200 Young South Africans: Media

In this section: Redi Direko; Nikiwe Bikitsha; Moshoeshoe Monare; Piet Rampedi and more…

Mandy Weiner

Reporter: Primedia

If Mandy Weiner is observing history from a front-row seat it’s because she’s worked hard to get there. From humble beginnings as a traffic widget, when traffic lights were her main source of inspiration, she has progressed to reporting on everything from the tragic death of toddlers Khensani Mitileni and Makgabo Matlala to the rise of President Jacob Zuma and the downfall of Jackie Selebi. And when US President Barack Obama delivered his moving acceptance speech, Weiner was there.

She’s on call 24/7 and never misses an opportunity to break a story, because that’s what it takes to be named 2007 CNN African Journalist of the Year for radio. But it also takes pride in your job and country, both of which drive Weiner to hold lawmakers and leaders accountable for their actions. There’s little doubt that this girl from Polokwane has earned her title, “Mandy Weiner, Eyewitness News “. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Nonna Mia’s, Senderwood, Johannesburg

Nicky Greenwall

Producer and Host: The Showbiz Report, e.tv

Nicky Greenwall is almost unaware of her own precociousness. “It took me a long time to figure out what I really wanted,” she says of her career. “When I was about 21 I decided that I wasn’t really living up to my full potential.” Ten years later, she has her own production company and is one of South Africa’s top entertainment journalists.

Greenwall started her career in advertising after studying art direction at the Red and Yellow School of Advertising.

And though she’d worked for some of the country’s top agencies, including TBWA Hunt Lascaris and Jupiter Drawing Room, she soon realised advertising wasn’t for her. “I wasn’t very good at advertising. I knew that and it scared me,” she says. “I’d got the job I wanted but I still wasn’t fulfilled. It took me about two years to get myself out of my creative rut so I could start making changes to my attitude.”

At 23 she approached e.tv with an idea about how to improve their entertainment coverage. “My pitch was focused on how I could help them get more viewers,” says Greenwall.

It’s this self-belief that got her where she is today. The TV network hired her as the arts anchor for eNews Live. A few months later she began hosting the late-night entertainment show, Nightlife.

Ever the self-starter, it wasn’t long before she began working on a proposal for an entertainment news programme. The Showbiz Report, which she writes, produces and hosts, has now been running for five years and attracts more than 1,5-million viewers each week.

Over the years she’s covered both the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival and has interviewed stars as diverse as Anthony Hopkins and Steven Seagal.

Last year she launched her own production company, Greenwall Productions, which is currently producing The Showbiz Report, The Tech Report and The Style Report for the eNews channel. — Faranaaz Parker

Lunch spot: Vida e Caffé, Gardens, Cape Town

Nadine Hutton


Nadine Hutton has been a photojournalist for 13 years. Now her work has expanded to include film, fine art and performance. She rejects a cold, objective approach to images.

“As a photojournalist my interest is directed towards in-depth documentation of stories that may not necessarily seem newsworthy,” she says.

“I tell stories, narratives that are a neglected part of the process of the past decade and which have important implications for the understanding of South Africa.” Much of her work is concerned with social issues, which include the rights of women and the dispossessed and “those whose voices are rarely heard above the furore”

This personal approach was apparent in 2006 when she documented her own mother’s story as a survivor of gender violence and won a Ruth First scholarship.

Since then, she has been a finalist at Spier Contemporary, and has been selected to be artist-inresidence at The Bag Factory. Recent projects include work relating to the World Summit on Arts and Culture and facilitating a video art workshop aimed at artists who have little experience of digital media.– Lisa van Wyk

Lunch spot: Sophiatown, Newtown, Johannesburg

Azad Essa


Blogger Azad Essa has changed his mind. Having declared in 2009 in the Mail& Guardian‘s Young South Africans supplement that he “didn’t like blogging” , Essa now says that’s so last year. Mostly because his blog started taking off right after that.

The Thought Leader blogger says he has begun to respect blogging for the exposure it has given to his writing. But he’s quick to clarify that it’s not his destiny.

When he isn’t blogging, Essa teaches in the industrial sociology department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

He’s also a freelance journalist and a columnist for a variety of local and international publications.

