Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 19 1977 recallled - a day when the media in South Africa was crushed

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

At a time when most journalists in South Africa are expressing their serious concerns about the moves by the new rulers to introduce measures to get the media to "toe the line", it is appropriate to recall the day 34 years ago today (October 19 177) when the former apartheid regime carried out the biggest and most extensive crackdown against the Freedom of the Press.
October 19 1977 was the darkest day in the history of journalism in the country when the main black newspapers, World and Weekend World, were banned and ordered to cease publication along with Pro Veritate, a publication of the Christian Institute; and when editors and journalists were either banned, detained or interrogated and had their homes and offices raided and searched.
The action against the media, ordered by the infamous Minister of Justice, Mr Jimmy Kruger, was carried out in conjunction with the banning of 18 anti-apartheid interest groups, civic, student, religious and media organisations; and banning and detention of their leaders and officials. Mr Kruger and the State President at that time, Dr Nico Diederichs, signed the banning proclamations.
With the stroke of a pen, the state had removed two newspapers that had played a crucial role in keeping the people informed.
Mr Kruger just over a month earlier had described black consciousness leader, Steve Biko's death in detention, as "It leaves me cold".
The notorious security police or "special branch" of the time carried out systematic raids against journalists, newspaper offices and other publications in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and other cities and towns around the country.
In Johannesburg, security policemen arrested Mr Percy Qoboza, Editor of the World and Weekend World, at his offices at about mid-day, only a few minutes before he was due to hold a media briefing about the banning of his newspapers. He was taken to the then John Vorster Square police headquarters. Mr Qoboza was subequently issued with a five-year banning order. His deputy and news editor, Aggrey Klaaste, was also detained and locked up.
The Editor of Pro Veritate, Mr Cedric Maysom, was also detained and issued with a banning and restriction order.
The security police in Johannesburg also carried out raids and searches at the homes and offices of other journalists and organisations, such as the Union of Black Journalists(UBJ), which was one of the 18 organisations banned. They also arrested and detained a number of journalists, including Mr Joe Thloloe, who is today the Press Ombudsman.
In East London, the security police raided the offices of the Daily Dispatch and served its editor, Mr Donald Woods, with a five-year banning order; and searched the homes of some of his reporters, including Miss Thenjiwe Mntintso, who later skipped the country to go into exile because of harrassment and intimidation.
In Durban, the security police raided and searched the homes of Mr Dennis Pather, who later became editor of the Daily News and the Sunday Tribune; and this correspondent. They confiscated papers and documents from this correspondent's desk at the Daily News.
When representations were subsequently made to Mr Kruger for the release of the detained journalists, he unapologetically responded by saying that the detentions were not meant to intimidate the Press and that his Government had good reasons to detain the journalists.
The clampdown against the media on October 19 1977 had a ironic twist two weeks later when it was reported that the Government was planning to print postage stamps to celebrate 150 years of Press Freedom in South Africa.
A Durban lawyer who was national chairman of the then Progressive Federal Party, Ray Swart, launched a blistering attack against the National Party Government for talking of Press Freedom at a time when it was conducting one of the most ruthless campaigns to suppress the media.
In an interview on October 28 1977, Mr Swart, a strong critic of the apartheid regime, told this correspondent in a report that was published in the Daily News that he was impressed that the Government should want to commemmorate Press Freedom but he would be more impressed if it gave greater indication of what it considered Press freedom to be.
He had said: "It seems strange that they intend doing this after having just banned three newspapers, incarcerated one editor and banned another. I find it difficult to reconcile the actions of the Government. I suggest the stamps they intend issuing to commemmorate Press freedom should have the faces of Mr Qoboza and Mr Woods."
Of course the Government of the day did not take up Mr Swart's recommendation and despite his, the country and world-wide condemnations of the action against the newspapers, editors and journalists, the state continued with its clampdown and suppression of the media much more forecfully. But despite some of the most stringent regulations and harrassment and intimidation of media practitioners over the next 13 years, most journalists never gave up and used October 19 to continue with the struggles for Press Freedom.
They realised their dream of Press Freedom when the ANC and other organisations were unbanned and when Mr Nelson Mandela and other leaders were released in February 1990.
Now, nearly 21 years later after enjoying true Press Freedom, our country is facing the prospect of new measures being introduced to force the media to become "pliant" and to "follow the politician".
The memory of October 19 1977 should ensure that we don't allow ourselves to follow the "Yaa Baas" route.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rich Indian culture and music promoted in South Africa

