Here’s something to amuse you a bit. A homie asks to meet me on a Friday. I politely decline the invitation explaining on this day I don’t take calls and I don’t arrange any meetings because I chase after my weekly deadline to publish Jambo Africa Online.
Out of shock, she retorts: “You really haven’t changed a bit!”
What do you mean? I asked.
“I remember when I used to visit your Hillbrow flat and I’d find you sitting in front of a PC typing your life away while your flat mates were just relaxed and having fun. That was almost 30 years ago .”
You do remember those days? I thought you didn’t notice anything then because you were just a shy young girl. I can’t remember having a decent conversation with you beyond just greetings.
I thought this would slow her down.
“Today I find you still stuck in front of a PC. How many words have you typed so far?”
Before I could respond, she responded to her rhetorics. Not that I had a straight number of words to give her.
“I think if we can put all the words you’ve typed on the ground since those many years ago, they’ll fill the entire Africa. I swear to God, we can turn them into a carpet to cover the entire continent from Cape to Cairo.”
I just gave her a wry smile.
Yes, when she first visited us I was an Editor-in-Chief for Learn & Teach Publications (an anti apartheid publishing house of a regular magazine that also produced publications for COSATU and its affiliates). I was also freelancing for Jive and Top 40 music magazines. I was also stringing for Radio Bop having been “smuggled” in by my news producer friends, Norman Makhutle and Pitso Tshukudu. I’m using the verb “smuggled” because they brought me to cover the political violence in the then East Rand without prior approval from their management. I guess the latter didn’t bother vetting me because the station wasn’t paying me for my reports as their correspondent in Johannesburg. They thought it was just my labour of love not knowing it was just a political excursion for me: they didn’t know I was an ex-detainee under the state of emergency in the Republic of South Africa and I was unofficially a persona non-grata in Bophuthatswana – the bantustan I mobilised residents against. They only became aware of these when the authorities confronted them about their Johannesburg correspondent who was filing reports critical of Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) – an ally of the Bophuthatswana regime – and praising the African National Congress (ANC).
Beyond these, I was a part-time B.A. (Hons) student at the University of the Witwatersrand. Which was immediately followed up by an MA in Dramatic Art at the same institution. Yes, I was forever doing research and writing assignments in addition to the demands of my day job as a Publishing Director at Heinemann Publishers. So my life was anchored on books.
It doesn’t end here. Besides being a member of the Association of Democratic Journalists (ADJ), I was also active in the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW).
Talking about taking solace from boredom in books, I remember the Prince Akeem character in the 1988 romantic comedy, “Coming to America”, (the role played by Eddy Murphy) telling his love interest Lisa MacDowell (portrayed by Shari Headley) that as he grew up in a rural village in Africa where there were no entertainment amenities, he ended up reading many books in the bush where he was herding goats so that’s why he was fairly knowledgeable. Some readers may remember I grew up in rural Hammanskraal, so like Prince Akeem I whiled away time by reading as I didn’t like soccer and boozing – the only forms of entertainment for the villagers.
Back to my homegirl’s question, my life revolved around writing but I can’t quantify my output through the number of words. All I can say is that I did publish many articles, short stories, plays, film scripts and poetry (all that still need to be polished up and published through Brandhill Africa™ now that I’m a full time entrepreneur). These include the adaptation of Sol Plaatje’s seminal novel, “M’hudi, into a film script which I did in 1998 through a generous grant from the Department of Arts and Culture. Yes, I did publish a children’s reader, “Thulani’s Magic Water” (part of the Junior African Writers Series) and some of my poems in various journals such as COSAW’s Ingolovane journal and Tribute magazine. Yes, I have since written four post graduate dissertations – the other two in addition to Wits’ were from the IMM Graduate School of Marketing and the University of Liverpool.
My professional life has also been about writing many strategies, speeches, presentations, articles/video scripts for corporate media and media statements – many of which are quoted extensively in news articles and canonised on Google. So my homie is right: my life makes more sense if I write – and I feel privileged that I could make a living from my hobby: from having served as Editor-in-Chief at Learn & Teach; Publishing Director at Heinemann Publishers (a multinational publishing house); serving in the public sector as marketing and communications expert at Chief Director level, until I was given a diplomatic posting to Italy where I also served as a Commissioner to South Africa’s national pavilion at the Venice Art/Architecture Biennale from 2012 to 2016. Yes, I enjoy the art and science of knowledge production.
Perhaps I may now discard history and talk about some of my most recent writings – as they say you’re as good as your last job. While in hospital for a year from November 2016 to October 2017, I took to my phone – after recovering mobility on my hands as I was fully paralysed for the first seven months of my hospitalisation – and I spent five months writing autobiographical pieces. Approximately 160 000 words out of what I wrote while in hospital became collated into a book, “Sounds and Fury: The Chronicles of Healing”. Then since September 2020 I started producing Jambo Africa Online news portal – which steals my Friday away from everyone, hence declining an invite for a meeting from my home girl. This reminds me of the Friday management news portal, Telkom Online, which I did while working as a Senior Manager: Corporate Communication for 18 months from 2000 to 2001 at Telkom – South Africa’s telecommunications utility. I remember feeling disoriented on Friday afternoons at home after leaving Telkom for the then Department of Trade and Industry as I was used to arriving home after 23h00 on Fridays as it felt highly awkward.
