Blind journalist inspires rural folk
To the rest of the country he is non-existent. But to several rural communities in northern KwaZulu-Natal he is an inspiration.
Mandla Khwela is blind. He is a journalist at Ikhwezi Community Radio, a station that caters for about 100000 listeners around Kranskop.
Khwela's dedication and efforts to highlight the plight of mentally ill people and those with disabilities, and his role in society, has earned him a Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award in the community media category.
The high-profile event was held at Vodaworld in Midrand, Johannesburg, on Sunday night.
Khwela is the host of a news programme in which he discusses issues on mental and physical disabilities.
"As a disabled person myself, my career has been a success because I find that the disabled people I deal with every day find it easy to open up to me. I know how to address them and I can relate to their experiences," he said.
The story that won him the award was a feature titled The inborn talent of mentally retarded learners to be developed.
In the feature Khwela interviewed teachers who work at schools for the disabled about how they deal with daily challenges.
"The aim of doing the story was to educate the community about mental illness and get rid of the stereotypes and myths that come with it," Khwela said.
The awards judges said: "Khwela displayed all of the special ingredients that endorse the credibility of real community media in the democratic society.
"The story is about mentally challenged learners, their hopes, dreams and success. It provides parents and guardians of mentally challenged children an avenue to seek help, advice and support."