So long, Sowetan. It's been an honour and a privilege

S'thembiso Msomi Without the Gang
Although saddened by certain setbacks, outgoing Sowetan editor S’thembiso Msomi says he will treasure being at the helm of a publication that reports on what the true reflection of our society is.
Although saddened by certain setbacks, outgoing Sowetan editor S’thembiso Msomi says he will treasure being at the helm of a publication that reports on what the true reflection of our society is.

These past few days have felt like the end of an era for me. Just as I was preparing for what was going to be my final week as editor of Sowetan, someone very dear to me passed away.

I had known Dr James Khuthala Mabuza for almost two decades and, over the years, I could even refer to him as my Gauteng "baba". His family accepted and treated me as one of their own.

A school teacher and an academic by profession, Mabuza had a way of educating you without saying much. This soft-spoken man with a down-to-earth personality would ask you questions during a discussion that would force you to read up some more on a subject matter you thought you were an expert on.

It was from such conversations that I rediscovered my love for essay and short-story writing, as well as the freedom that comes with writing in one's mother tongue. It was also from such discussions that I began to appreciate anew the role black writers and black publications are supposed to be playing as a voice of our communities and champions of good social causes.

Like many newspaper readers of his generation, Mabuza was concerned about the tabloidisation of newspapers, especially publications targeted at black audiences.

He would talk fondly of the role publications such as The World newspaper, Sowetan, the African Report and many more used to play in our communities. When I got appointed Sowetan editor two years ago, I took up the responsibility with readers like him in mind.

Although the world of newspapers had changed a lot from what it was back in the 1980s when Sowetan founding editor Aggrey Klaaste ran his nation building campaign, I was convinced that to survive Sowetan would have to remain committed to those values.

I leave the publication today having not achieved most of what I had hoped I'd do during my tenure. I am particularly sad that we were not able to launch many of the community upliftment projects we were still planning because the need for survival trumped any other consideration.

The ship is now steady and the newspaper will be in good hands under the new editor and her highly dedicated editorial team.

Hopefully, the economic environment will soon improve and allow Sowetan to be more than just a provider of news stories. Our readers expect us to be part of the communities we serve.

On the editorial front, I have been honoured to work with a team that fully understood and supported the vision of a Sowetan that is a parliament of the people - a forum in which we gather to discuss issues that affect us.

One of the privileges of working for Sowetan is that you get to see the state of our nation as it is. This is a newspaper where reporters still go into our townships, informal settlements and other poor neighbourhoods to interview real people about their lives.

So what it reports is a true reflection of our society. If the newspaper at times feels heavy and depressing because of all the stories of murder, rape, dysfunctional hospitals and crumbling classrooms, it is because that is what our people are going through.

It is for this reason that we ought to do all we can to preserve this institution and ensure it survives.

Continuing to supply quality news that puts our communities at the centre is what will guarantee that this brand survives, whether in its print form, online, or both.

As I leave this post to take up a new challenge, I hope that I have not been a disappointment to generations of editors and journalists who have made this newspaper what it is today.

This is not a goodbye, because one never leaves Sowetan.

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