The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has presented a special award to former president Nelson Mandela in honour of his efforts to support a free and independent media. The award was received by CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mr Achmat Dangor.
“Every nation at some point produces someone who shapes and moulds it. Someone who exudes the qualities of being a little more than the rest of us. Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is such a special person. Tata Madiba spent years fighting a system that dehumanised an entire nation. For this he was arrested and sent to jail – incarcerated for 27 years.
“When the struggle of our people and of the world, forced the regime to release him, Tata keenly realised that part of the reason why the people succeeded, and why he had become the idol and icon of a world hungry for true leadership, was because of the role the media played in recording history and pursuing the truth without fear or favour.
“While his release and eventual elevation to the highest office in our land was universally cheered, we as the South African media, carried the responsibility to not become sycophantic cheer leaders of the hero, but as always, watchdogs over him, his party and the government he led.
“In doing this, we sometimes earned his wrath. He nevertheless opened his office for structured interaction, in particular with members of SANEF. Thus, we had regular meetings with him to discuss our issues, but also to allow him to raise his own with us.
“The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the ministers of Police, Justice and the NPA with SANEF, which is crucial for the media in dealing with subpoena-happy prosecutors, is a legacy bequeathed to us by Tata. It is not perfect, but it serves a vital purpose.
“Today we have meetings with incumbent presidents that followed him. It is due in large part to the example he set. The editors and senior editorial executives of this country, representing print, broadcast and digital media wish to collectively express our deepest appreciation for a lifetime’s commitment to freedom in its broadest form, but also a commitment that ensured that media freedom in particular is appreciated and defended in this, our land, and beyond.
“Tata Madiba, we honour you as a champion of the free media.”
Caption: Standing from left areMary Papayya – Sanef Deputy Chairperson, Ahmed Dangor – CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mondli Makhanya – Sanef Chairperson, Femida Mehtar – Sanef Executive Director, Juanita Williams – Sanef Treasurer.
Photographer: James Oatway from Sunday Times.