Independent gives racism the boot

SOYISO MALITI

Independent Media, which publishes Plainsman and 14 other community newspapers as well as a number of daily and weekend titles, has launched a campaign to combat racism.

Details of the Racism Stops With Me campaign were revealed on Wednesday February 10, a day before a concomitant website, dedicated to telling racism-related stories, went live.

At the launch, campaign partners, Independent Media, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation paid tribute to political icon Nelson Mandela, who was released on February 11 1990. It was also 50 years ago on February 11 that District Six was declared a whites-only area.

The new website will run stories by thought leaders about racism, oppression and inequality.

Readers are also encouraged to tell their own stories.

Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said racism remained a blight on the country, even 20 years after the advent of democracy.

He told the gathering, convened by Jermaine Craig, the company’s brand and editorial executive, that the mission statement of the Racism Stops With Me campaign was to fight racism and inequality through storytelling via Independent’s online and print platforms.

“The new Independent Media seeks to play a constructive role in burning issues,” Dr Survé said, adding that these “had been previously excluded from our papers”.

“No longer are our platforms for only the rich and powerful. (The platforms) are an access point to the average South African.”

The campaign also aims to examine South Africans’ attitudes towards black economic empowerment, gender parity, employment equity and policies aimed at redress, while giving readers options on what to do when confronted with racism and advice on how to combat it in their own lives.

In a major boost to the campaign, the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) Seta has approved funding for an Independent Media internship programme to train young journalists to produce and manage multimedia content on the topic of race and racism in South Africa.

The multi-million rand programme will comprise teams based in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

The interns will be coached and mentored to write articles, produce graphics and videos as well as tell interactive stories about race and racism in South Africa.

The primary platform for contributions will be Independent’s “Racism Stops With Me” website.

Asked by Mr Craig why the campaign was important to the union, Sactwu general secretary André Kriel said: “This is a natural fit for us. It comes from the mandate given to us by 100 000 workers.”

Chief executive of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton said the national discourse hadn’t paid too much attention on anti-racism post-1994, adding that he had been “happy Penny Sparrow happened, because it shocked us”. He said the country should now be able to have difficult conversations and be tolerant of our differences.

* To join the conversation, visit www.stopracism.iol.co.za