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A big up to the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards for awarding the 2014 “Columns/Editorial” category to Cape Times op-ed editor Tony Weaver at last night’s ceremony in Johannesburg. Weaver’s three winning columns followed the shifting of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois last year and the row that followed. For his Friday columns to deal directly with this controversy was both courageous and insightful. Sikuvile organisers, the PDMSA, have kindly given Grubstreet permission to publish Weaver’s motivation for his entry. Links to his three columns are at the bottom.
On December 7, 2013, the editor of the Cape Times, Alide Dasnois, was summarily removed from her post by the new owner of Independent Newspapers, Dr Iqbal Surve. This removal set into motion an extraordinary assault on the remaining leadership of the Cape Times and of Independent Newspapers in Cape Town by a motley crew of either previously unheard of defenders of press freedom or commentators with dubious recent histories.
What unfolded was an unprecedented public debate in the Oped pages of the Cape Times which saw, inter alia, Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, pitted against ANC Western Cape general secretary, Songezo Mjongile, in which Manuel said that Mjongile – who wrote that the the Cape Times was a “neo-liberal fascist” newspaper – had made statements that were “not in my name”.
These three columns were my response to the assault on the reputation of the Cape Times and its leadership, and, I believe, a major intervention in a key press freedom turning point for the print media in South Africa.
The first column in this series was a straight account of what happened at the Cape Times the night Nelson Mandela died: it was a column that went viral, trended on Twitter after being posted there by Twitterati more tech-savvy than me, was quoted in major newspapers around the world, was quoted extensively on the Index on Censorship website, and was, unusually, printed in full, in English, in Die Burger, Cape Town’s Afrikaans morning newspaper.
The second two columns were responses to Opeds run in the Cape Times which were malicious, inaccurate and slanderous, and to which I, as Opinion Page Editor objected strongly to being run.
In short, all three columns were my way of putting the record straight about a chain of events at the Cape Times which I believe will go down as a turning point in South Africa’s print journalism history and which deserve further study at our major schools of journalism.
Here are Weaver’s three columns:
20 December 2013: Why Pastor Wesley Douglas wants to end Man Friday… or not
27 December 2013: What Ronnie Morris would have said about Zenzile Khoisan’s article
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