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He Touched My Life

Muthundinne George Phadagi

This past month we laid to rest the mortal remains of George Muthundinne Phadagi. He died after a short illness. At the time of his death, Phadagi had been appointed a Special Advisor to Limpopo Premier, Mr Cassel Mathale.

Before his appointment as Special Advisor to the Premier, Phadagi had been MEC for Safety, Security and Liaison after his “redeployment” from the Public Works portfolio. He had come into the Limpopo Executive Council via his appointment as the MEC for Public Works in 1999.

Soon after his appointment as MEC for Public Works, he called for me to work in his support office.

The call was on the strength of our longstanding relationship and my knowledge and experience in the realm of media and communications. I didn’t wait for a second invitation before I could take the offer.

I went thorugh all the due processes until my appointment four months after his.

My duties as the Media Liaison Officer went way beyond the the job purpose, to render media liaison services for the MEC.  It also entailed writing speeches for him and accompanying him on official duties.

Outside the realm of work, Oom George as I called him revived his newspaper, The Valley Messenger. He made me a key editorial player responsible for the coverage of the acrimonious politics of the ANC in the province. Over time the newspaper gained acceptance from the people of Limpopo and became their reliable and credible medium for news on the ANC and government.

Added to my specialist editorial responsiblities I had a weekly column which sought to have the province talking by raising topical issues of the day. There were also infrequent reviews of interesting books which were relevant to the readers of the newspapers and the people of the province in general.

Through the paper I was forced to produce editorial copy weekly and also had to read extensively. An amount of discipline was imposed on me to be able to juggle with my day job, the newspaper and still be able to sample the Polokwane evening life and home in Tzaneen over my rare free weekends.

Most importantly the newspaper gave me a weekly platform to hone my writing skills. Over time I could see my writing developing wings to soar as high as it could.

It is in my reading and writing that I’ll forever be indebted to the late Oom George. As I read and write memories of him come flooding back. I expect to hear his soft voice lazily taking me through an angle he wished a particular story to take.

At the time of his passing away I was becoming more involved in shaping the future direction of the newspaper. We had shared many ideas on how to grow its circulation.

Then death struck. He is no more. Sadly, the newspaper is gone too, sacrificed by family strife.

Here am I though – the embodiment of his love for the word. In me the word leaves on.

 

 

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ANC Brooks No Dissent

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

manuelmhThere is little publicised fact about the ruling African National Congress – intolerance of dissenting voices which throws the party in the same league of the National party of our apartheid days.

This little publicised fact came back to mind when I read of the party reporting the City Press and Sunday Times newspapers to the Press Ombudsman for “publishing articles that illustrate the abuse of press freedom.’

The crimes of the two newspapers being to dare highlight the troubles playing themselves out within the leading organs of the ruling party – this  really has nothing to do at all with a journalism that reports truthfully, accurately and fairly.

What has today become the ANC`s defining charecter of intolerance goes as far back as the founding of Robert Sobukwe`s Pan Africanist Congress.

During its earlier days the PAC gave big brother ANC a run for its money by upstaging it at any given opportunity starting with Sharpeville and Langa.

In exile the ANC did all it could to project itself as the sole and authentic voice of the South African struggle for liberation. So successful was the ANC in this regard that the gullible international community came to equate the party with the freedom struggle. Neither did Steve Biko`s Black Conciousness Movement escape the mighty wrath and intolerance of the ANC who cast the former as agents of Western imperialism.

Internal struggle initiatives such as June 16, UDF, COSATU, and SADTU were passed as the grand work of the then exiled ANC. This arrogance and intolerance carried the ANC through the negotiations that gifted us 1994.

During Thabo Mbeki`s tenure as president dissent, internal and external was not tolerated. Whatever little room for healthy dissent which survived then disappeared in the wake of the watershed 2007 Polokwane conference which also passed a resolution declaring the ANC`s intention to form a media appeals tribunal to obviously manage and manipulate media content.

Then came president Jacob Zuma`s world famous lawsuits against the media.

It now remains to be seen what awaits the country beyond the ANC leadership`s sabre-rattling, lawsuits and complaints to the Ombudsman.