For the best part of 70 years, the Natal Witness, as it was called in those days, has been read in my home. I still have memories of both my parents fighting over it in the morning over a cup of tea. No day was ever begun without dipping into the daily rag.
I can’t say I recall actually reading The Witness until perhaps my late teens. It became a focus as I began to struggle with the issues of Nusas, Peter Hain, The Black Sash, Desmond Tutu and Basil D’Oliviera. The ‘Witless’ as we fondly called it played a very important role in our debate as young whites. I still remember the glee when the Rag Mag was banned for showing a sketch of John Vorster looking into a toilet. “Any new ideas? was the caption. The Witness made a meal of it. Without newspapers like The Witness there would never have been a new South Africa, freed from the shackles of the National Party.
And so the years passed, years overseas cut off from our favourite rag, the low years about a decade ago when The Witness was unable to assure readers that their favourite newspaper would be delivered, and during which the content suffered too; and the move to News24 which gave us access to a raft of incisive columnists.
Always there were local writers who would write wonderful stories like our own Village Vet, Jason Londt and his flies, and Sally Johnstone and her birds. Books, theatre, sports and so much more.
The change to reading The Witness online was seamless.
It’s delivered on time, in a format that is user friendly and while I still love a real book in hand, I’ve let go of the print edition of The Witness with ease.
Access to back editions is wonderful.
A real shock came when I was invited to a virtual meeting of about 20 business people in Maritzburg recently. Introduced as the blogger behind Our Green Home, I suddenly thought to ask how many had read my column?
Not one. And how many subscribed to The Witness? Not one.
Those non-delivery years really hurt The Witness and regaining that lost readership must surely be one of the imperatives of management.
I am absolutely convinced that without The Witness calling the local municipality to account, our dear city today would be little more than a Jika Joe.
I know money is tight, but I would suggest that all citizens of the city who can afford it have a responsibility to subscribe to our paper, and contribute to the debate, before the inner city decay reaches into every suburb, and the lights go permanently off.
Another 10 years of this council and we will certainly have reached the status of a failed city; perhaps two years. We will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Without The Witness there will never be a South Africa freed from apartheid, and now from the shackles of the ANC either. Politicians in general suck, just look at the United States, with a few exceptions to prove the rule.
Viva, The Witness! Viva!