Some of what I’ve been writing since I became an entrepreneur in July 2020 has just crystallised into a major book, “De/constructing brand Africa: A Practitioner’s Perspective”. It has been highly humbling to read the reviews by three people whose opinions I truly respect, and here’s a taste of what they said:
Dr Temba Masilela (PhD): “I don’t know anyone who has thought more deeply (in theoretical, historical, contemporary, and practical terms) about brand Africa, its communicative configurations, and the ways in which they impact domestic resource mobilisation and international trade…”
Dr Nimrod Mbele (PhD): “Quintessentially, he is able to provide practical insights, strategies and tactics that are informed by years of experience as a public servant in various national and international missions…”
General Ishola Williams (Rtd): “The author has put together his thoughts, ideas and praxis borne out of his years of experience as an expert in brand management; and in related political, socio-economic and business in addition to historical issues and personalities…”
So I’m glad I’ll be launching this book in September as we’re celebrating the second anniversary of this news portal, Jambo Africa Online. Some of you may remember how special September is to us as we also celebrate International Literacy Day on the 8th. So this book is a birthday present to this news portal. By the way, South Africa also celebrates September as “Heritage Month”. It goes without saying that writing is both the depository and purveyor of our heritage.
Perhaps I should also share great news with you that I’ll be celebrating the International Literacy Day at my alma mater, University of the Witwatersrand, attending the 2022 Nadine Gordimer Lecture, presented by our legendary wordsmith, Mandla Langa, and organised by the Wits School of Literature, Language and Media in collaboration with the Friends of Nafine Gordimer. Gordimer was a militant South African writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991 in recognition of her as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has … been of very great benefit to humanity.” As young ANC underground operatives in the mid-1980s, we drew inspiration from her infectious proverbial pen – particularly, for me, her novel “July’s People”, that envisaged a non-racial South Africa post the armed seizure of power. The fact that her novels are not prescribed in our high schools is a serious indictment against our Department of Education. Both bro Mandla and his respondent in the event, Masande Ntshanga, are highly decorated and accomplished writers.
At the core of the art and science of writing are consistency, resilience, tenacity, sacrifice and in short, hard work! We look up to scribes such as Nadine Gordimer, bro Mandla, bro Wally Serote, Miriam Tlali, Andre Brink, James Mathews, Mothobi Mutloatse, Don “Bro Zinga” Mattera and countless sons and daughters of South Africa who gave us the true meaning of what “culture is a weapon of struggle” slogan was. Perhaps these are troubadours who inspired Ben Okri, a Nigerian author, to muse: “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering…”
To register for the event, please click here.
Besides personalities, I have a number of other sources for my inspiration. The first is a biblical quote from Proverbs 6:6-8: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” This speaks to consistency. This means investing in working today so that you may reap the rewards tomorrow. Yes, courtesy of advancement of mobile technology, I’m forever glued to my cellphone typing my thoughts or reading the written word in pursuit of wisdom. Yes, I do yearn to be wide as Mathew 10:16 quotes Jesus as proclaiming to his disciples: “Be ye therefore as wise as serpents…” And I vow not to use this venomously as he then concludes by saying in the same verse: “… and harmless as doves.” This last part warns against the advice of William Shakespeare: “Look like an innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”. This last part suggests one being ready to strike a fatal blow at the slightest provocation.
But I’m not completely condemning the wisdom of that English bard, Shakespeare, as he remains one of my cardinal reservoirs for inspiration. As I’m a global brand architect, his conceptualisation of the significance of the construct of reputation is unparalleled – do remember the science of marketing is about reputation management. He argues one’s reputation is timeless: “Reputation… Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial…” And he re-emphasises it by declaring: “The evil that men do lives after them… The good is oft interred with their bones.” These principles should be at the core of our brand management effort. And this is the essence of our messaging as Brandhill Africa™.
Now you do know why I’m not taking your calls or accepting your meeting invites on Friday – I’m always duty-bound on Fridays.
Yesterday on Thursday I had the pleasure of joining David Mosaka, Chief Rating Officer at Sovereign Africa Rating Agency, on Dr Nimrod Mbele’s weekly show, “Beyond Governance”, on Chai FM in which we critiqued the unjust attitude of the three main rating agencies on Africa; the unfairness of the current international system that include the untransformed Breton Woods institutions; and how we should respond as a continent by establishing our own continental governance systems and strengthening south-south cooperation through such minilateral forums as BRICS. Yes, I also decried the dominant media in Africa being foreign owned as it continues to perpetuate Afrophobic narratives on Africa through Westocratic perspectives. To listen to our one podcast, please click here.
Let me take this opportunity to thank you, our dear reader, for your unwavering and generous support. You inspire us to keep moving despite all the existential challenges we’re facing.
Enjoy your weekend.
Saul Molobi (FCIM)
Publisher: Jambo Africa Online
Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: Brandhill Africa™
Tel: +27 11 759 4297
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