Maverick Citizen

TUESDAY EDITORIAL

‘Leave no community behind’ – the stories we will tell in 2023 and why they should matter to you

‘Leave no community behind’ – the stories we will tell in 2023 and why they should matter to you
The poor black squatter camp, Kya Sands, in Johannesburg, which is home to South Africans and many African immigrants, is pictured on 19 July 2018 across the road from Bloubosrand, a middle-class area with larger houses and swimming pools. (Photo: Per-Anders Pettersson / Getty Images)

We live in dangerous times. It will take the alchemy of organised people’s power to turn that danger into hope. In producing a chemistry for change, social justice journalism has a vital part to play.

Over the Christmas holiday this year I went hiking in the upper reaches of the Drakensberg mountains. Ironically, amid resplendent natural beauty, it felt comforting that the danger I faced came only from falling off basalt cliffs, getting lost on overgrown paths that are away from the reach of ever-intrusive cellphone signals, or from an Alpine cold that can suddenly descend even on a hot summer’s day.

These dangers are natural dangers. Sadly, they are still everyday dangers for poor people in some remote parts of the world. But they felt different and far away from the man-made dangers of inequality, femicide, genocide, poverty, crime, corruption, climate catastrophe and war (including possibly nuclear war) that are part of our “normal” lives and which, in one way or another, face now almost all of humanity.

Confronting these man-made dangers, and turning them into opportunities, is going to be humanity’s challenge for 2023 and beyond. 

Humanity begins at home

This is a year that will undoubtedly be pivotal in South Africa and in countries across the world.

Last year ended with the ANC fiddling while Mzansi burned. The ruling party has started 2023 in the same bumbling fashion. But in South Africa we are now taxiing on the runway to the 2024 general elections, and many influential people – including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Songezo Zibi – are making it clear that the future of South Africa lies in the hands of its people, not its political parties – 2023, they agree, is the time to begin campaigns to wrest back power and rebuild community fabric from below.

Read in Daily Maverick: “The ‘New Struggle’: An alliance of high-calibre SA leaders is needed to craft a better future for SA 

Read in Daily Maverick: “SA people, let’s work together to rebuild the country of our dreams

They reflect a mood that is also taking hold on the ground. “We are the people we have been waiting for,” I have heard some activists saying.

Activists at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address during the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. (Photo: Siyabulela Duda / GCIS)

Countering division and disinterpretation

We live in a world of deliberate disinformation and “disinterpretation”. This means that in the quest led by activists for renewal and social justice, access to quality journalism about what is happening to people, their rights and the reasons for injustice, is vital. 

Connection is vital. Seeing and being seen is vital. 


Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations


In keeping with this in 2023, the team of journalists at Maverick Citizen (Estelle Ellis, Joyrene Kramer, Tamsin Metelerkamp, Naledi Sikhakane, Zuki Pikoli, Anso Thom) commit to improve our investigation and writing to highlight the hidden stories and powers of communities and the challenges they are confronting. 

By doing so we aim to facilitate connection and compassion and do more to inform and shape the discourse about social justice, rather than just reporting the tragedies that befall the poor after the fact (which we will also continue to do).  

Read in Daily Maverick: “Maverick Citizens – why we write

Writing on rights

Our team, which met yesterday, has already identified some of the issues we plan to write on, including:

  • How Eskom’s load shedding and load reduction is impacting on communities and lives. Why? Because while much of the media focuses on the economic impact and inconvenience of load shedding, as usual it is the most vulnerable who are worst affected. The relationship between access to electricity and a multitude of rights is something the Constitutional Court recognised in an extremely important judgment handed down on 23 December 2022, which noted that the decision (to cut off electricity to whole communities) “has had an adverse impact on the residents in that it has resulted in the breach of several of their rights protected by the Bill of Rights: the right to life, the right to dignity, the right of access to water, the right to basic education and the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being”;
  • The right to an identity document (ID). Why? Home Affairs is one of the most corrupt and mismanaged government departments. Yet people depend on it for vital documentation, particularly IDs, without which it is not possible to live. Without an ID, for example, you can’t vote, get a social grant, open a bank account or register for school. This makes the fact that there are an estimated 15 million people without IDs even more egregious. We aim to shine a light on the dark recesses of Home Affairs throughout the year with the aim of ensuring that this situation changes;
  • The trials and tribulations of children under six. Why? There are an estimated eight million children six and under in South Africa – that is 15% of our total population. Because they are not adults they do not have political rights. They depend on us! Yet millions of them are hungry, denied access to early childhood development, and vulnerable to abuse. We aim to help give them a voice; and
  • The human right to have access to money. Why? Millions of people in South Africa are prevented from having any formal income because of mass unemployment. Most barely survive on social grants, begging and sometimes stealing. In the modern world, money has been made as indispensable to life as water or food. This is the context in which, across the world, the idea of a Basic Income Support/Grant is gaining ground, an issue we have focused on extensively through a series of articles by Hein Marais and others. We will continue to focus on the human and economic dimensions of this issue and why the constitutional right to social security (section 27 of the Bill of Rights) must be made real.

A crowd protests against femicide outside Parliament in Cape Town on 29 August 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

This is just a taste. If there are stories or issues you think we are missing, tell us. You can email us on [email protected]. In addition we will also continue our groundbreaking investigations on #Food Justice (find what we have written so far here), as well as telling the tales of activists everywhere who are unleashing power for dignity. 

Our aim is to practise journalism that leaves no community behind. We write rights. We right wrongs. Write for us. Read us. Support us. Get active. DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • louis viljee says:

    \Thanks for your excellent investigations and reporting. We look forward to much more.
    I am excited on your focus on community power and those most deeply affected by the failure of governance. Like the UDF rose in the late hours of apartheid from the grass roots, organising street by street, and reaching across the divides, this is the only way we can progress. Ending corruption which is so rife, starts with each one of us.
    The BIG is an important initiative, promising far more benefit to society than the cost as Rutger Bregman demonstrates in Utopia for Realists. I suggest that the carbon dividend proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby aligns with a BIG. A price is levies on carbon emissions with all the money so collected paid as a dividend to the public. It is simple, transparent, equitable and effective in reducing reliance on the damaging fossil fuels, encouraging the transition to renewables. The Australian version, the Australian Climate Dividend is explained more fully on their website, including the analysis by academics at the UNSW.

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