INDABA Newsletter | August 2015

Networking at its best!

Thank you very much to the Competition Commission for hosting a very successful press club networking forum at the beautiful Alpine Attitude on 29 July. This was probably the best mid-winter networking forum we’ve ever had!

Congratulations to Ellekia Dire, a freelance journalist and press club member based in Rustenburg, on winning the main raffle prize, courtesy of the Competition Commission. Ellekia won an all-expenses paid trip to Durban for the 4th BRICS International Competition Conference from 10 to 13 November 2015. Other prizes included R500 shopping vouchers at Brooklyn Mall.

Members should watch out for information on future networking forums on e-mail. They are worth attending!

Ellekia Dire (centre) was the winner of the main raffle prize in July – a trip to the BRICS International Competition Conference in Durban.

Eritrea has least press freedom

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has rated Eritrea as the most repressive country in the world for press freedom and censorship. Coincidentally, it also has the lowest level of internet usage in the world – with mobile technology blocked by government.

When one considers countries with some of the worst press conditions globally, the predictable propaganda from North Korean broadcasters or the Salafist intolerance to religious debate in Saudi Arabia come to mind, so do China and Zimbabwe. Few, however, look to the small, relatively new African country Eritrea, as the most repressive.

But an annual report “Attacks on the Press” conducted by the press freedom group, the CPJ, rates Eritrea the worst in the world, trumping other authoritarian regimes such as China or Azerbaijan due to the government’s blanket censorship on critical reporting and extremely repressive tactics used to silence the press.

No independent press is allowed to operate and the last accredited foreign journalist, Agence-France Presse correspondent Peter Martell, was expelled in 2007. The last private media outlets were banned in September 2001 during a massive crackdown on the press and senior political dissidents, jailing at least ten journalists without due process.

Fesmdia- Africa

Caxton Magazines continues to innovate with Bona Man

Barely two months after it launched its television programme Bona Mo, Caxton Magazines has launched Bona Man – another milestone.

Initially published as a quarterly companion to Bona, with updated, regular content appearing on Man is a natural progression of the most-read glossy magazine in the country, says editor Linda Mali.

“The heritage of Bona is that it also had a 50/50 male-to-female readership,” says Mali. “Then over the years, content skewed more towards the female demographic. So for us it wasn’t a stretch to reintroduce male content in a male-specific title.”

As far as this content is concerned, Mali was insistent that it be generated by men to remain authentic while at the same time adhering to the Bona brand pillars of celebrity, food, fashion, health, relationships and family and careers and entrepreneurship.

Bona Man will be published again with the December 2015 issue of Bona.

Percy Qoboza memorial lecture – 19 October

The fifth Percy Qoboza memorial lecture will be held on the morning of Monday, 19 October 2014 at Unisa.

In 1977 Percy Qoboza was the editor of The World.

Arranged annually by the National Press Club in partnership with Unisa, the lecture commemorates ‘Black Wednesday’ – 19 October 1977 – the day the apartheid regime declared illegal 19 Black Consciousness organisations, banned two newspapers and detained scores of activists.

The World newspaper editor Percy Qoboza and other journalists were subsequently arrested and jailed.

This day is now also marked as National Press Freedom Day.

Members will receive particulars of the memorial lecture soon.

Are you a credible spokesperson?

by Marion Scher

Not a day goes by in South Africa when we don’t hear from one government or corporate spokesperson or another. Whether it’s the Office of the President defending one or another of his gaffes or a union official explaining how his members, who wreaked havoc on a city’s streets were protesting peacefully, we generally shrug our shoulders and say ‘really…?’

Then we have our police spokespeople and when I say spokespeople perhaps I should say unspokespeople (see that, I just invented a new word). You only have to look at the appalling case of Mido Macia, the Mozambican taxi driver who died in police custody after being dragged through the streets of Daveyton in Gauteng, handcuffed to a police van in February 2013. The following April the statement came that its officers were not responsible for the man’s death. And this was said with some arrogance.

Marion Scher is an award-winning journalist and a judge in the annual National Press Club – North-West University Journalist of the Year competition.

Today there is irrefutable evidence pointing to the contrary and Macia’s family has also lodged a civil claim for R6.5m. Above all, this arrogance and dismissiveness from our public servants has once again driven a wedge between the police service and the public whom it serves.

The same goes for corporate South Africa. Remember a spokesperson doesn’t always have to be the CEO. Look around your company and find the person who meets the criteria below. I’ve often been called in to companies to train their top executives to speak to the media, only to find someone on a lower level is the better spokesperson.

A good example of this was the chief financial officer of a government organisation who was about to announce their wonderful annual financial results of which she was very proud. The only problem was that this particular organisation was one that the South African public felt highly ripped off by (and for good reason). She’d never faced the media before but as she was the CFO they felt she should be the one to deliver these results.

We put her on camera and asked the simple question ‘How can she justify them showing such a huge profit when we’re paying so much for their particular service – way above world rates in this area?’ Her response was to get angry about the question and go into defence mode. Needless to say the organisation didn’t use her but rather their CEO who was able to handle the situation really well and diplomatically.

So what should a good spokesperson do?

  • Firstly they should have answers. And yes, I know when a crisis happens these often take some time to find, but then ask the media respectfully to give you a half hour, an hour, to find more information – assuring them you’ll get back to them quickly.
  • Give answers. If you genuinely have these and don’t give them that’s organisational suicide. Because if you don’t give the media the answers they’ll find them out themselves.
  • Be able to talk honestly and openly – and be understandable. I’ve never worked out why organisations would choose someone who is not easily understood, and here I’m not talking about whether the person has English as a first language, but rather whether they come across clearly and believably.
  • Don’t spin the story. Tell the truth – and tell it fast. Again if you don’t, someone else will – with often dire results.
  • Don’t be defensive. That automatically smacks of guilt.
  • Stay calm – even when the temperature gets hot and tempers flared.
  • Talk from the heart – don’t sound rehearsed. Even though I do recommend rehearsing.
  • Don’t be frightened to show emotion – if the scenario is an emotional one. This just makes you appear human and not simply a mouthpiece.
  • Don’t try and justify the outrageous – such as a swimming pool disguised as a fire pool…
  • If your organisation has stuffed up admit it and tell people what you’re doing to make sure it won’t ever happen again.

Remember these stories of dishonesty leave a very deep stamp on the name of your organisation.

News briefings in the offing

On Monday, 17 August the National Press Club will host the World Bank news briefing where the 7th South Africa Economic Update on the implications of South Africa’s changing demographic profile on growth and employment needs in the country will be released.

The report discusses how the country’s demographics have evolved and what, if any, impact the demographic transition has had on South Africa’s historical economic performance.

Are we heading for ‘water-shedding’?

Given that water is a critical resource for human life and equally for the national economy and South Africa’s international relations, the Minister of Water and Sanitation will discuss the state of water resources, water security in the country and concerns regards ‘water-shedding’ at a National Press Club news briefing soon.

Watch this space, we will keep you posted.

Thank you for paying membership fees

Thank you to those press club members who have paid their membership fees for 2015.

However, despite numerous reminders, a number of members have not yet paid their fees and have now been removed from the membership list.

Membership fees are R250 for full members, R400 for associate members and R120 for student members.

Members are requested to use their surname as reference when payment is done, so that it can be picked up easily by the secretariat.

Contact the secretariat on if you are unsure about your payment status.


Please send any news, suggestions or information for this newsletter to Martin van Niekerk at the secretariat on, 082 257 0305. Website | Facebook | Twitter