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ON October 19 1977 Sowetan deputy sports editor Sello Rabothata was 22 years old. It was in fact his birthday and he had plans to celebrate with his friends after work.
Rabothata, who was then a reporter at the World, yesterday recalled the fateful day when the then apartheid government banned the newspaper, its weekend sister newspaper Weekend World, and Pro Veritate, a religious publication run by Beyers Naudé.
Also banned were 19 black consciousness-aligned organisations.
The Nationalist Party government also detained hundreds of its critics, including the World editor-in-chief Percy Qoboza.
"On 18 October we produced the Wednesday paper as usual. We woke up the next day to the news that the World and Weekend World were banned," Rabothata said.
Rabothata's colleagues included the late Sowetan editor-in-chief Aggrey Klaaste, Sowetan news editor Willie Bokala, ombudsman Joe Thloloe, present director of the University of Johannesburg Centre for Small Business Development Thami Mazwai, Unisa's Professor Phil Mtimkhulu, Judge Mathilda Masipa, author Sophie Tema and former Tribute publishers Maud Motanyane and Pearl Mashabela.
He recalled that the Transvaal Post was then launched, but that it suffered the same fate as the World and Weekend World.
This led to Sowetanbeing registered as a national daily newspaper owned by the Argus Group.
Asked if he saw any changes in the media 15 years into democracy, Rabothata decried the lack of diversity in the media.
"The fact that the media is owned by a few white-owned companies remains a matter of concern.
"Ownership comes with control and that does have an influence on how journalists cover stories."
He also believes the media is skirting around the issue of racism.
"We need to deal with the racism within us - as both black and white South Africans."