Mathatha Tsedu: Honouring Genius, Moral Integrity

2017-03-11 05:02

The SABC is a bankrupt idea currently. It is an entity that has lost its way that the thought of it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. As bleak as SABC situation appears, as forlorn as the landscape is, it has never lost its capacity for renaissance. The SABC is both an organization in dire straits and an edifice on the cusp of achieving its dreams for genuine public service for all.

The newly nominated members of the SABC Board have the integrity, moral and technical capital to rebuild the fallen and crashed structure. The new Board should be prepared for a long menu of complex challenges.They will have to bring the whole system down completely, destroy it, crush the whole thing, and then start to rebuild.

Mathata Tsedu: Decorum, integrity, dedication, principle, dream and determination.

Of all the Parliament nominated personalities to serve on the SABC Board, Mathatha Tsedu is very special in that his nomination is bipartisan. He was nominated by EFF and fully supported by the ANC. This fact is assuring in itself. SABC has been so much abused politically that political news were designed to serve as ANC war room - demolish and destroy other political parties, so that the notion of one party state is entrenched.

Beyond that Mathatha Tsedu is a lion and a colossusof rocky integrity. He is the icon of professionalism, decorum, integrity, dedication, principle, dream and determination.

Mathatha Tsedu’s dedication to integrity and morality is unbroken over a period of many years of hardship and suffering.

During Apartheid he was banned from working as a journalist for three years in terms of Section 9(1) and Section 10(1) of the Internal Security Act. The reason of the banning was because he was corrupting the minds of Black people.  At the end of the term of his ban, he was banned again, this time around brutally tortured by the police. And was told to stay and remain only in Seshego in Polokwane.

When the national newspaper City Press once hit a deep moral crisis it was the moral integrity of Mathata Tsedu that brought the worthy national newspaper to life through his vast personal weight and character.

Those unaware, that time City Press had lost all integrity. For over a period it had been publishing a series of fake news. The fake news shook the country to its very core. And President Thabo Mbeki established the Hefer Commission. During the Hefer Commission, the person who was in charge of publishing the fake news (the Editor) admitted to recklessness and moral lapses. With that the newspaper was bruised and brutalized.

Mathatha Tsedu was brought in to be in charge and in control. With one swoop he gave the newspaper the necessary integrity and moral compass. And today City Press is thriving even more powerful.

And so this time around Mathatha Tsedu is called upon to save the SABC, an entity bereft of a spirit lifting narrative, a news corporation that is ill-formed and malformed - a compounded morass, an object of mockery. The SABC as it is currently, is nothing short of bizarre and shameful. It has become a fake news factory.  There was a time when the SABC openly and proudly refused to show videos of the reality on the ground, thus projecting a false reality to the viewers. SABC was turned this way by mediocrities who thumped their chests with vulgar displays of power.

Mathatha Tsedu is not a weakling. He is up to the task. In 1995 through his highly influential powerful column Black Eyes in the Sowetan Newspaper Mathatha Tsedu mounted a serious campaign attacking Nelson Mandela for drinking tea and eating biscuits with Betsie Verwoerd, the wife of former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd. Nelson Mandela and Betsie Verwoerd spend almost an hour together drinking tea and eating biscuits.

That time Mathatha Tsedu was political editor of Sowetan and Aggrey Klaaste was editor. Both these two carried the aspirations of the millions of African people. At Sowetan Mathata Tsedu started as Bureau Chief based in Seshego in Polokwane, from then was investigative editor and then political editor. Those were the times when Sowetan was a powerful force. And Mathatha Tsedu's Black Eyes column was the centerpiece of the power.

Overall, Mathatha Tsedu is a loving person - and appreciates all people from all races. The attack on Mandela was based on principle, here are Black people still reeling in deep pain from Apartheid and Nelson Mandela is seeking to open wide those wounds by sitting down with the wife of one of the notorious figures of Apartheid machinery. Hendrick Verwoerd is the father of Apartheid, the source of all the pain and suffering for Black people in South Africa. That was the lens that Mathatha Tsedu looked at the whole scene. Nelson Mandela had the other lens.  And in that clash of views our lives are enriched. It is the nature of democracy. The market place of ideas allows all ideas of worth.

When Mathatha Tsedu was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the University of the Western Cape, in his acceptance speech he contextualised Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise to his life.

For those who are not familiar with Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise here is one passage from it:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

The lines above fits well with the life of Mathatha Tsedu. The apartheid government did not want him to practice journalism. But today he is the embodiment and a father figure of journalism in the country. He prevailed.

Maya Angelou continues in the poem, and she says:

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

(Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems).

Mathatha Tsedu currently lives in Venda (Vhembe), Limpopo where his wife has been a dedicated school teacher for many years. But because of the call of national duties he finds himself many times in Gauteng.

In the end the last word belongs, not to the greedy people with fetish sheer accumulation of wealth, but to men and women of honour and integrity who labour every day to making the world a more beautiful place.

Mathatha Tsedu's life is what Michael Jackson says:

Heal the world

Make it a better place

For you and for me

And the entire human race.

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