Rampant unemployment, a lack of state support, corruption – after graduating as a journalist, the South African Wandile Fana decided to set up a newspaper to report on these social ills. On behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ is assisting the South African Government to improve its public services. As part of this mandate, it also promotes local media services like Fana’s Skawara News, which takes a critical stance.
My wife and I were still students when we decided to set up a newspaper. We never had a newspaper in our region before, let alone one with investigative articles in the local language isiXhosa. The tiny bit of start-up capital we had meant things were anything but easy. Our breakthrough only came about when someone donated a digital RISO printing machine: while in 2007 we started out with 2,000 copies a month, we can now print 20,000. And: black and white is a thing of the past – today our readers are treated to brightly coloured issues.
For me it’s important to keep abreast of the latest developments. That’s why I go out a lot and talk to all sorts of people. We have a few online platforms in action, like Facebook, where people discuss various issues and introduce new topics. I even sit in on a council meeting now and then and ask the mayor for his opinion on things. And last but not least, local may be ‘lekker’ – the Afrikaans term for ‘good’ – but people should look a bit further afield. That’s why I research national issues online. I am supported by my team – seven well trained and motivated journalists.
You need the standard mixture. People here are really interested in local politics, in discussions and decisions that affect them directly. But they enjoy the gossip column, too.
Our top seller was actually in our very first issue in 2007. We found out that our mayor was corrupt. Ultimately our reporting led to his resignation.
I would lead off with ‘Language is the very essence of a culture’. Regardless of whether we want to advance economically or at a personal level within the community, for me the most decisive thing is language.