Indeed it is difficult to escape the conclusion that he wishes to score cheap points against a well recognised name rather than to engage in constructive debate that furthers South Africa’s development. Nevertheless his piece constitutes part of the very debate and engagement that we wish to encourage, so notwithstanding his seemingly dubious intent I have chosen to respond.
He complains that LeadSA has not supported the Right2Know campaign. However, he misses the point that LeadSA is not an organisation. Moreover he creates an artificial divide between the stations and newspapers supporting LeadSA and LeadSA itself. They are one and the same thing. Indeed in response to the proposed Media Laws, Primedia Group CEO Kuben Pillay said on 1 September 2010: “The reputation and future of South Africa is at stake here. Let’s stand up for our Constitution and the free South Africa we fought for, and treasure. Let us lead SA and do the right thing. We need to be bold and fearless. We need to stand up for free speech.”
LeadSA is a call to action. This call is made by Primedia Broadcasting and the Independent Group of Newspapers and supported by thousands of our listeners and readers. In making this call Primedia Broadcasting and the Independent Group hope to inspire and recognise an active engaged citizenry. A citizenry committed to furthering the rights articulated in the Bill of Rights. It is a call to South Africans to do the right thing, to stand up for the kind of country that they want to see.
It is under this very umbrella, that a number of our platforms and personalities have actively promoted the Right2Know campaign. Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk have given extensive coverage to the campaign; journalists of the Cape Argus have marched against the effects of the proposed bills. EWN journalists and the journalists of the Independent Group have consistently tackled government spokespeople on a variety of issues relating to the freedom of the press. We have given our listeners and readers the platforms to engage these issues and express their opinions. These issues have been given extensive coverage on our platforms precisely because of LeadSA’s commitment to active, engaged citizenry.
Moreover on a daily basis our platforms challenge failed and weak leadership (both public and private), provide the platform for vigorous debate and input from our listeners and readers as well as celebrate what is great in our country. These actions are at the heart of LeadSA’s leadership message – to both challenge and inspire, to critique and to celebrate.
Primedia Broadcasting and the Independent Group have acknowledged and acted on our responsibility as corporate citizens to participate in the activities of the community and affairs of the country. Mr Vegter complains that we haven’t done this. He clearly neither reads the newspapers of the Independent Group nor listens to Primedia’s radio stations, for if he did he would’ve read and heard extensive coverage. We have taken our responsibility to defend our citizenship rights seriously and acted on them. However it must be said that it is amusing that he wants us to take this responsibility given his trenchant complaints about the Bill of Responsibilities. Given his previous arguments one would expect that he would prefer us to blindly carry on about our business rather than engaging in the hard debates that we have. Perhaps now he and other critics will see the point – if we want a vibrant democracy we all share a responsibility to defend and extend our rights.
The Lead SA Facebook page is a testament to our desire for open and intense debate on issues pertaining to the future of our country. I’d encourage the critics here to engage with the approximately 38,000 supporters of LeadSA who are active in that environment. They are also free to submit critical pieces for publication on the Lead SA website. Far from shying away from debate and wanting “docile masses” we actively welcome the criticism and the challenging. The debate can only strengthen the campaign’s objective – a committed, aware and engaged citizenry.
LeadSA has tackled an array of projects in the ten months that it has been “alive”. Yes, it has dealt with potholes. It has also tackled police corruption, drunk driving and rhino poaching – none of these are exactly “small stuff”. It worked hard to support the IEC’s call to vote, the cornerstone of individual rights and a functioning democracy. It has provided much needed media coverage to those South Africans who are tirelessly seeking to make our country a better place. The LeadSA website explicitly seeks to use that platform to celebrate those who otherwise would be unsung heroes. In doing so we seek to celebrate and inspire leadership that makes our country better for all who live in it. This is hardly the stuff of “sickly-sweet political correctness”, but is the celebration of people tackling poverty, child abuse, environmental degradation and, yes also those that are simply trying to add a smile to someone else’s day. Should we stop? DM