But it’s his blogging that keeps his readers in constant touch with what’s happening in the world — and the politics around it all. That’s where Essa takes on issues around such politicians as ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who, he says, is the representation of the young black generation searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or where he pontificates on his expectations of the World Cup, lashing out at Zakumi as well as at the injustices meted out to traders, street children and prostitutes (he personally cannot wait for the World Cup to come and “fuck us over”).

And that’s why his readers love him — and what keeps him ranked as one of the top bloggers in the country. — Valencia Talane

Lunch spot: Pizza and coffee anywhere but Caminettos, Durban (Note: Last year his choice was Caminettos, but he says their standards have dropped to such levels that he feels he must denounce them in the interests of the public good)

Khaya Dlanga


Khaya Dlanga is a gifted communicator with a short attention span.

When he’s not pitching solution-driven strategies for Metropolitan Republic, this 32-year-old creative is blogging opinions on Thought Leader, crafting a column for News24 or tweeting over 35 thoughts a day. Give or take.

It wasn’t long ago that he was catching a taxi from his hometown outside East London to Cape Town to attend the AAA advertising college, although he hadn’t actually registered for the course. A few “creative” lies later and he was in, studying art direction by day, waiting tables by night and juggling financial difficulties and homelessness in between.

It must have been good material for his stand-up comedy and perhaps even fuelled the video blogs that gained him an international following on YouTube.

Today Dlanga is the one laughing, with a Gold Cannes, a Black Eagle and a few other precious metals to his name and a cult following across the social media space. Tweet that. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Tasha’s Cafe, Atholl Square, Sandton

Phillip de Wet

Deputy Editor: The Daily Maverick

If you don’t get Phillip de Wet’s First Thing, you might as well just get your news by post. De Wet, deputy editor of The Daily Maverick, South Africa’s revolutionary news website, sends out his newsletter by 6:30 am — which means he’s up way before the rest of his readers. Who, by the way, include the country’s top journalists and decision-makers.

In a few hundred of the best-crafted news words you’ll read each day, De Wet will brief you on everything from which minister will be speaking on what and where to Microsoft’s overnight earning results and must-know info like AC/DC’s win at the Grammy awards.

Launched by editor Branko Brkic and De Wet (who were the brains behind the now-defunct Maverick and Empire magazines) The Daily Maverick is what we’ve all been waiting for — a news site that grasps fully the brave new world of social media.

De Wet, who writes his newsletter while it is still very dark, heads out in daylight to scour the country, bringing readers the latest controversy, such as second-by-second coverage of the most contentious Julius conferences or solidarity braais, with regular news reports and live tweeting.

De Wet studied journalism at the then Technikon Pretoria while working part-time in the Pretoria office of Die Beeld. His only formal qualification is a national diploma (a three-year course) in journalism; several attempts at completing a bachelor’s degree were interrupted by new projects and launches. Eventually he gave up and started doing what he was meant to do.

And didn’t stop.

He’s worked for community newspapers, covering under-8 rugby matches and crime, been a news editor for ITWeb and has freelanced, writing on everything from property development to politics. In addition to Maverick and Empire he was also on the launch team of the ill-fated ThisDay and ITWeb’s Brainstorm magazine.

But it’s at The Daily Maverick that he’s found his groove. “I just love the rush,” he says. “It’s the immediate reaction and interaction with the readers. Nothing beats this. I’ll never go back.” We hope not. — Lloyd Gedye

Lunch spot: A sit-down chain like Spur, which has an electrical outlet I can use. Or Seattle

Gavin Prins

Entertainment Writer: Rapport

It’s tough being an entertainment journalist. Gavin Prins should know. He’s had to have “quick lunches” with Celine Dion and Charlize Theron before rushing off to attend yet another star-studded event.

When he’s not presenting the celebrity show, Tongelos, he’s chatting his way through the best VIP functions to get the gossip for Rapport. And, puffy-eyed or not, he still manages to stay ahead of the game — he was the first to write about the Joost van der Westhuisen sex-tape scandal and he broke the story on the Oprah Winfrey school.

Luckily he is ethical, still believing in such a thing as “off the record” , which is probably why Oprah invited him to dinner, even after the story broke.

