Restoring and Renewing the Fourth Estate

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Submission to SANEF Media Ethics and Credibility Inquiry on measures to support journalists to heal from and transcend the effects of State Capture.

“So, let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a world we can never really understand.”

Phil Graham. US Newspaperman. 1963.

Media Democracy
Thanks to The Meteor, Manchester’s Independent Media for use of image.

The above quoted Phil Graham played a seminal role in the development of the media as a key institution of USA society in the post WW II context. He helped grow The Washington Post from a struggling local paper to a national publication. He served as publisher and later co-owner of The Washington Post Company, expanding the company by buying other newspapers as well as radio and television stations.

In April 1963, Graham delivered a speech to the overseas correspondents of Newsweek in London in which he lamented over the difficulty faced by the media. The somewhat depressing opening quote above is from that speech.

Four months after his speech, The New York Times reported that Graham had committed suicide with a 28-gauge shotgun.

The point of relating this tragedy as an introduction to this submission is to set the tone for my own lament about the situation within which the South African media finds itself, and to gesture towards what can be done to provide vibrant and healthy working conditions for journalists, for their own sakes as much as to further the interests of vulnerable and disadvantaged people (i.e the people who generally look to social workers for help). This submission is offered from my perspective as a social worker for the purposes of strengthening the media as a vital institution for the inclusive democratisation of South African society, especially for my clients.

For nearly four decades I have been working as a social worker in conjunction with lawyers and other professionals to promote a culture of human rights and a sense of agency and protagonism of people in adverse situations. Journalists have been indispensable partners in my professional work of enhancing the social functioning of people who are marginalised, vulnerable and disadvantaged, and who find themselves in adverse situations requiring public awareness of human rights violations so as to build political and consumer pressure for change in policy, governance failure and corporate exploitation.

This submission aims to document my experience; lodge my dismay at the dwindling capacity of the media to serve people vulnerable to injustice; offer some insights; and conclude with some proposals to promote mental health resilience of journalists and enhanced accountability of the media generally.

To contextualise my analysis and ground my offering in a real-life situation the story of the Amadiba community’s assertion of their right to self-determination in the face of a concerted effort by a captured State to award mining rights to an Australian junior mining company MRC Ltd is told. It is a story of how a once marginalised and isolated rural community have blazed a trail for other similar communities to now also assert their constitutional rights and obtain justice in the face of corporate bullying, State failure and erosion of the Rule of Law. Over the full trajectory of two decades of struggle it is in fact a good news story. Not only for the affected community, but for the ‘fourth estate’ too by demonstrating how good ethical journalists can made a positive difference.

The story is not over and could be an even better one if the media transcends the mess of having become the story and moves forward to simply tell the story.

The Xolobeni Saga: Actualising human rights, reframing mining rights

Over a period of 18 years I have worked closely with a number of journalists in an effective synergy of complementary roles to ‘speak truth to power’, with respect of the predicaments and circumstances of my clients.

Given the abasement of the State over the past decade, aided and abetted by toxic disinformation, deception and unbridled propaganda by State and their corporate partners, I have found myself having to increasingly speak the truth about power.

A large part of my professional support to the Amadiba has been to gather and archive information that largely consists of media reports (documentary films, newspaper articles and radio interviews). This has greatly assisted their legal representatives to turn the “rough draft” of the history of the Amadiba land rights struggle into a final draft and win a stunning legal precedent with huge ramifications for rural residents affected by mining ventures and misadventures.

Without the excellent role played by the media over many years, it is highly unlikely that the Amadiba Wild Coast residents would have succeeded in their quest to obtain a landmark High Court declaratory order in November 2018 that affirmed the protection of their informally held communal land rights under the Constitution. Judge Annali Basson said as much in April 2019 during her interview by the Judicial Services Commission as a candidate for appointment to the Constitutional Court. She said she was already well aware of the story before she was allocated the case and had read about it. Her judgement reflected a measure of real insight, not only with respect to the facts of the case, but also of the need for the Judiciary to hold the Executive to account under the Constitution. Much to the displeasure of the Minister of Minerals Gwede Mantashe, she had no hesitation in affirming the applicants constitutional right to Free, Prior and Informed consent before mining rights could be awarded over their ancestral land.

