Nothing demonstrates the need for a strong & free media better

It’s only when one starts exploring South Africa’s northern provinces – Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West – that one realises that a strong and free media is the one thing which can save South Africa.

What do these provinces share in common? Local government incompetency and mismanagement on a grand sale; corruption and nepotism beyond belief.

It’s been going on for years, it’s pandemic and what is reported is the tip of an iceberg.

And that’s because there are no strong, credible newspapers for the area. Public servants are rarely held to task and they are accustomed to operating off the radar until they want credit for something.

You won’t find many reporters who stand out for their tenacity and integrity in these provinces because what most small, local newspapers need are writers who can churn out ‘advertorials’, to keep the advertisers happy. This is Die Son country, the successful tabloid rag that hardly develops better citizens…

When a major property developer openly brags that she doesn’t need to have building plans passed because she has “friends in Polokwane,” one realises that it’s both endemic and pandemic.

One Limpopo municipal manager dines at a local restaurant every day with his colleagues, always rigorous about taking the till slips back to the office. One has to wonder if the citizens of this cash-strapped town are footing the bill.

And it’s not only local government that needs greater transparency and accountability. The DA in Limpopo needs a kick in the bum too. Their email addresses on the DA website are still incorrect; something CapeInfo pointed out to them in March last year.

Desiree van der Walt, Limpopo's DA provincial leader
Desiree van der Walt, Limpopo's DA provincial leader

And one has to ask if the DA’s provincial leader, Desiree van der Walt, is wholly unprofessional or just bad-mannered, or both. We called and wrote to her at Helen Zille’s suggestion last year. There was no response. This year we wrote, called and wrote again, many times. There was one email back promising a response the following Monday, and that’s where it died. Even a recent request from Helen Zille’s office to contact me drew a blank. Does she forget that’s she is a public representative, on the taxpayers’ payroll?

It really is a pity that Avusa (The Times/Sunday Times), Independent Media, Mail&Guardian and Media24 don’t have stronger representation in the provinces. And if government was serious about rooting out corruption and building an open, transparent and efficient state, they would rather be looking at ways of strengthening the media in every corner of the country.

One wonders what it took to tame America’s “Wild West”… might it have been a free press?

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