“As I stand here today in this most memorable of the days of my life, I grapple with these questions in a fundamental way. Our country is in trouble, because the ANC has effectively been hijacked by various interest groups that use it to advance their own personal and group interests and not those of the people the ANC professes to serve.”
These were the sentiments of Mathatha Tsedu, Director of the South African National Editor’s Forum and former editor of the Sunday Times and City Press newspapers, when the University of the Western Cape (UWC) conferred an honorary doctorate on the media legend on Friday, 15 April 2016.
Tsedu is a gigantic figure in South African journalism. A Nieman fellow and Mondi Shanduka lifetime achiever, he was awarded the Print Media Fellowship at the Sikuvile Standard Bank Newspaper Journalism Awards for his outstanding contribution to the industry.
“For a while after 1994 it seemed in those heady days of the rainbow nation that maybe, just maybe, the country could just crack it right,” Tsedu noted. “But look where we are today! We are led by a President who is accused by his own senior members of mortgaging the state to a select few friends who are then milking it for their own and his family’s benefit.”
The Limpopo-born Tsedu called on the new UWC graduates to help rescue the country from those who are destroying it for their own benefits. “This is the only country we have. We must make it work. We cannot allow some people, no matter who they may claim to be or to represent, to mess up the only home we know and have.”
This respected journalist, known for his fearless integrity in reporting and dynamic role in ensuring press freedom in South Africa, says he became a journalist by accident. He wanted to be a doctor (he was good at Maths and Science), but found satisfaction in doing something he truly enjoyed and got fulfilment from.
This has been evident in the selfless manner in which he has conducted his work – from defying the apartheid regime’s torture to making the voices of the voiceless heard, and doing to great effect that has resulted in him climbing the ladder of journalism and holding a number of top media positions.
Tsedu thanked UWC for the honour. “My matriculation was only possible through a bursary, but I could see that the dream of being a medical doctor was a dream and bridge too far.
I say all this to make the point that it has to be a miracle of history that I, coming from a past rooted in pain and history’s shame, rise to stand here today in a blue robe, being honoured in this most venerable way. Thank you for this.”