in South Africa. It was for the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Bianca and I followed a traditional Xhosa choir as they raised money and embarked on a journey to Qunu to bid farewell to Madiba. They had nowhere to sleep, and we followed them and we also slept in cars and spent more than 36 hours on the road to get to Qunu because of car problems and everything. But it was an amazing story of patience and determination to bid farewell to South Africa’s greates

Media gathering takes off in Johannesburg


NEW TOOLS: Laura Grant of the Mail&Guardian demonstrated some new applications for producing digital journalism. PHOTO: Katleho Sekhotho.

The 2015 Menell Media Exchange conference started today at Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg. 

Some of South Africa’s most respected journalists, media practitioners, educators and students joined international visitors and guests for the second Menell Media Exchange conference.

Peter Ndoro, Lester Kiewet and Jeremy Maggs were some of the prominent speakers and guests on the first day of the conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, which focused primarily on training and workshops.

Themed as “innovation, brand and sustainability”, the opening panels focused on brand building by individuals and journalists in particular. Veteran journalist Gus Silber provided key insights into the use of social media for journalism and as a tool for journalists to increase their visibility.

The Mail & Guardian’s Laura Grant and SABC’s Tegan Bedser, demonstrated various apps that can be used in digital storytelling. 

Jeremy Maggs joined eNCA’s Patrick Conroy on a panel that explored the difficult subject of funding journalism in ways that does not impede it.

Andrew Phelps, senior product manager for the New York Times, gave the afternoon keynote address and stressed the importance of innovation in newsrooms.

The conference continues tomorrow.

Q & A with Arabile Gumede

AFTER graduating from the University of Johannesburg with a BCom in accounting, Arabile Gumede, accepted an internship at CNBC Africa. He rose swiftly through the ranks most recently becoming a permanent financial news anchor last year at eNCA at the age of 25.

He spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about his career and being employed as a young person.


What was your motivation for getting into financial journalism?

The important thing for me is to be able to actually give you the underlying story of how important your money really is, not just for yourself but to the South African consumer [as well].


Has it been something that you always wanted to pursue and for what reason?

I guess, a lot of it is because it’s not a huge segment in South African journalism. I really wasn’t even keen on journalism to begin with because I did a lot of accounting in varsity. I actually have an honours degree in accounting. A lot of it for me was being able to tell that story.

Q&A 2

Financial news anchor at eNCA, Arabile Gumede, talks about his career and youth unemployment. Photo: Luke Matthews


What challenges have you had to overcome while pursuing your career?

Well, I think there are still challenges every single day. [When] one is a young, black financial journalist, people look at you with a sense of “he’s too young to know certain things” or “he hasn’t reached that level of experience to understand certain elements”. That continues to be your stumbling block and you continue to take it and say “well, I’m going to grow from this and I’m going get to speak to people who will help me get to understand those concepts a whole lot better”.

Recently Stats SA released figures that 25,5% of youth are unemployed, 15% of these are black youth. Would you say this is a result of the quality of education South Africa has, specifically to disadvantaged black youth?

I’m 25 and that lifetime in itself doesn’t mean we have solved every single problem that has been faced in terms of creating jobs and creating an ability for a family to continue to create jobs. Understand that how a family creates jobs is being able to [in the Western context] take their kid to high school and varsity and that ultimately leading to an education, leading them to a job.


You are an exception to the statistics, how would you advise black youth to create a better future for themselves?

Nobody is going to do it for you. It starts off at a point where if you want to get to a certain place you are going to have to get there yourself. Nobody is going to give you favours, nobody is going to give you hand-outs, and if you do then you better grab those with all your might and all your strength and run with it. It gets really difficult and one thing for sure, what you get given, if you can produce that tenfold you are likely to succeed no matter what industry you are in. It’s about making what you feel is important to remain important.


REVIEW: Marikana movie Filmmaker Rehad Desai tells the story of the Marikana tragedy in a real time film

In the same way that Shaka bearing his spears was not on an equal footing with the British colonialists and their rifles, the Marikana miners with their machetes and knobkerries could not have been a true threat to the police.

They were met with nyalas, revolvers, stun grenades and hundreds of police officers. A line was crossed on August 16 2012. That line was the blurry line between self-defence and murder. The Wits Club on West Campus was transformed into a movie theatre on Monday night for a screening of a rough-cut of Rehad Desai’s film, which has the working title of Countdown to Marikana Massacre.

The ”roughness” of the version shown was evident but the story being told was so compelling that there were no grunts and groans when those parts came or technical glitches interrupted viewing. Desai’s version of events shows new evidence that seems damning. The police had footage of the area they now refer to as “scene two”. At this smaller koppie, miners were shot down after the initial shooting.

The police footage was one of the most horrifying yet gripping scenes of the film. It showed just how power had crossed a line and put its rubber boot on the throats or necks of ordinary miners. “Scene two” shows miners’ bodies at the bottom of the koppie. From the way their bodies fell it looks like police officers went after miners who were hiding. Police in the footage are heard congratulating one another for using “nice skills” where their shooting was concerned.

[pullquote]Police in the footage are heard congratulating one another for using “nice skills” where their shooting was concerned.[/pullquote]That scene is the climax to the message Desai had been trying to convey throughout the entire showing. He was saying something about the police and their collusion with Lonmin and perhaps even politicians. He pointed out that this kind of collusion was to blame and showed us what a force it was. This sentiment was further reinforced when new footage was shown of how the shooting on August 16 started. Miners no longer look as if they are charging at the police like in most of the footage circulated in the media, but are rather walking slowly towards the Wonderkop informal settlement.

