Sipho Hlongwane has won the best columnist award in the Western Cape leg of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards for his regular Dogs of War column in The Big Issue SA magazine.
Editor Mel Bendix said she was “overjoyed” at the young journalist’s win. “After reading Sipho’s regular columns in The Daily Maverick and following him on Twitter, we realised immediately that he is among the best of the fresh crop of South African writers and we quickly headhunted him as a regular columnist for The Big Issue. That was more than a year ago and since then others, including Cosmopolitan and 2Oceansvibe.com, have followed suit,” she said.
“We’re absolutely overjoyed that Sipho’s excellence has been recognised by the judges in the 2011 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, and wish him the best of luck for the national awards ceremony in Johannesburg in early November,” Bendix said.
Hlongwane, who received the news on Monday afternoon, told TheMediaOnline that he was “surprised and happy” and could “scarcely” believe the news.
“I’ve worked with The Big Issue since the middle of 2010 and it has been an amazing ride. They were the second media publication after Daily Maverick to ask me to write a column (paid obviously – that’s the real mark of an editor’s trust) for them. Mel Bendix gave a young, bumbling writer the space to explore, take all sorts of liberties, and to grow. I have always appreciated that,” Hlongwane said.
Sipho Hlongwane’s Dogs of War column appears in each edition of The Big Issue. “In every column Hlongwane tackles a different issue relevant to South African society in context of current events playing out in the political, cultural and socio-economic landscape. Hlongwane is, at all times, cuttingly incisive and deftly wields a razor sharp wit,” Bendix wrote in her motivation when she entered the column into the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards.
“At times his columns aggravate but in such a way that they evoke thought rather than offend, while others aim to inform and amuse the reader simultaneously. In many columns Hlongwane tackles the prickly issues of race, politics and cultural and socio-economic divides head-on. His innate sense of humour and eloquent writing style enables him to do so in a manner which leads the reader to recognise and face the fallibilities and prejudices that lie within us all with humour and ease instead of anger and discomfort,” she said.
The Big Issue is a non-profit nongovernmental organisation (NGO) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) that publishes a general interest magazine every 21 days. Through running a vendor sales operation, The Big Issue creates jobs for unemployed, homeless and socially excluded adults. The Big Issue’s Social Development Programme provides vendor support including vocational, life and business skills training and guidance counselling. The Big Issue aims to actively encourage and equip vendors to “move on” from the project into mainstream society.
All income from sales and advertising is put back into producing a better magazine and providing jobs and social support for the unemployed and destitute. The Big Issue relies on funding from national and international donors to cover the majority of operating costs.
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Declaration of interest: Glenda Nevill is a former editor of The Big Issue and a member of its board of directors.