At 33, Prins might not have become the actor he dreamed of becoming as a young boy, but he certainly knows how to walk the red carpet with the best of them. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Europa, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg

Karabo Kgoleng

Radio Personality: Safm

Karabo Kgoleng gets paid to learn. It’s a strange concept for a 29-year-old who dropped out of her science degree at Wits because she couldn’t afford to study. But the absence of that little piece of paper didn’t stop her; it just made her more determined.

After three years in community radio, Kgoleng is living out her broadcast dream, interviewing literary giants such as Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri and Mandla Langa on her Sunday SAfm literature programme, along with her weekday show, Afternoon Talk.

A single mother, classical pianist and self-confessed bookworm, this sought-after speaker is always expanding her knowledge and helping to entrench a culture of reading in South Africa. It’s her life’s work. Because, although she can philosophise with the best of them, she is pragmatic about one thing — a literate society is a tolerant society and one we should all be working towards. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Salvation Café, 44 Stanley, Milpark, Johannesburg

Andy Fenner

Food Blogger: Jamie Who?

Jamie Who? It’s a question that usually ends in a full stomach or at least a restaurant reservation. Yes, Jamie Who? is a food blog and a tongue-in-cheek reference to Jamie Oliver, but it’s also an ode to good food and Andy Fenner’s love affair with it.

Fenner, aged 28, is not a trained chef, nor is he an esteemed food critic like his idol, AA Gill. He’s just a guy who really really loves food and wants to share this experience with his audience. And audiences love him for it.

After a year in cyberspace, Jamie Who? has gained a sizeable cult following, been featured in Food & Home magazine, has a sponsorship from Yuppie Chef and plans to bring the blog’s quirky style to print and TV. Not bad going for a guy with postgraduate degrees in advertising and commercial property.

Perhaps Fenner should take us to lunch. —Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Overture, Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Liepollo Rantekoa

Head of Marketing: Chimurenga

Chimurenga, established in 2002, is one of South Africa’s most important cultural creations of the past decade.

It is a locus of enquiry, a pan-African pamphlet in communion with its kindred spirits in the Third World, a journal that integrates South Africa into the rest of Africa.

Chimurenga (Zimbabwean, as opposed to Shona, for struggle) was founded by Cameroonian-born writer Ntone Edjabe. But it is Liepollo Rantekoa who is a constant presence at Chimurenga events.

This University of Cape Town social science graduate, who studied politics and sociology, worked as a writer and researcher for UCT’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Jewish Studies Library and for the Centre for the Book before joining Chimurenga as an intern, working as a researcher and proof-reader and, later, as head of the magazine’s marketing, promotions and distribution operations.

[Note: At the time of going to press, Rantekoa was heading to the United States for a study visit at the Institute for World Politics. But this die-hard Chimurenga chick will soon be right back where she belongs.] — Percy Zvumoya

Lunch spot: Addis in Cape, Cape Town

Duncan Mcleod

Founder: Tech Central

Ask anyone who’s ruling South Africa’s tech journalism world and chances are the name you’ll hear is Duncan Mcleod.

As an award-winning technology journalist, Mcleod established a respected reputation at the Financial Mail, rising to the rank of associate editor. But last year he decided he was ready for a new challenge and resigned from the FM to launch Tech Central, his own technology news website.

“I had been getting itchy feet for quite a while,” says Mcleod. “I kept wondering ‘what am I going to do next?’ I saw that some US tech journalists were going it on their own and, with the launch of the Seacom cable, I thought this was the right time to go out there and build a business.”

As he says, it was all about getting in early.

So, whether it’s the cellphone giants’ ongoing battles with the regulator, Icasa, you are interested in, or Microsoft’s proposed BEE deal, Tech Central offers it all — and frequently offers it first. Regular comment pieces from industry professionals and the ZA Tech Show Podcasts are available, too.

Mcleod started his journalism career at Computer Week magazine before he moved to the FM. While at the FM he received the Telkom ICT Journalist of the Year Award and was also national runner-up in the Siemen’s Nature, Science and Technology awards. —Lloyd Gedye

Lunch spot: Col’Cacchio, Bryanston, Johannesburg

Megan Kakora

Online Editor:Cosmopolitan online

As online editor of South Africa’s biggest women’s glossy, Megan Kakora manages, oversees and liaises on all marketing and management issues and assumes final responsibility for all design and content. So there’s really very little downtime.