The court papers show that the overwhelming number of local residents (their clients) had exercised that right to refuse to consent for the Minister of Minerals and Energy to award mining rights for the Xolobeni Mineral Sands, which lie below their homesteads and cropfields. It bears repeating that it is thanks to the educational role grounded in a fair, factual and impartial reporting by journalists that the Amadiba were able to come to that decision for themselves.

This is because over a period of some 14 years, the Amadiba had learned that human rights do not belong to government (nor indeed the Constitutional Court): they belong to people and it was by their concerted prior exercise of other rights entrenched in the Constitution which had enabled and empowered the Amadiba to assert that right. Having exercised their rights to “equality” (clause 9); “freedom of expression”(clause 16); “assembly, demonstration, picket and petition”; “environment” (clause 24); “property” (clause 25); “access to information” (clause 32); and “just administrative action” (clause 33), over a period of some 14 years, it meant that when it came to claiming their right of “access to courts” (section 34) their legal team had a strong winning hand to play before Judge Basson.

The outcome might have been very different were it not for the ethical integrity of certain journalists and Public Relations professionals, who refused to be captured, and stuck to their professional codes despite the offer of incentives the mining company to peddle false narratives.

Nevertheless, as journalists and PR professionals have come and gone, the archival record of the Xolobeni saga stands as a proud testament to show that it has been possible to develop an ever more accurate and truthful draft of that slice of history. It renders both the micro world of the Amadiba and the State’s perverse and corrupt handling of national mineral resources more understandable too. If he were still alive, Phil Graham surely would have been consoled by reading the narrative. A rich data source now awaits a young journalism student contemplating a post graduate dissertation or PhD thesis that critically examines how the media played a critical role in the saga to actualise human rights.

The archives show that the Xolobeni mining rights matter was to the intents and purposes of the local residents already settled in September 2008 when the former Minister of Mineral Resources Mrs Buyelwa Sonjica visited the community at their Traditional Court and heard their overwhelming rejection of the award of mining rights. This was only formally recognised three years later in July 2008 when her successor Minister Susan Shabangu was compelled by threat of an enquiry by the Public Protector, to set the mining right aside.

That ought to have been the end of the story, but we now know why it wasn’t. Jacob Zuma had been elected President in 2009, and in captivity to the Gupta family appointed a minister to the Minerals portfolio, Mr Motsebenzi Zwane, who used both hooks and crooks to tried to ignore the prior history and impose the will of a corrupted government on the Amadiba. But they were empowered, well aware of their constitutional rights and refused to acquiesce.

Thanks to the exhaustive investigation and verification by Sam Sole of AmaBhungane, truths that I have known in private about the sinister, mendacious and self-serving motives of former senior officials and politicians are now on public record. See this report.

Corporate manipulation, bullying and scapegoating of media professionals and myself

Which brings me to the purpose of the SANEF Enquiry, which is to harvest evidence of the veracity and extent of allegations of ‘capture’ of journalists, and instances where the Media Code of Professional Ethics has been violated.

My experience is in fact more illustrative of the opposite: how journalists and other media professionals have shown commitment to their codes of ethics, despite enormous pressures being put on them to spin false narratives. It also shows how the lurch into an era of State Capture risks defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory, because of the internal state of affairs within the media.

Proposed Xolobeni Project - Wild Coast

I first became aware of dirty dealings by the mining protagonists in 2005 when an influential journalist and columnist confided in me that she had been approached by the CEO of the mining company Mr Mark Caruso. The mining company was in the process of getting ready to launch their mining rights application for the Xolobeni Mineral Sands, and they wanted good press. She had written an opinion piece that had been critical of the venture. He complained to her for her “biased reporting” and tried to induce her to serve their interests. She was offended that he should even think that she would allow herself to be bought protesting that she was a journalist with a commitment to a professional code of ethics.

