TV guide: Garda’s special assignment

2011-04-22 11:20

Although content-wise the SABC’s Special Assignment might hit the nail on the head weekly, its ever- changing presenters did take the steam out of the investigative show.

Perhaps this time they’ve got it right with new presenter Ashraf Garda. He has a résumé that matches some of the great interviewers around the globe, and hopefully ­viewers will be eating out of the palm of his hand.

“I would like to think that I will bring presence and gravitas to the show,” explains the SAFM presenter, whose induction into the show ­began as a guest presenter. “The seeds for my joining Special ­Assignment were planted last year when the ­executive producer, ­Johann Abrahams, and I casually chatted about some content ideas.”

His debate on the media tribunal with ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, Douglas Kruger and City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee is what finally “knocked the door down” for this media savvy ­presenter.

“The media tribunal has been ­criticised by just about everyone of relevance in the media and rightfully so. Sadly, the ruling party increasingly sees the media as the enemy and we are not in a good space when leading political lights are taking pot shots at the highly and widely ­respected Press Ombudsman Joe ­Thloloe.”

However, Garda points out it’s not all doom and gloom: “The one good think to emerge from this attack on the press is that the media is ­becoming more accountable to itself and is firmly on the path of ­self-reformation.”

Measuring Special Assignment against similar shows on other ­channels, I’ve found it lacks the personal element – something Garda intends to change. “Being the public face of the show means it’s ­important that I fully integrate my being into making it (the show) work even better. My steely-eyed yet friendly appearance reflects exactly what Special Assignment is all about”.

Garda, who is clearly a social media addict and is constantly on Facebook and Twitter, agrees that newsrooms across South Africa are changing.

“Social media means traditional ­media is no longer first with the news, therefore traditional media has to ­integrate the best of social media ­into its own offering to remain ­relevant. And since we’re no longer first with the news, we have to be better at providing analysis around the breaking and developing story.”

Garda’s multifaceted career spans public speaking, radio, writing and television. All of this is an accumulation of a childhood ambition. “My Imam suggested that I take up the reciting of the Qur’an more regularly as I had a good strong voice. Surely even then he picked out my aptitude for broadcasting.”

With stints at CNN, the SABC, Al Jazeera and CBC Canada, Garda has been lucky enough to interview some of the world’s biggest names, including Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alistair Campbell. Still, he finds it hard to choose his best ­interview yet: “My greatest achievement... that is like suggesting my career is over. The truth is the best is yet to come.”

» Special Assignment is on Wednesdays at 9pm on SABC3

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