“I think because she was my mother, I often forgot what a huge role she played in our democracy. Over the past few days I’ve been in awe of everything she accomplished, and those that she helped along the way. What a woman.”
Libby Lloyd’s daughter, Sophie Mjwara, wrote these words on her mother’s Facebook page in the days after the 56-year-old journalist, media and political activist and broadcast specialist lost her battle with oral cancer. Lloyd died on Thursday night [18 January].
Her impact on the media space was enormous. From her early days as a young journalist and member of the Association for Democratic Journalists (ADJ), imprisoned for protesting against the banning of the Weekly Mail, to being an impassioned and committed proponent of free speech and expert in broadcast policy and legislation, Lloyd was known for her willingness to give freely of her time and knowledge to better the media as a whole.
“A true and steadfast supporter of women’s rights, Libby was an important participant in our Women in the Media initiative,” said Sandra Gordon, publisher of The Media Online and The Media. “She was outspoken and strong with a perfectly timed and infectious giggle that broke the tension and allowed deeper debate. One of a kind.”
Alison Gillwald, executive director of Research ICT Africa (RIA), herself a pioneer in ICT policy, said Lloyd was “a media stalwart in the democratic transition of the country, first as an activist in the struggle for independent public broadcasting and the promotion of community radio”.
After democratic elections in 1994, Lloyd served as a “true public servant in the processes of building our democratic media and regulatory institutions, with passion and dedication but also compassion”, said Gillwald.
“She went wherever she was needed, whether to train journalists at the early community radio stations or the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, or to serve on the council of the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa. When others shied away from our dysfunctional or broken institutions such as the SABC, she took on the job of fixing them, always collectively, always consultatively,” Gillwald said.
“When others were paralysed by a sense of political betrayal or the subversion of the democratic project, she engaged, she worked harder to support public processes, drawing along people with her to make the country a better place for the next generation – which includes her cherished daughter, Sophie, who in between all this she grew into a fiercely independent, passionate and beautiful person, much like Libby herself. What a legacy she left, what a loss to the country.”
Broadcast colleague, Michael Markovitz, said it well in a Facebook post on Lloyd’s page: Terribly sad about the loss last night of our dear friend Libby Lloyd to cancer. RIP my friend and comrade. You were my compadre for 30 years in the struggle for independent public broadcasting and made a massive contribution. This morning, at the SABC board committee meeting on News and Editorial, we had a moment of silence to recognise your sterling and tireless work. I know you would have totally approved of our statement today, admitting a breach of SABC editorial policies and practices. Your memory will live long.”
Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS Coalition recognised Lloyd’s enormous contribution to the broadcast arena and to the ongoing fight for media freedom.
“She is known to many of us both personally and professionally as a dedicated media activist, a committed comrade, a magnificent policy analyst, and a thoughtful and caring friend. Both the country and our organisations have benefited from her commitment to media freedom and justice, and both our nation and our media sector are so much poorer for her loss,” the group said in a statement.
“Libby was a committed media activist to the end, having recently carried out work focused on subscription broadcasting. She will be missed for her depth and breadth of knowledge and experience, her willingness to support, her strident insights, her grasp of the sector and the challenges it is facing. And she will be missed for the heart and passion she brought to all her work.”
Lloyd was an ICASA councillor and the authority recognised her role. “The ICT sector and South Africa at large has lost a selfless cadre, committed and disciplined individual in Libby Lloyd. Her positive contribution on policy and regulation will be missed. May her soul rest in eternal peace,” said ICASA chairperson, Rubben Mohlaloga.
The ANC’s Zizi Kodwa described Lloyd’s death as a “deep loss to the ANC and South Africa’s Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Sector”, adding that her legacy would be felt in ICT Policy and Regulatory framework.
Kodwa said Lloyd, as a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) Subcommittee on Communications, served with “commitment, selflessness and dignity”, and as a journalist and professional in ICT sector, “contributed enormously to the work of the movement from the days of Radio Freedom, training broadcasters in preparation for the new democratic dispensation, to the Institute of the Advancement of Journalism, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA)…”
As the first CEO of the MDDA, Lloyd played a “defining role in setting up the Agency”, the board of the agency said in a statement. “Under her leadership [from August 2003], which ran until 2006, the MDDA allocated financial support to just under 100 different media projects across all provinces of South Africa, with the MDDA Board approving over R20 million in grants to these projects. The MDDA also maintained an unbroken record of clean audits, testimony to the robust governance structures she and her management team, together with the MDDA Board, had set up”.
Acting chairperson of the board, Musa Sishange, said: “Through her work with the MDDA in creating an enabling environment for the community media sector, Ms Lloyd’s legacy will include giving a concrete platform to the often-marginalised voices across all our communities, regardless of race, gender, disability and economic class.”
As Ferial Haffajee told The Media Online, Lloyd was “one of the first generation of warriors for media freedom from whom many of us learnt how to use the media to win democracy and then to enhance it. She was a fine policy-maker and a no-nonsense negotiator who always spoke her truth. Her legacy is profound and she is treasured”.
The number of tributes to Lloyd that continue to flow in on a professional and personal level are testament to the huge breadth of her not just her circle friends, but to her network of admiring colleagues too.
“She was a pioneer in so many ways: in radio journalism, in public broadcasting, and in broadcast regulation. She understood the importance of a strong, independent public broadcaster, one that was managed with integrity and courage, and of the necessary legal framework to enable broadcasting in the country to thrive,” said Pippa Green, media manager for the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3), based at SALDRU at UCT and former SABC colleague and board member.
“She understood, especially, the importance of radio in a country where the vast majority of people get most of their news from radio before any other source.
“She served on the interim board of the SABC in 2009 when the broadcaster experienced its first major financial crisis in the post-apartheid era. She was part of a dedicated group that devised a rescue plan for the broadcaster.”
Green said she was always struck by Lloyd’s warmth and wisdom and the depth of her experience always generously shared.
“She is a huge loss to the country in general and to the broadcast and media community in particular. Deepest sympathies to her daughter, Sophie, sister Bridget and all her family, friends and colleagues. We will all miss her voice, her humour and her deep empathy and compassion.”
Watch: The SABC pays tribute to Libby Lloyd.
The Independent Producers’ Organisation, in its statement, said Lloyd was a committed activist, journalist and researcher on freedom of expression and media policy. “Libby was a passionate advocate for a true public broadcaster and made a sterling contribution to the broadcast industry, including especially in pioneering the progressive local content and commissioning regulations at the dawn of democracy”, said producer Feizel Mamdoo.
“We shall miss your depth of knowledge, your insight, your willingness to help, your bravery. Hamba kahle Libby.”
An industry memorial to Lloyd will take place on 24 January. Details below.