He backed off but did not give up in his efforts to obtain favourable press, and in March 2007, shortly before the company lodged their mining rights application, contracted a PR Company Maverick Communications to develop a media strategy to woo public and political support. It was owned by Dr De Kock, then President of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa and thus a man of some reputation. He successfully lobbied Creamer Media’s Martin Creamer to run a cover story on the proposed mining rights application in Mining Weekly.

In June 2007 I was one of the people approached by the journalist assigned to the story, Ms Christy van der Merwe, for my views. As any good journalist would, she wanted the story to reflect a diversity of views and be fair and balanced even though it would appear in a mining industry publication. In July the cover story appeared with a highly ironic headline. “Titanium Treasure: But some are dead against it being mined”.

Ironic because I know of at least 4 community leaders who have died for their opposition to the mining venture since 2003, when prospecting commenced. First was the brutal shooting of local induna Mr Mandoda Ndovela in 2003.. This was followed by the murder of Mr Bazooka Radebe, the chair of the Amadiba Crisis Committee in March 2016. The shooting of Ndovela and Radebe remain unsolved despite the clear evidence of unnatural causes. Two other leaders, Mr Scorpion Dimane (died January 2008) and Mr Balasheleni Mthwa (died April 2015), died under mysterious circumstances, from suspected poisoning. Despite reporting my suspicions about the latter death to the SAPS who took the body for toxicology tests, nothing happened.

It was clear that the mining company representatives had omitted to tell Ms van der Merwe certain details that clearly indicated that they had used her and Mining Weekly to create a false impression. The cover photo appears to be a degraded, empty and uninhabitable landscape. She was not told that in fact the stone and rocks scattered in the foreground contain many Stone Age artefacts dating back to the Sangoan Era somewhere between 100 000 to 500 000 years ago! The research of Dr Kathy Kuman of Wits Palaeontology department has confirmed this. This heritage endowment is of no interest to the mining company. They are only interested in the heavy mineral deposits.

Over the weeks and months that followed, it was not only the relationship between the mining company and Mining Weekly that deteriorated. Their relationship with Dr Mixael de Kock also ended. De Kock choose his integrity over the lucrative contract and he fired MRC/TEM as a client. He confided in me that he had been “hung out to dry” after being told to issue a media release that had false information stating that the mining company “had decided to withdraw its mining rights application due to objections from environmentalists”. The company spokesman did not take calls from journalists who called to confirm the story and proceeded to blame his own consultant for putting out a false story.

The full story has been told in a submission to the Zondo Commission, which I can make available if the Panel is interested. Suffice to say that it tells a story that in many respects prefigures the Gupta State Capture project and shows that the Department of Mineral Resources under the former Director General Adv Sandile Nogxina was already deeply compromised by a corrupting corporate agenda. Mercifully that agenda failed, thanks to the integrity of media professionals with whom I worked. I have a recording of my conversation with Dr de Kock in which he relates his story which I can make available if the Panel is interested. Sadly, he died prematurely on 25 August 2014 of a heart attack.

He is one of many unsung heroes of the Xolobeni mining struggle and it is thanks to him and other whistle blowers that I have been able to establish that in 2003 the Industrial Development Corporation lent the mining company R18 million to finance its prospecting and start-up costs. I have since learned from another whistle blower — a former employee of the mining company — that that the loan was never repaid. He suspects that this investment was made to secure a stake of 18% in Transworld Energy and Minerals (the private company in whose name the Xolobeni prospecting rights were issued in 2003) for an anonymous entity known as SGF Secretaries Pty Ltd. My source also suspects that the African National Congress is in fact the beneficiary of the investment. Had the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project succeeded as intended it would have netted SGF Secretaries approximately $45 million in dividends. I have had no corroborating evidence to substantiate the suspicion. If true, it would explain why the National Chair of the ANC, Mr Gwede Mantashe has in his capacity as Minister of Minerals and Energy shown such a strong interest in the fortunes of the scheme.

