Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Editorial: To those doing the hard work

Two significant figures in the South African media landscape died this week. One, Ronnie Mamoepa, was the consummate political spokesperson, a man who was able to represent his principals in a way that also left him genuinely liked and respected by journalists – something relatively rare among government spokespeople, sadly.

The other was Hennie Serfontein, a journalist who lived up to the highest ideals of his profession. Over more than a decade, Serfontein burrowed into the inner workings of the Broederbond, the secret society in the white Nationalist Party that sought to direct the future of Afrikanerdom, and thereby the future of South Africa under an Afrikaner ruling class. Serfontein helped to change that future by revealing, chiefly in the Sunday Times, how that structure drove and sustained the white supremacist agenda. His revelations came to an end only when someone very close to the apartheid security police became the editor of the paper.

As fellow veteran journalist John Matisonn wrote, Serfontein suffered the consequences of undermining the ruling class he was born into. He worked little for the South African media after these stories and more as a foreign correspondent (besides writing books and making documentaries), but he also broke a key story about Nelson Mandela’s exploratory dialogues with his captors in 1989. In the same year, he led a group of students and teachers from Stellenbosch University, the intellectual home of Afrikaner nationalism, to go and talk to the then-exiled ANC in Maputo.

Today, journalists doing the kind of hard work Serfontein did are still at it, as we see from the ongoing media revelations of corruption and state capture. Like Serfontein, journalists today are operating in a fairly hostile climate: those who speak truth to power are always going to be in for a difficult time. At least today there is a greater protection of freedom of speech and the media – something people like Mamoepa and Serfontein fought for, and which we must continue to defend.

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and get the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. For the latest updates and political analysis, sign up to our daily elections newsletter.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, a full year’s access is just R510, half the usual cost. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Sisulu to appeal Umgeni board court ruling

New Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has already started moves to implement the court order and dissolve Sisulu’s interim board

High court dismisses Zuma’s plea for state prosecutor Billy Downer’s...

Judge Piet Koen set 11 April 2022 as the date for the arms deal trial to commence but Zuma’s counsel signalled that they may seek leave to appeal and force an umpteenth delay

Drop in registered voters, but will turnout continue to rise?

Voter turnout for local government elections has steadily risen since 2000, but the uptick could be stalled by Covid-19, much like registration has been

Police identify 300 high risk areas during local government elections

Police minister Bheki Cele said they have identified the KZN, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces as high risk areas deploying a high contingent of police and SANDF

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…