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

The importance of retaining and promoting the cultures, traditions and languages of Indian-origin people was highlighted during the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Merebank Tamil School Society(MTSS) at the MTSS Hall over four days on October 7, 8, 9 and 10.
The society brought in a group of artists from India to promote the Tamil language and music.
Various speakers at the functions, including Mr Balan Gounden, chairperson of the MTSS, Mr Micky Chetty, president of the South African Tamil Federation, and Mr Bala Naidoo, president of the Tamil Federation of KwaZulu-Natal, paid glowing tributes to the MTSS for promoting and preserving the Tamil language, culture and music over the past 75 years.
Mr Gounden, in his address, pointed out that Tamil was a language that originated in the first century BC and that it was more than 5 000 years old.

Southside FM Radio

He disclosed at the end of his speech that a Tamil radio station, Southside FM Radio, will be launched soon and that all South Africans of Tamil and Telugu origins must support the radio station.
He said if everything went according to plam, Southside FM would be launched within six months.

Shri Siva Subramaniar Aalyam

A similar event promoting the Tamil language, culture, music and traditions was held at the historic Shri Siva Subramaniar Aalayam in Umdloti Drift, Verulam on Sunday, October 9.
Several cultural, musical and religious groups from all over Verulam rendered items that glorified the rich heritage brought to South Africa by Indian indentured sugar cane labourers more than 150 years ago. The organisations that participated included the SSS Aalayam Service, Verulam Kalay Khazagam, Saro Moodley Kalay Sangam, Tea Estate Service Group, Havenridge Service Group, and the Verulam Cultural Group.
Some of the items included an invocation dance by Miss Derosha Moodley, a member of Sivan Sabhay; the Gargam dance by Maliga Naidoo, Jayaranjani Govender and Saro Moodley; a tiny tots representation of Mother Sakthi, Mother Lutchmee and Mother Sarasvathi by Nikita Naicker, Keesha and Simran; a Peacock Dance; and a mother-daughter dialogue by seventy-eight-year-old Mrs Savandaly Rajgopal and Mrs Saro Moodley about the latest social decline in moral values.
One of the veterans of the SSS Aalyam, Mrs Krishnaneela Naidoo, provided outstanding musical support for the dancers and singers through the harmonium.

Professor Chandru Kisten

The chairman of the Shri Siva Subramariar Aalayam, Professor Chandru Kisten, told the gathering that it was the duty of all people, especially parents, cultural and musical organisations, to keep alive the rich heritage of "our ancestors".
"We have no alternative but to ensure that we continue to promote our cultures, languages and traditions," said Professor Kisten.
"Our rich cultures will help us to combat the social problems that our youth face today."

A renaissance of cultures, languages and traditions among Indian-origin people

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

Now that the political struggles for a free and democratic South Africa is over, there seems to be a revolution within the Indian-origin community to vigorously promote their cultures, languages, music and traditions.
This became apparent over the past few weeks when cultural and other organisations held special events to promote the rich cultural heritage and legacy of the ancestors of the Indian-origin people.
Hundreds of organisations in Verulam, Tongaat, Chakaskraal, other parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the country at large have emphasised through their functions the importance and beauty of Indian-origin cultures, traditions and languages in our multi-cultural society.