Why am I telling this to the SANEF media enquiry? Because many of the journalists who helped the Amadiba throw a spanner in the works of MRC’s ambitions between 2006 and 2011 are simply not available or able to do the necessary follow through investigation because of the state of affairs in the media in the wake of State Capture. While the Zondo Commission has been apprised of the matter and are now apparently using their powers of subpoena to obtain confirming or refuting evidence, there is a determined fightback strategy by the mining company and their anonymous partners to blunt our efforts, as I explain further below.

The Executive Chair of the mining company, understandably sore about the turn of events which has dashed his hopes of a fabulous return on an investment of an estimated R80 million over the past 20 years, filed a defamation SLAPP suit against me in July 2016. This has obliged me to spend an enormous amount of time in producing an answering plea and providing evidence that the defamatory statements I have made are true and in the public interest. The plaintiffs response has been to keep adding further claims. The first claim totalled R2.25 million for seven claims. Over the past three years these have been added to, and in November last year five more claims were added bringing the total to 28 claims totalling R10 million.

Besides the effort to intimidate me, attorney Cormac Cullinan, and local activist and ANC Ward Councillor, Mzamo Dlamini, have also been sued for statements they made on a talk radio program in 2016 after the murder of Bazooka Radebe, for R1 million each.

If there was any doubt that the litigation strategy was vexatious, this was dispelled when the same litigants filed papers suing two lawyers formerly from the Centre for Environmental Rights (Tracy Davies and Christine Reddell), and a local activist Davine Cloete for public statements they have made in criticism of their other mining enterprise, the Tormin Mineral Sands project on the Cape West Coast.

Webber Wentzel Attorneys are defending us pro-bono, and Geoff Budlender SC is leading a team of advocates to challenge the entire litigation as an abuse of process.

The plaintiffs also targeted a journalist Ms Tossie Beukes from a local newspaper on the West Coast “Onse Kontrie” with a SLAPP suit. This echoed the experience of the journalist whose experience in 2005 I related above, except that the mining company went much further in their intimidation strategy, suing her and her newspaper for criminal defamation. Ms Beukes stood her ground bravely, and the mining company withdrew the case. See Groundup Report.

It is said that in warfare, truth becomes the first casualty. In ‘lawfare’, truth becomes the first and prized hostage, kept in the realm of arcane legal disputation for as long as possible. It seems highly likely that the plaintiffs have no interest in actually having any of the matters heard in open court. It is a clear instance of corporate bullying to intimidate us in our shared resolve to speak truth to power.

Dismay and Disappointment

I am concerned that there has not been a strong and forthright statement of support by SANEF for the Asinya Loyiso (“We have no fear”) campaign that the Centre for Environmental Rights have spearheaded to challenge the SLAPP suits. This corporate bullying has obvious ramifications for the media as an institution because if Mr Caruso succeeds, it will have a chilling effect on journalists and shut down important democratic space.

I believe that is because of the evisceration of the media due to the tightening State of Capture. The Amadiba community leaders and I actively participated in the Right2Know campaign in 2011/2012, recognising that the Secrecy Bill would have hampered their ability to campaign for their democratic rights. The campaign served as an invaluable means of forging solidarity with other organs of civil society. One shudders to think what would have happened had there not been a strong mobilisation against the Bill, given the revelations of State Capture that subsequently emerged. The Bill was clearly an attempt to constrain the media, so that the wholesale abuse of power would not be properly scrutinised.

The effect of State Capture

Between 2005 and 2009 it was relatively easy to interest editors, producers and journalists to cover the story. However, between 2011 and 2015 it became increasingly difficult. I found myself increasingly having to report on the increasingly volatile situation myself. As grateful as I was to the editors of Daily Maverick, Biznews, RDM online and News24 for publishing my reports, it was not enough to prevent what I most deeply feared, the escalation of violence, eventually culminating in the murder of one of the most outspoken leaders of the Amadiba, Mr Sikhosiphe ‘Bazooka’ Radebe on 22 March 2016.

That resulted in the story attracting attention on international news platforms, with journalists from PBS, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, CNN and the BBC coming to our aid to raise the profile of a saga that has now been mentioned as the “Standing Rock story of the South”. International NGOs followed, with the support of Amnesty International, Oxfam, and others.

