Get good news. Yeah, right




I’ve been up since early, keen for day two of South Africa’s first Test of the series against India, despite the awful start for the Proteas.

My bra JahNoDead has blagged his way into the tour, so I’ve been hoping to catch a glimpse of him lurking in the pavilion. So far I’ve missed him, but have been treated to something of a batting masterclass by Rohit Sharma. I’m rooting for Faf du Plessis’s side, but I’m almost sad when Sharma’s stumped by Quinton de Kock.

I hit the remote. Time to catch up on the news. Get working.

It’s been a tough week, putting together a happy news edition, a quarterly collection of positive stories. It’s a beautiful thing: a break from the usual muckraking and doom and gloom, a bit of a holiday from corrupt politicians and thieving corporates.

It’s also way more difficult than it would seem.

It’s not just abandoning the cynical default position that comes from dealing with some pretty nasty people and situations and reaching out to find some good in the world. It’s actually pretty difficult to find credible good news stories while avoiding getting caught up in promoting somebody’s con, punting some corporate spin, selling lies, as it were.

Our last attempt at a shiny, happy newspaper got overtaken by events and had — rightly — to be abandoned, shut down in the wave of outrage and pain sparked by the brutal murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana and the attacks targeting foreigners in Johannesburg. It would have been pretty crass and stupid to have done otherwise, so that was that.

This week’s attempt at producing a happy newspaper started reasonably well for me.

Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza has finally agreed to intervene at Umnini, where communal land is allegedly being sold to property speculators by the local inkosi and his izinduna. AmaThuli complained to the provincial co-operative governance ministry in 2013. The department appointed an independent investigator, who made findings and recommendations in April 2015, but the ministry failed to act on them or stop the land sales. Didiza, threatened with a lawsuit, has now agreed to intervene. It’s bullshit that both the co-operative governance and land reform departments have failed to act, and that the Luthuli have had to threaten court action, but now there is a hope that Didiza will do something.

So that was one happy story in the bag. From there things went downhill. Quickly.

The plan to talk to Pietermaritz-burg’s administrator, S’bu Sithole, about how things are going with the initiative to turn the city around, died, strangled in red tape.

So I launched plan B. Things looked good — for a while. A Wednesday morning interview with the new Durban mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, on how he intends to clean up the city administration. It would have been a cool gig.

I last saw Kaunda at my bra Sipho Khumalo’s funeral in September 2017. Sipho was working for Kaunda, who was transport MEC at the time. Kaunda went out of his way to pay respect to our man, so I’d been looking forward to seeing him again. The mayor was keen, but had to drop the interview in favour of a briefing ahead of a trip abroad.

By Wednesday morning I’m frantic. A single 750-word story isn’t enough of a contribution for the week.

I hit the phone like a madman.

Eventually I come up with something: about 200 of the farmworkers retrenched by Tongaat Hulett have been offered a lifeline by black farmers who are going to lease three sugarcane estates from Tongaat. I’d be happier with a story about the Tongaat honchos who crooked the books and caused the company’s collapse being jailed, but this will do.

Back to Thursday. I figure the boss will be out of bed, so I message him the good news.

I check his response. Start laughing. The good news edition’s been canned. We don’t have enough happy stories to make up a newspaper. Time to drop the happy stories and haul out some of the muck I’ve raked for next week, get it moving.

I drop the phone. Turn my attention back to the TV. It’s time to ditch the rose-tinted glasses, get my head back into the real world, channel my inner cynic, drag up that inner rage.

It doesn’t take long.

Former Democratic Alliance lahnee Helen Zille appears on the TV screen. Zille’s all locked jaw and crazy eyes, jabbering away like some demented marionette, spewing a load of white supremacist drivel about how the call by some wit ou called Hermann from the South African Institute for Race Relations — yeah, right — for some other wit ou called Alan to replace a black ou called Mmusi as leader of the party is an exercise that furthers the cause of nonracialism in the DA.

Like I said, it doesn’t take long.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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