‘Sunday Times’ Zulu newspaper: will it make it?

2010-11-12 00:00

SO, in a pure break with tradition, the Sunday Times launched its own Zulu publication last weekend.

Wow! What a move.

Whoever came up with the idea, it is clear that simple, good old common sense has finally prevailed at Avusa.

The move by Avusa has set tongues wagging and people in the market are starting to take a hard look at what they are doing.

Business Report, on its Business Watch page, describes this as “a new market for newspaper publishers”.

“A new market for newspaper publishers is emerging: Zulu-language speakers preferring to read the news in the language they feel most comfortable with,” chirps Business Report.

A new market — a Zulu market?

This is quite an interesting observation by Business Report.

But it is not a new market. It is an amazing market, to say the least, but it’s old. The only problem is that much of the newspaper industry has not been paying attention.

AmaZulu, or Zulus, as English speakers refer to them, have been reading newspapers in their mother tongue and other languages for ages.

As a child, the first newspaper I laid my eyes on was Ilanga, a Zulu publication founded by foremost intellectual John Langalibalele Dube.

Dube also happened to be the first president of the SA Native National Congress in 1912, now known as the African National Congress.

For many years, Ilanga, with its bold red front title, was like a bible. It appealed to all classes of Zulu speakers from the factory-floor worker to the teacher, medical doctor, lawyer and musician, you name them.

It was the pride of anyone who read and comprehended the language. Even people who could not read or write bought Ilanga and took it home, took it to the factory floor or to the office. They would ask those who were literate to read it aloud for them. It was that fun.

And then, at some stage in Ilanga’s life, the Argus Group sold it to a political party, which saw a decline in its circulation and readership. But it’s still here.

Isolezwe, which is owned by Independent Newspapers, rules the roost in this market. An extremely strong publication, it boasts a team of very good journalists. It is a sharp and exciting read. Its appeal is unmatched in that market.

I think, just like Ilanga used to be, it has become the pride of those who read it.

At this stage, it is not clear how the Sunday Times is going to approach its business of publishing the new Zulu newspaper. Is it going to be a mere translation of the English version of the Sunday Times or is it going to be something totally different and independent?

But the Sunday Times had better be warned, the Zulu are very sensitive to things that offend them. That’s just the way their socialisation is informed.

As soon as Ilanga was sold to a political party, readers dumped it.

Let’s wait and see. — Moneyweb.co.za


• Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine. He has also written for such publications as the Sunday Times, the World Paper in Boston and was employed by the New York Times Group in the United States between 1989 and 1991.


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