Luckily Kakora is very hands-on, which is why she studied journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and is constantly looking for new ways to sharpen her media skills.

She may have grown up in Kuils River, dreaming of becoming a magazine editor, but it was the online space that stole her heart, giving her every opportunity to help educate and entertain young South African women through a strong online community. And it doesn’t hurt that she gets to interview stars such as John Legend. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Royale Eatery, Long Street, Cape Town

Moshoeshoe Monare

Group Political Editor: Independent

Moshoeshoe Monare leads a team of political reporters for 16 newspaper titles in the Independent Newspapers group. For the 34-year-old group political editor what that boils down to is editing up to 20 stories a day.

Monare, born in Mokopane, Limpopo, holds a journalism diploma from Technikon Northern Gauteng — now Tshwane university of Technology — as well as a BA honours degree and a post-graduate diploma in media studies from the University of the Witwatersrand.

He started his career at the Pretoria News as a student freelancer in 1996, becoming its education reporter after completing his internship. Monare also worked for The Star, the SABC and the Sunday Times, where he was senior education correspondent. He is frequently called upon to provide insight into political stories for television and radio news.

Monare rejoined Independent Newspapers in 2004, moving up the ranks until, in 2008, he was appointed group political editor. So the next time you read a political story in The Star, The Mercury, the Sunday Tribune, the Cape Argus or other Independent titles, think Moshoeshoe Monare. — Mmanaledi Mataboge

Lunch spot: Sophiatown, Newtown, Johannesburg

Redi Direko

Talk Show Host: Talk Radio 702 / 567 Cape

South Africa’s undisputed queen of talk, Redi Direko rules the airways with her warm but no-nonsense demeanor.

On her eponymous weekday show she’s just as authentic giggling with her callers as she is grilling politicians.

Never one to shy away from a “feisty exchange” with a public figure, Direko admits there are times when her temperature rises.

“But I always remember that if I lose it then I’m helping the newsmaker get away without answering questions,” she says. “It’s not their attitude that matters but what they have to say.”

Soweto-born Direko studied journalism and communications at the former Rand Afrikaans university. She has an honours degree in social science and recently completed a master’s in literature, just for the love of it.

In a decade of journalism, she’s wavered from radio to television and back again. She started out as a reporter with Network Radio News, then hosted the afternoon drive show on Kaya FM before moving to the SABC to work as a producer and current affairs anchor. While there she presented a variety of shows, including News Hour and Interface, and interviewed international figures such as Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair and Colin Powell.

She also produced a controversial documentary on former president Thabo Mbeki, hosted a reality TV show and a legal rights show, and has been a columnist for Fairlady and the Sowetan. For a year, she juggled radio and TV, hosting the Redi Direko Show on radio and serving as a senior news anchor on the eNews channel.

But she always comes back to radio.

“Radio is awesome – unrehearsed, immediate and so real. I love the interaction that it offers; it feels more like a dinner table conversation than a programme,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean she’s closed the chapter on TV. “Watch this space,” she says. — Faranaaz Parker

Lunch spot: Wang Thai, Sandton

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Deputy Editor, Sunday Independent

Mpumelelo Mkhabela has a defined “political agenda”.

He is a member of the new generation of journalists who believe that a thriving democracy needs strong newspapers and a very strong reading culture across the population, even in this digital age.

It is unsurprising to find that this bibliophile started out as a university library assistant before cutting his teeth as a serious journalist with City Press. As senior political writer for the Sunday Times, Mkhabela focused on his first love — political analysis.

The subject takes up most of his time as he works to complete his MA in international politics while helping to steer the content and direction of the Sunday Independent.

This 32-year-old from Komatipoort relishes the challenges of his job as he seeks to fulfil his quest to diversify the South African media space, particularly the crucial Sunday market. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Sophia’s, Rosebank, Johannesburg

Nikiwe Bikitsha

Senior news anchor: e.tv

Nikiwe Bikitsha has never worked a normal day. From her years as a junior reporter at Cape Talk 567, where she worked “all hours” to impress, to her early mornings at SAfm, where she co-anchored AM Live, a 9-5 day has been as foreign to Bikitsha as some of the stories she reports on as senior news anchor for Newsnight.