Professor Chandru Kisten

At a Saravathie celebration event in Verulam last Sunday, the president of the Shri Siva Subramaniar Aalyam in Verulam, Professor Chandru Kisten, praised South Africans of Indian-origin for passionately promoting "the rich cultures and languages of our ancestors".
He was of the view that the different communities must re-inculcate their cultural values in order to tackle the social problems that seriously affect many communities.
It is interesting to note that the rising increase in drug and alcohol abuse and other anti-social addiction are, according to Professor Kisten and other leaders, due directly to the people becoming besotten and mesmerised by negative values and influences.


It is, therefore, heartening to witness organisations and their members once again involved in aggressively promoting their cultures, traditions and languages. It appears to be some sort of a renaissance.
They realise that communities without their cultures, traditions and languages will become lost and sooner or later they will degenerate and destroy themselves.
The organisations and their members have nothing to be apologetic when propogating their different cultures because the new non-racial and democratic South Africa is a multi-cultural society. No one culture, tradition or language should claim to be superior or try to dominate in our new South Africa.

Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlall Nehru

In this regard, we should take note of what India's great freedom fighter and spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi, once said about the importance of one's culture in a multi-cultural society.
He said: "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any."
India's first Prime Minister at independence in 1947, Mr Jawaharlall Nehru, had this to say about the importance of one's culture:
"Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit." - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Venk-pac International Week of Aged launched in Verulam

By Marimuthu Subramoney
More than 1 000 people, mainly the elderly and the aged, enjoyed a day of fun and entertainment at the official launch of the Venk-pac International Week of the Aged in the V J Kara Hall at the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre on Sunday, October 2.
The elderly were brought to the centre in special buses from KwaMashu, Phoenix, Tongaat, Stanger, Verulan and surrounding areas.
The event, organised by the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre, was sponsored by Mr Ricky and Mrs Shamala Naidoo of the company, Venk-Pac.
The elderly were treated to song, dance, and drama by some senior citizens. The entertainment items included a "Senorita Dance" by members of the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre; a traditional Zulu dance by the Satellite Club; and a sugar cane cutter's dance sequence by Mr Ganas Sunny of Tongaat.
Some of the special guests who attended the occasion included Mr Sunny Subban, a former chairperson of the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre; and Mr Ken Rajoo, president of the Verulam Child and Family Welfare Society.

Public Protector
The guest of honour was the CEO in the office of the Public Protector, Mr Themba Mthethwa, who represented the Public Protector, Ms Thuli Madonsela.
In his speech, Mr Mthethwa praised the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre officials and the sponsors for their work in promoting the quality of life of the elderly and the aged.
"Without the goodwill of sponsors it would be very difficult to take care of all the needs of the elderly," said Mr Mthethwa.
He gave a detailed account of the work of the Public Protector and said the Public Protector was constituted to investigate all forms of maladminstration, abuse of power, abuse of state resources, and corruption in all state departments, and state entities such as Eskom, SABC, Telkom, Water Boards.

The Public Protector also had the power in terms of the constitution to investigate the conduct of the Executive, which included the President, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, and MECs.
Mr Mthethwa said the Public Protector tackled all forms of complaints, including concerns expressed by senior citizens regarding poor service delivery at the hands of organs of state.
"Recently, the Public Protector embarked on a two months stakeholder consultation road show, where she criss-crossed the country, interactiong with a lot of ordinary people, including older citizens.
"It is clear from these interactions that older persons still grapple with a lot of service delivery issues and others that are unique to you," he said.
He told the senior citizens that if they encountered poor service delivery, lack of proper conduct or corrupt practices at the hands of state organs, then they must lodge their complaints with the Public Protector.
"In the event that you do not get joy from these institutions, our office will be there to assist you.
"Our ultimate goal is to strengthen constitutional democracy by promoting good governance, adherence to human rights and respect for the rule of law. This will help us realise our ideal of an accountable state that operates with the highest level of integrity while being responsive to the needs of its entire people, including the children."
Mr Mthethwa warned that if South Africans failed to tackle corruption "then our children will leave the country because in a matter of time we would have depleted our resources".
"We have to ensure that our country becomes less corrupt. It's a joint effort both by the citizens and the state to ensure that we become less corrupt," said Mr Mthethwa.