Category Archives: Mawande Jack

Comments at the Memorial Service for the Late Comrade Mawande Jack

Comments at the Memorial Service for the Late Comrade Mawande Jack

by Ayanda Kota

Mawande Jack was a lifelong Pan-Africanist. He never abandoned his ideals. And he never looked anywhere else other than the struggles of the people, the struggles of the poor, to realise his ideals.

He was a journalist. The media is one of the most important fields in the battle of ideas. Mawande was always willing to take a position in the media. He fought many battles in the newsrooms. He was always willing to work with poor people’s movements and struggles and he was always willing to fight to give them space in the media. He worked for The Herald and was dismissed because of his political commitments. He then joined The New Age and had to resign due to the political pressure he confronted at work. This is the price that many of our comrades have paid for their activism.

Mawande was not one of those journalists who thought that the struggle ended in 1994. He never accepted the idea that freedom has arrived in 1994. He was well aware that the struggle for freedom continues.

Today the media is under attack from the ANC. The Jacob Zuma presidency has resulted in a clear shift towards a more authoritarian state. The movements of the people were the first to face repression. Then it was the turn of the media and then the judiciary. Today there is a full-fledged assault on the media. In Port Elizabeth Nceba Faku threatened to burn down the Daily Dispatch. In Durban Zuma supporters burnt copies of the City Press. And Blade Nzimande has called people who write political analysis in the media ‘dogs’. Journalists have been spied on, arrested, threatened and intimidated. And then of course there is the Secrecy Bill.

We all know why the media is under attack by Zuma’s ANC. It is because the media are reporting on the rebellion of the poor and exposing corruption. They media are showing that the emperor is naked and Zuma’s ANC can’t accept this truth

Like Mawande we know that the media is far from perfect. But like Mawande we see the solution as the democratisation of the media. We see the solution in more media diversity. We see the solution in putting the media in the hands of people on the ground. Like Mawande we oppose all forms of censorship and attempts by the ruling party to restrict the media in the interests of the predatory elite. And like Mawande we do not see the struggle for a free and democratic media as a middle class struggle. We remain convinced that it is the poor and the oppressed who have the most to lose from a media that is brought under the control of the ruling party. The struggle for the freedom of the media must be rooted in the struggles of the people.

I am sad to see that the media are not present at the memorial service tonight. If this service was for someone of Mawande’s stature in the ruling party there would be media everywhere and tributes everywhere. But it is only the nationalist and Stalinist traditions that are remembered in South Africa. The black consciousness, Pan-Africanist and Trotskyist traditions are forgotten. There is only one official story of our struggle and it does not have room for all the traditions of struggle. Even in that single story the political work of ordinary people in trade unions, churches and community organisations is downplayed. That single story is the story of the great leaders that came to liberate the people when in fact the truth is that we, organised in many formations, and thinking in many traditions, liberated ourselves.

Journalists that fight battles in the newsrooms to win space for poor people’s struggles are our comrades. Journalists that tell the truth about our repression are our comrades. Journalists who measure progress by the lives of the people and not the statements of the politicians are our comrades. Mawande Jack was our comrade.

Lala Kahle Qawe.