The SABC 8 is one of the greatest pieces of literature on journalism to have ever been written on the African continent. Foeta Krige gives an account of his experiences during the period he worked for South Africa’s public broadcaster, SABC.
He tells the story with great effort, yet so much ease. His simplistic approach makes the reading an enjoyable experience – especially if undisrupted.
Foeta’s story depicts politics of the newsroom almost every journalist can relate with or corroborate. His is not a story of glitz and glamour as most media narratives would put it. He tells the dangers journalists face in the course of their work.
He re-tells the drama, the good moments and the depressing escapades he and his colleagues had to encounter when they stood up in defense of journalism at the South African public broadcaster. All the moments are narrated with great nuance.
The horrific intimidation and death threats directed at the team, especially the late Suna Venter, epitomizes the drama. The solace sought from the justice system and the continued insolence displayed by their embattled former boss HlaudiMotsoeneng are all packaged in a forceful manner.
How the 8 journalists – Foeta, Suna, Thandeka Gqubule, LukhayoCalata, Krivan Pillay, BusiweNtuli, Jacques Steenkamp andVuyoMvoko – stood against “tyranny” and an attempt to capture the SABC newsroom offers a lesson to journalists working in state-owned media elsewhere. The book is central to the discussion of state broadcasting and public broadcasting models of journalism.
However, the story by Foeta is not short of a weakness. The story could have been more dramatic if Suna’s voice was allowed to flourish. Understandably, her family did not want it that way, hence we hear of Suna’s voice in the third person.
I am lucky to have met the writer and engage him on the book and his experiences. A good journalist tells informative and highly analytical stories, but a great journalist is the one who leaves a legacy for other to follow.
Obviously, some will see the SABC 8 as a blue print for a rebellion of sorts. True. But that’s not all there is to the story. Truth be told, Foeta’s story is an honest attempt to sanitize the state broadcasting sector which is so susceptible to abuse, especially by politicians.
In modern journalism, the 65-actionpacked chapter book should be recommended mandatory reading for new journalism students not only in South Africa, but other African countries as well. It fits in well, deserving a space next to books such as Andrew Marr’s ‘My Trade’.