We need media practitioners that strive for the truth

We need media practitioners that strive for the truth

By Mandla Dladla and Andile Dladla

There are reporters and there are journalists. Velile Mnyandu falls in the latter category and has established himself as one of the foremost media practitioners who has earned respect among his peers from across the continent with his incisive and enjoyable articles and views.

Success did not come overnight for Mnyandu. He sacrificed and sweat blood and tears to reach a stage where he has become not just a successful journalist and opinion-maker, but has also been elected by his peers as Chairperson of the South African Football Journalists Association (SAFJA).

“I have been in the footballing media space since I was 14 years old as a football administrator before making a 360 degree turn to join radio at the age of 15 years,” says Mnyandu.

It all started during 1997 for Mnyandu who, while still growing up in the Eastern Cape in Bisho, he took amateur results of the local league activities to a then a very famous radio station which was called Radio CKI back in them days but is today known as True FM.

“I was still at attending high school back and after completing matric, I went on to study journalism at Border Technikon (Walter Sisulu University).

“A year after being at the institution, former PSL Media Officer Luxolo September (now working for the Confederation of African Football) joined us there to also study journalism. That is where we met and have been friends ever since.

“And in those days, there were a lot of senior journalists around and youngsters found it easy to prosper and succeed because the older generation offered us mentorship.

“But these days you hardly find that sacrifice from the more experienced journalists and that is the reason why at the SAFJA we are trying to come up with mentorship programmes.

“It is our belief that it would close the huge gap between senior journalists and those who are starting out. In this world where social media is thriving, anyone just comes onto the scene and believe they can be writers because they have a lot of followers and suddenly think they are journalists.”

Mnyandu strongly believes that journalism is about principles and a lot of discipline. He stresses that journalistic principles dictates that you just cannot go and publish something when you are not certain.

“There is always two sides of a story and a true journalist worth his salt will endeavour to get both sides of the story in order to balance the narrative. You cannot publish. One-sided story because it could also damage your own credibility but you have to be fair to the other party by giving the right of reply.”

The journalism profession has becomes under-valued according to Mnyandu and there is no protection in sports reporting because sometimes you find club officials who, when they see a journalist they do not see someone who is also a stakeholder, but they observe him or her as an irritation.

“They (club bosses) are not looking at a person who is also there to serving society and assist in the development of the game, but sometimes they are quick to align journalists to factions that they themselves have created and you find that one cannot work freely.

“As a journalist it has been hammered into me that the profession is about the truth and nothing but the truth. Sadly the truth is always never comfortable with many people and the malicious will call you a traitor but I’d rather speak the truth than lie to my readers or listeners.”

Turning his attention to SAFJA and why it was established, Mnyandu gave a glowing background about how it came to existence following countless years of frustration in getting the organization off the ground.

“The older generation tried to form a similar organization in the past but were not successful,” explain Mnyandu. “However, around the 2010 FIFA World Cup there were journalists hailing from across Africa and the world seeking contact with the local media guys and the late Sbu Mseleku tried to revive SAFJA and we were became foot soldiers following him.

“We brought together some seniors that have been around football for many years and still nothing materialized.

“It was only now during the Covid-19 pandemic where we had about 23 journalists from around the country in a WhatsApp group to share the challenges we go through either at the stadiums and decided to submit our frustrations in written form to the PSL.

“Our challenges escalated during the height of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions where we couldn’t conduct interviews and then we organized ourselves into a united front trying to get not just interviews but with the aim of establishing an organization that could articulate our frustrations and challenges.”

The groups started organizing virtual media conferences with countless stakeholders within the football industry and suddenly those people that were perhaps uninterested, started showing interest and they formalized themselves into the SAFJA following elections during May 2020 and today they boast a membership of about 150.

“We have also organized the “SAFJA journalist of the season”, SAFJA “Female journalist of the season” and we are coming up with more programmes where we aim to establish our merchandise because we are have been fortunate to be sponsored by Hollywoodbets.”

We asked Mnyandu his views following FIFA’s drive to stage the World Cup biennially and he admitted to have been caught up in the debate and has not yet fully made up his mind whether it would be good or bad for football until he has gathered all the facts around the issue.

“But for me hosting it every two years is going to be too much especially with the football calendar already congested. I am still not convinced about having AFCON every 4 years as prescribed by FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, the frequency of having the AFCON every second year is something that we are accustomed to and in any case it works for African football.

“Until I am convinced that staging the World Cup every two years would really work and in addition, would benefit African football then I will support the concept but for now I can’t really conclude anything.

“I have learned a lot from people like Thomas “Bra TK” Kwenaite and Mark Gleeson the only two people that I’ve seen here at home who extensively cover African football passionately and I see myself following in their footsteps to give African football the respect it deserves”

“We generally don’t cover African football the way it is supposed to be covered. As a consequence, when African teams come to play our teams we need to educate our people more about those teams, there is also a lot of fake news so we are the ones who need to correct that.

I would like to wish the South African men’s team cricket team well at the ongoing T20 World Cup which is currently under way in the UAE.

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