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Thursday, July 18, 2013

An open letter to Madiba on his 95th birthday

Long walk to the sliding rock: with security guard Vukile Masinga at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu.  Picture: Lisa Mullins

On his 95th birthday, here is an open letter I wrote to Nelson Mandela:

An open letter to Madiba - Cape Times |

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Goldberg celebrates a life of Struggle - Cape Times |

 On June 12, 1964, ANC leader Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in jail. Sentenced with him was Denis Goldberg and other Rivonia trialists. Goldberg, now 80, spent 22 years in jail. being the only white person to be sentenced, he was sent alone to Pretoria Central prison, while the others went to Robben Island. He was released in 1985, a few years before Mandela and the other treason trialists were freed. Upon his release, Goldberg went into exile to continue his role in the struggle, returning in the new SA. I chatted to him on June 12 this year, at his home in Hout Bay, exactly 49 years after the Rivonia trialists were sentenced. A humble, witty intellectual and activist who is a qualified engineer, we spoke about his good friend Mandela, who has been in hospital for the past week, but also about his hopes - and vision - for the new South Africa.
Here is the interview published in the Cape Times on his thoughts about Madiba.

Goldberg celebrates a life of Struggle - Cape Times |

Thursday, June 6, 2013


25 themes of survival from the World Editors Forum

There was lots to think about at the World Editors Forum in Bangkok, June 2013. Here are my 25 quick take-home sound grabs .
1.       Don’t tweak, rather reinvent
2.       Get buy-in from newspaper owners, or you are wasting your time.
3.       Have a shared vision, across all departments, between editorial and management
4.       Communicate with management, show respect - but keep up the wall
5.       Focus on your role - good journalism: The platform is just the platform, the bottle. Journalism is the wine. It’s the wine that counts, that’s your core business. (credit: Juan Senor)
6.       Encourage management to expand revenue opportunities – the rats & mice all add up as traditional advertising declines
7.       Hire more reporters
8.       Protect reporters, ensure their safety, fight for them, don’t let owners take control of editorial
9.       Hire a digital/data developer/data wrangler (1 developer to 5 journalists)
10      Do what you do best, link to the rest (credit: Jeff Jarvis)
11     Take risks, but learn from the mistakes and successes of countries in a state of advanced crisis – ie the US media
12     Have a presence across as many platforms as possible: print, digital, social media. Right now, mobile is the IT medium.
13     Hire young upstarts, disrupters, with good ideas, different skills that add value and help transformation
14     Train experienced journalists, inspire them to learn new skills, they are invaluable
15     Discard outdated ideas, structures and deadlines
16     Interact with your audience
17     Use simple tools like wordpress and scoopshot
18     Know your audience: Analyse  response and traffic, and respond accordingly
19     Reorganise your newsroom and deadlines accordingly
20     Be quick, but add value, it’s impossible to compete with social media, so first verify
21.   Shake things up, it’s now or never
22.   Visualise stories from early on, not just at production stage
23.   Don’t replicate print content and design, do it differently, make it relevant for digital platforms
24.   Leadership is 20% journalism, 80% ability to inspire others
25.   Don’t despair. Do something radical, innovate.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Theo Kotze's 'priceless gem' honoured

Hundreds of mourners have paid tribute to “Theo’s priceless gem” at a memorial service for Helen Kotze, who was honoured for her behind-the-scenes fight against apartheid.
The wife of the late struggle theologian Reverend Theo Kotze, Helen passed away in Cape Town aged 92 last month.   
Addressing a packed Rosebank Methodist Church on Thursday afternoon, the family’s close friend and fellow theologian activist Charles Villa-Vicencio described Theo as the “committed opstoker” and Helen as the “rock” who was the “mother of the Christian Institute” in Cape Town, a stalwart of the Black Sash and a “champion of the poor”.
 Together, the couple, who had five children, were a “formidable pair who paid “an enormous price” in the fight against apartheid.
As activists at the Christian Institute in Mowbray, their home was searched and shot at by security police. In 1977  the Institute and Theo were banned, leaving him with no choice but to cross the border into Botswana. Helen and her family followed, embarking on a new journey into exile “beginning to pay the price in a new way – the loneliness of exile”.
After 15 years of being uprooted, the couple returned to South Africa in 1993 – at the dawn of the new SA.
The couple’s son Derek told the friends at the service that his mother’s life “could not be described as a happy one, but it was a rich one”.
 Another close family friend and activist, Horst Kleinschmidt said that in the liberated SA, Helen’s values remained what they were before 1994, a life in search of ‘justice and honesty”.
“The struggle left them with no house of their own and every cent had to be turned twice before it was spent. They never complained nor had regrets,” said Kleinschmidt.
The story of the Kotzes and of the Christian Institute had not yet found its place in South African history, and it “deserves remembering”, he said.
The Institute and the Mowbray office was a place of education, where a “small and beleaguered community of apartheid opponents” of all races gathered, where they set an example in living an alternative life to apartheid.
Kleinschmidt said that like so many others after liberation in 1994, Helen's role as a freeom fighter had been forgotten.
This was why in her Diep River retirement home, Helen was very proud of the National Orders award, the order of Luthuli, that Theo was given posthumously by the president in 2009 for his contribution to democracy
*In a note at his computer, Theo referred to his wife as his "priceless gem".
* This article first appeared on the Cape Times web.