SABC criticised, yet again

The South African media serves a diverse audience in terms of class, gender, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality but offers no diversity, according to Prof Tawana Kupe, a prominent media scholar.

Kupe, Dean of the Wits Faculty of Humanities, was speaking at the launch of a report on the SABC’s (South African Broadcasting Corporation)  lack of diversity at Wits recently.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), researched and compiled the report. Thandi Smith and Lethabo Dibetso from MMA said it was critical that content by the public broadcaster represented South Africa in all its diversity.  They said they had monitored SABC’s programming from April 1, 2012 to May 15, 2012 and discovered that 76% of all programmes broadcast were in English across SABC 1, 2 and 3.

They also noted variety of children’s programmes and very few programmes that “spoke” to people in rural areas in the own languages. There was also concern over the dominance of North American programmes.

Smith said 62% of news sources were organisations’ representatives and spokespersons, and one “always knew what they were going to say”. Eighty percent of the sources were seen to be male, and they recommended that diverse and equitable sourcing be inculcated in all SABC newsrooms.

Dibetso said the SABC was failing in its mandate to “be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, education and entertainment meeting the broadcasting needs of the entire South African population in terms of age, race, gender, interests and backgrounds” as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act.

Carol Mohlala, from Save our SABC Coalition said she was unhappy about the non-representation of Ndebele and Sepedi and wanted to know what ICASA and parliament were thinking about SABC’s performance.

Responding to the issue of repeats, Ingrid Bruynse from Bright Media said repeats were no always a bad thing if they related to children’s education. “But poor repeats serve absolutely nothing.”

Akieda Mohamed, representing South African Screen Federation, said her organisation had face “a bleak, bleak time for the past five years” and had a vested interest in the functioning of the public broadcaster.

Click here to read the complete report.

Standing in protest against violence in society

By Jay Caboz

Around 150 Wits staff, some  in academic gowns, and students gathered outside the Bertha Road pedestrian entrance to observe South Africa’s national day of mourning on Thursday 23 August.

George Bizos, left, joins Wits registrar Kirti Menon, centre, and Asawu President, David Dickinson, in a march against violence. Pic: Jay Caboz

George Bizos, one of South Africa’s most distinguished human rights advocates joined  the gathering together with Wits Registrar Kirti Menon, Prof Tawana Kupe, Dean of Humanities, and Prof David Dickinson, President of the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU).

In a statement released by Prof Yunus Ballim, acting Vice-Chancellor and vice-Principal, the gathering was called as a public display from the University “against the ongoing violence gripping society” and to “encourage the public to stand up for social justice.”

The national day of mourning was declared by the South African government in memorial of the lives lost in the violence at Marikana and Pomeroy these past few weeks.

In commemoration of the lives of the 44 miners killed, students and academics stood on the pavement holding placards one of which said: “mourning all the victims of violence” as well as declaring the event as “our collective shame”.

A National Day of Mourning was declared by President Jacob Zuma. Memorials were held across the province and several streets in Johannesburg Central Business District were closed.

From Monday, the University has been flying its flag at half-mast also in remembrance of the lives lost.


Marchers line up along Jan Smuts Avenue in Braamfontein. Pic: Jay Caboz

Wits staff and students took to the pavements to protest violence in society. Pic: Jay Caboz

Language Policy stalled at Wits

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 17th Edition 27 July

Wits’ language policy to introduce Sesotho as the university’s second language has been a failure, says Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Yunus Ballim.

The policy, implemented in 2003, aimed to have Sesotho spoken by all lecturers and provided for academically. “I think it’s fair to say the document failed. In its intention it was noble, but in its practical implementation sense it was ill-conceived. It is in serious, serious need of a rewrite,” Ballim says.

The person responsible for that rewrite is Dean of Humanities Prof Tawana Kupe, who wants to move back to the basics by “beefing up” the African Languages department. This additional “academic scaffolding” would provide the structure for the department to lead the university forward with an updated policy.

The policy is almost ten years old. The aim was for Wits to join the University of the Free State and the University of Lesotho in advancing the Sesotho language in the academic arena.

Ballim explains that a fundamental error in the policy is its attempt to carve up the language geography of the country. “We were mistaken in the way we conceived of the language policy … in part what we had responded to was an apartheid conception of the geography of African languages.”

While the policy itself has not led to any direct developments, it is not all doom and gloom for the advancement of African languages at the historically English-dominated university.

Ballim implemented a compulsory Zulu course in the Health Sciences, which is now an examinable subject in 2nd year. This was a departure from the Sesotho-based policy, and isiZulu was chosen as a more accessible language for interaction, most importantly for communication with patients.

Ballim used the influence of creative writing as a more effective tool for challenging academic discourse, rather than trying to learn from a textbook. “Universities have not responded to the dynamism in language. We need to modernise our conception of the teaching of African languages.”

Kupe agrees, pointing to the diversity of languages used in local soapies and the changing way we perceive language. “We need to teach language in a way that people understand.”

On the policy’s lack of success, Ballim concedes: “I’m embarrassed to say it is an area we should have picked up and we didn’t, and it is something we should have done better at.”Students chatting on the Great Hall steps