At 32, Bikitsha is one of those rare individuals who has the voice for radio, the face for TV and the nose for print, and has pursued all three with the professionalism and poise you would expect from the journalist who “got the exclusive” with Winnie Madikizela Mandela back in 2003.

It’s not surprising to find that she put herself through Rhodes university or that she now has her own fortnightly column, “High Heels” , in the Mail&Guardian. But what many don’t know is that her velvety voice could have hit Broadway instead of our airways. Lucky us. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Allora, Sandton

Sbu Mpungose

Editor: Bona Magazine

At 28 Sbu Mpungose is younger than most South African editors but she has already edited two magazines — Move! and Bona, the only publication that’s available in three South African languages besides English.

She’s about to add a third to her resumé: starting in July, Mpungose will be the editor of True Love.

“Journalism proposed to and married me,” she says, as we sit chatting in a Hyde Park coffee shop.

Mpungose, who grew up in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, and studied at Tshwane University of Technology, didn’t plan to become a magazine journalist but says it was a natural second choice because of her fascination with the industry.

Being trained as a sub-editor by the Independent Group in 2005, she says, “changed her life” . In 2006, in her first year as editor of Move! and just 24 years old, Mpungose received the Editor of the Year Award.

In 2009, after her appointment as editor of Bona, she received the Vodacom Rising Star Award, which applauds the efforts of a woman under the age of 30 who is already making an impact on the media industry. — Karabo Keepile

Lunch spot: Nambitha, Soweto, Johannesburg

Piet Rampedi


We all know by now that ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is not fond of journalists. But he really dislikes Piet Rampedi.

This became abundantly evident at a press conference Malema called at Luthuli House in Johannesburg in February following an exposé by Rampedi and City Press colleague Dumisane Lubisi of the youth league president’s wealth, accumulated from his involvement in tender projects in Limpopo.

“He is only a small boy who cannot unseat me,” Malema raged, much to the entertainment of the crowd, who were also told that Rampedi is a ” poor, stupid reporter who accepts brown envelopes” .

Rampedi remained calm despite being labelled a “naturally negative reporter whose mission is to destroy ANC comrades, particularly in Limpopo”, which, incidentally, is Rampedi’s home province.

But the damage had been done. Rampedi and Lubisi had managed to discredit the notion that the youth leader was a “man of the people” and, in the weeks that followed, the issue was the source of debate among South Africans around the world.

Rampedi cut his teeth in broadcast journalism at both e.tv and the SABC before moving to City Press in 2008.

His love for the profession goes back a long way, he says, to his youth in the Limpopo village of Ga-Mokgwathi.

His passion for history and debating in high school prompted his English teacher to suggest a career in journalism, but it was a school trip to the SABC studios in Johannesburg in 1997 that sealed the deal.

The 29-year-old is driven by a wish to make a difference to the lives of ordinary people who would be voiceless if it was not for his probing of the political powers-that-be — which is exactly what has put him at odds with some the country’s top politicians. — Valencia Talane

Lunch spot: Lesenkeng, Polokwane, Limpopo

Zamani Xolo

Co-founder, Words Etc

Perhaps it’s safe to state that local literary journal Words Etc, now in its seventh edition, is here to stay. All over the world, literary magazines founded by idealistic literati sprout by day and by the late afternoon hang limp, drained by the merciless sun of the real world.

Founded by Phakama Mbonambi and Zamani Xolo in Cape Town in 2007, the glossy magazine has won itself a following among South Africa’s book-loving public for its coverage of local literature.

The man behind its aesthetics is Durban-born graphic designer Xolo, who is increasingly pursuing his other love, music.

“I hate genres,” he says, but if he was to pigeonhole his sound, he would dub it “New Age Kwaito”, which is essentially a sampling of the conglomeration of sounds he grew up with, but with a local reference peg. If he had a choice, Xolo would go into music full-time or live in Durban. But given the scope of his ambitions: “I need to be here,” he says of Johannesburg. — Percy Zvomuya

Lunch spot: Yossi’s, Durban

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