Dan langa: journalism the poorer

Mathatha Tsedu

Mathatha Tsedu

Societal change and technological innovations are changing the way people live, work and interact. E-mails and SMSes are cheap and easy. So even when you cannot meet, discussion takes place online and life goes on.

But there is also the downside. The migration of many of us from townships into suburbia has come at a price - the lessening of the bonds that traditionally held us together.

Where we would meet virtually every week, we no longer have contact. I thought of this when I heard last week that journalist Dan Langa had died and been buried without any of the people we used to associate with either knowing or raising the alarm.

Bra Dan, as we called him, had grown from selling newspapers to writing and in the process worked for Drum, The World, Rand Daily Mail, Sapa and The Star.

He also worked as an advertising salesperson for a number of small newspapers.

Like all journalists of his age, he was a founder member of the Union of Black Journalists, the forerunner to the Media Workers Association of SA.

For many years Bra Dan was based in Polokwane as a Sapa correspondent, covering the three northern Bantustans of Lebowa, Gazankulu and Venda. He made a huge contribution to the development of national journalism in the area, creating spaces for people like myself to find our feet. His Sapa office was the meeting point for journalists, the regional head office of Mwasa.

He became a virtual Mwasa regional chairman for life, from the time we launched the region at his house in early 1978, a few months after the banning of the UBJ.

Bra Dan was at the centre of the building of Mwasa, from the national launch congress of 1978 in Verulam, Durban.

We had many battles with the police, especially as his house in Seshego Zone 3 was sandwiched between two of the most senior black cops in Lebowa.

They hated him and wanted him evicted but Bra Dan resisted.

He was also a very jocular person. I remember one day he received a letter from a dealer who had sold him his VW Beetle. The letter had a print of someone on their knees, crying, with tears flowing from the eyes. I asked him who that was and Bra Dan said it was probably him when he had defaulted on his payments .

He also lived in Meadowlands, near the hostel, and was almost killed during the violence of the early 90's when he was stabbed.

I last saw him a few years ago. He was jovial but in a bad shape financially, staying in a crowded room in the CBD.

And then last week, another friend called to say he had attended a funeral in Mahwelereng and found that there was a second funeral, that of Bra Dan at the same time.

His relatives said he died at the Nigel Prison. He already had a parole release date for June. He had been suffering from a high blood pressure-related disease.

Born in 1939 at Mapela, outside Mokopane, Daniel Seaba Malose Langa was the third son of David and Maria Langa. He attended school at Mapela and Mokerong primary schools and did his secondary schooling at Sefakaole which later became Mokopane Traning College.

He married Somori Mothapo and together they had two daughters, Bryner and Violet. He is also survived by a sister Violet Makgalemele and a younger brother Adam Langa.