Alas, the tension did not abate. Violent incidents continued to occur. Journalists themselves became targets. I started out in my social work intervention simply to lobby journalists and their editors, and facilitate their access to the community. As the climate worsened, I found myself having to counsel and support journalists who had been attacked and traumatised by violence and hostility from the pro-mining faction, while also trying to support community members through the worsening ordeal. Likewise, their legal representatives, notably Richard Spoor, relied on me being alongside him with my camera rolling after he was arrested and charged for assault and incitement for “pointing a police officer with a finger”.

While the incident was cause for much jest and cartooning, all of which was to the ultimate advantage of the Amadiba and Mr Spoor, the ordeal has taken its toll.

Furthermore, living as I do in Johannesburg and active in civil society, I have come to know a great many journalists as trusted friends: trusted in the sense that we mutually respected the different but complementary roles each of us played, especially where narratives were strongly contested and polarised. Upon meeting any journalist new to the story, it became standard procedure for me to tell them up front to be as hard on me with their questions as they were on the mining company and other stakeholders. This was because I was well aware that I had become far too deeply embedded in the drama than is normal for a social worker and was thus very susceptible to “confirmation bias” in my professional assessments.

Over time, as whistle blowers from the mining company and government came to trust and confide in me, and journalists did their own homework, we were able to triangulate information and (without exposing the whistle blowers and other confidential sources) proceed with ever greater confidence to ensure the public and government authorities were well informed of the facts of the situation.

It is standard practice for social workers to build relationships with all stakeholders in the client system, irrespective of their position on issues, so as to create insight. Many pro-mining inclined people came to trust me and consequently the reports that journalists filed from their disclosures. Predictably this angered the mining company and their allies in the State, and I increasingly found myself scapegoated and attacked. Death threats were issued, but confident in the knowledge that I had kept my journalist friends well up to date, I did not become paranoid and fearful (at least not for long) because of the good network of relationships that I had formed, face to face and on Social Media.

Apart from the names already mentioned, I am not at liberty to disclose the identity and circumstances that I have witnessed among my collateral professionals (journalists, public relations consultants and lawyers), other than to make a general assertion that we have all suffered as a consequence of the weak and fragile state of the media, which threatened to completely implode due to State Capture. As the pressure on them intensified and they could no longer report on the situation, I found myself having to venture out of my lane and start reporting on the situation myself. I take the fact that my efforts I have been rewarded by a R10 million defamation SLAPP suit as an indication of my effectiveness, but this has intensified the stress on me and my family and is not sustainable. The institutions of democracy have to be strengthened so that heroics are not ordinarily required to ensure justice and peace.


The Zuma presidency has become characterised as an era of State Capture. I wonder if it would be better described as an era of negation of constitutional sovereignty and the evisceration of democratic accountability. Notwithstanding courageous work done by journalists and some media platforms, if the State is ever to be ‘fireproofed’ against any future risk of capture the media has to recognise and acknowledge to what extent important members of the ‘fourth estate’ became a ‘fifth column’. Much pain has been inflicted, wittingly or otherwise, on dedicated professionals. I have found myself attending the memorial services of two journalists, Mandy Rossouw in 2012 and Suna Venter in 2017, to offer comfort to their colleagues and families. I have seen the very journalists who helped expose the toxic working conditions that Suna Venter and the “SABC eight” had endured, themselves become victims to devastating failures of editorial and newsroom accountability measures.

The financial eco-system that once sustained good journalism is simply no longer able to do so. After watching the recent TV series “The Morning Show”, which is a fictional depiction of a crisis in a top-rated morning news and current affairs show in New York, I posted the following review on FaceBook.

“The media drama really brought home the insidious way in which a normless appetite for more money, more sex and more power becomes a toxic ternary. Distrust, brittle relationships and desperate alienation are the bitter fruits. When this happens in an institution that espouses the normative ideal of truth seeking and telling to enhance the functioning of democracy it becomes especially problematic.

