Mcebo Dlamini: Media continues to benefit the ruling class

The writer questions the role of the media and more specifically that of the black journalist in post-apartheid South Africa. (iStock)
The writer questions the role of the media and more specifically that of the black journalist in post-apartheid South Africa. (iStock)

So the true battle here is the battle around which narratives become dominant and which narratives are stifled. In such circumstances what becomes the role of a journalist, more pointedly a black journalist, writes Mcebo Dlamini

Perhaps we need to go back to history because there is no better teacher.

During apartheid, censorship was one of the main strategies used by the oppressive regime to silence the aspirations and desires of the people. All information had to be audited before it could be consumed by the people. This was because the apartheid government knew very well that controlling the minds of the people would sustain the unjust and violent rule over them.

This led to the banning and censoring of certain material and close control over it. When this happened people found guerrilla ways of disseminating censored information, the people found ways to get access to information; the writers, artists and journalists found a way to get the information to the people.

I give this little bit of history following the eNCA saga of a journalist that was dismissed and he then charged the media house particularly Kanthan Pillay with racism and censorship.

READ: eNCA had a 'culture of fear' - Samkele Maseko

This is not particularly surprising because main media always functions to benefit the ruling class. It is Karl Marx who teaches us this and he continues to teach us that propaganda, if not managed, can turn into truth.

In South Africa there is no confusion whatsoever about who the ruling class is, those who control the economy are a minority. That is the ruling class, white people.

So the true battle here is the battle around which narratives become dominant and which narratives are stifled. In such circumstances what becomes the role of a journalist, more pointedly a black journalist.

Much has been said and it has been proven that the conditions of South Africa have not changed much since the "end" of apartheid.

The hierarchies remain the same, poverty is stark and economic scales are tilted to one side. What then should black journalists who are affected by these realities do? Do they allow themselves to be dictated by editors and execs or do they emulate the Drum generation and speak the truth and report the real experience of South Africa?

These questions are important because journalists are not just puppets but a very necessary part of civil society. It is therefore important that they unite on the basis of their oppression. It is necessary that they think seriously about how they form their own institutions where they will not be dictated to by bosses who serve particular interests.

My take is that we have seen that assimilation into white spaces does very little to serve the interests of our people. Quite honestly it puts us in a position where we work against them. How then do we change this?

Do we stop bowing and complaining about how much racism and ill-treatment we have to endure in these spaces?

We fight back but also we must reimagine our existence outside of them.

- Dlamini is a former chairperson of the Wits SRC. He writes in his personal capacity.

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