Suddenly, a shot comes from behind one of the police vans, followed by a return shot by one miner armed with a gun and then the story we have seen before plays out.  The film is much like eNCA’s Through the Lens and Seven Days of Night two-part documentary in the way the story unfolds but different because it is clear that one side has been chosen and is favoured by Desai and the commentators he chose to interview.

Journalists are taught to have balance in whatever story we tell and, as we know, there is no such thing as objectivity. As a filmmaker, Desai has chosen the side he believes and backs up his evidence. More evidence has surfaced indicating that on the day of the massacre a call was made to a mortuary ordering four vans, each with the capacity to carry eight bodies. Four-thousand rounds of ammunition were also ordered by our police force.

Even if we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of Lonmin, the government or the police, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that self-defence was the reason for 34 miners dying.

Menell13: Media freedom unpacked

[Photographs by Nokuthula Manyathi]

Some of the most influential South African journalists gathered at the Sol Kerzner auditorium at the University of Johannesburg on Saturday, to discuss various topics under the media freedom umbrella. The topics ranged from government propaganda to secrecy laws and beyond.

Inside the belly of the beast

Keynote speaker and host of Faultlines on Al Jazeera, Josh Rushing spoke candidly about being a marine and a journalist.

“I was inside Al Jazeera, inside the military and inside the Bush administration – I had a unique vantage point,” said Rushing.

In 2003, Rushing was with Central Command and tasked with speaking to the media about the invasion in Iraq. A controversial documentary, Control Room, showed Rushing speaking about the invasion. The Pentagon muzzled his attempts to speak about the documentary, so he resigned after 14 years of service.

It was at this point that Rushing helped to start up Al Jazeera English. Rushing explained that Al Jazeera had always been vilified as being the mouthpiece for Al-Qaeda and he resigned so he could speak about what it wasn’t.

Power corrupts

Rushing said that the Obama administration is possibly the least transparent and most aggressive towards the media. “When he (Obama) was a senator, he championed media freedom,” lamented Rushing.

He explained that the U.S Espionage Act of 1917 has been used seven times under Obama’s watch. Rushing said that even though President Obama may have good intentions: “All power leads to abuse at some point.”

He touched on data mining and how companies like Apple and Google are colluding with the current administration to store people’s data.

Secrecy laws back home

A panel consisting of Nic Dawes, William Bird and Ylva Rodney-Gumede spoke about secrecy laws and how they would possibly affect journalism in South Africa. [pullquote]“People can classify information that should not be classified in the first place”[/pullquote]

Dawes explained that the amendments that had been to the Protection of State Information Bill since its inception were great, but didn’t cure the concerns he had with the bill. But was happy that: “We’ve made freedom of information a broad public debate,” he said.

Bird was less optimistic and bluntly said the bill as it stood was “evil, old apartheid stuff”. He said the fact that people’s travel schedules could be classified was a problem, when someone like President Obama’s schedule is available online for the world to see.

“People can classify information that should not be classified in the first place,” bemoaned Bird.

Mzilikazi wa Afrika said that the bill would be problematic for journalists. He highlighted the contradictory message being sent by government.

“On one hand they have hotlines for people to call in and report corruption and other such crimes and on the other they are saying if you blow the whistle, we will send you to jail,” he said.

Media attorney and moderator of the panel, Dario Milo jokingly said he calls it the “some Secrecy Bill”, after the amendments that have been made. To which Rodney-Gumede replied, “great the SS Bill”.

Public Protector

“Journalism allows people to have oversight over the people they have entrusted with power,” said public protector, advocate Thuli Mandonsela.

She also highlighted the parallels between her office and investigative journalism, namely the investigative aspect and the role they play in strengthening our democracy.

The role of investigative journalism

Adriaan Basson, deputy editor of the City Press said that the success of investigative journalism cannot be measured against prosecutions. “What happens after investigations is not our job,” said Basson.

He went on to list three ways in which investigative journalism could be improved. Firstly, the stories of the victims of corruption need to be told. The impact of corruption needs to be highlighted to empower people. “It’s not about us, it’s about them,” said Basson.

Secondly journalists need to experiment with new technologies and data journalism to make their stories appeal to people. Lastly, “Get off twitter and get into the Corolla,” said Basson.

Mzilikazi wa Afrika of the Sunday Times agreed with Basson and explained how he had found two of his award winning stories by way of not sitting behind his desk waiting for news.

Piet Rampedi of The Star said that threats and intimidation from the top are the price you pay “if you dare to do investigative journalism”.

Investigative journalism isn’t a special category, “just great journalism” expressed an audience member.

Dodge propaganda and spin

Justice Malala, host of The Justice Factor on eNCA spoke about the media “falling” for government propaganda and government spin doctors. [pullquote align=”right”] “For four years we ran after the theatrics of politics and ignored the important things,”[/pullquote]

Malala spoke out against the way the media is easily distracted and gave the example of Julius Malema. “For four years we ran after the theatrics of politics and ignored the important things,” he said.

He expressed the need for journalists and the media to start talking about institutions as opposed to speaking about isolated incidents, incidents that people often forget about. “We forget sometimes, I also forget and go with the noise,” added Malala.

Senior researcher at Wits Journalism and panelist, Glenda Daniels disagreed with Malala and said that the media doesn’t just fall for spin and that there is a lot of continuity in media stories, giving the example of the Gupta scandal.