Add to that the enduring systemic pathology of patriarchy and toxic masculinity and it seems hopeless.

But the series manages to bring most of the characters through the ordeal to offer some hope. How all this transmogrifies in Season 2 is going to be interesting.

I hope that the writers will further develop the nascent theme of Scapegoating that (thanks to my recent discovery of Rene Girard’s seminal work on the subject) has become a useful lens through which to better understand history and social reality.

I now find myself imagining how the story would play out in a South African TV News and Current Affairs program. Given the extraordinary story of the rise and fall of ANN7; the untimely death of Suna Venter and the recent goings on in eNCA I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers decided to pay us a visit to save them having to make things up.

Given our plethora of generative themes, Truth in South Africa tends to eclipse Fiction elsewhere.”

I tagged all my female journalist Facebook friends (27 women in all) inviting them to share their thoughts (in confidence if they wish) about the series and their experiences in the industry. Their responses make interesting reading.


The Gupta’s have now long gone and a process of deep adaptation to the ‘climate change’ that they have precipitated is required. Four planks are needed to construct a firm platform to hold up the fourth estate. These are the same planks conceptualised by Professor Jem Bendell, in his proposal for a “Deep Adaptation Agenda” to address the climate crisis facing the planet as a whole. After the category 5 storm that we have seen blow through newsrooms and studios over the past decade the same four planks readily apply as a useful framework to promote healing among journalists and thus empower them to transcend.

1. Resilience. For journalists to excel in their vocation as truth seeker tellers and seekers their systems of satisfaction of their individual fundamental human needs need to be enhanced. By that I invoke the insights of my late mentor Professor Manfred Max-Neef who pioneered the “Human Scale Development” approach to healing social pathology. This brief video gives the gist of his thinking. 

2. Relinquishment. Attachment to old and outmoded ways of obtaining and transmitting the news need to give way to new. “The Morning Show” series depicts very well how ‘Power over’ strategies simply do not work and compound the problem. Patriarchal cultures do not even synergistically satisfy the needs of men, never mind the harm they cause to women. This is not to deny the necessity of some hierarchal ordering of authority, but organisations do their best work when leaders use power only to remedy clear breaches of disciplinary codes, and even then this should be done mindful of the following plank, Restoration.

3. Restoration. A systems thinking approach to organisation development recognises that “the whole is other than the sum of the parts”. Contrary to popular belief, the whole is not automatically greater than the sum of its parts. It can be ‘less than’ and it seems the latter has been the case for the South African media over the past decade. Certain journalists have individually shown heroic commitment to do their job notwithstanding the toxic newsrooms and studios they have had to endure.

Disappointingly, some very promising younger journalists with whom I have worked have chosen other career paths. What would it take to re-inspire them and bring them back? Above all it will require that the industry cohere around a consensus as to the Normative/Ethical principles that must be at the pinnacle of the hierarchy.

That will provide a means of closure around the “strategic effectiveness” and “operational efficiency” domains, and ensure that these two apparently competing imperatives don’t tear the organisation apart. It is important to note in this regard that this ternary framework of Normative, Strategic and Operational imperatives offers an alternative to money and profit as the motive force that drives organisational performance. This is not to say that money is not important, but simply that it is a metric of constraint, and NOT a metric of ultimate value. Thus, while it is desirable that an organisation acquire a growing revenue stream so as to lessen the constraints, more profits does not equate with adding value. My experience with the Amadiba illustrates.

4. Reconciliation. The Biblical aphorism that “A house divided cannot stand” applies. I have observed some damaging public clashes between good journalists that have been demoralising to the individuals and harmful to the industry. Insofar as I have had some influence because of my personal friendship with the individuals, I have tried to intervene constructively. While my efforts has borne some good fruit this has been done voluntarily. I believe that SANEF needs to develop its capacity to offer professional conflict resolution and alternative dispute resolution options for journalists. Besides practical skills, this capacity also requires wisdom to deeply discern how and when the ubiquitous “scapegoating mechanism” that the esteemed anthropologist Rene Girard wrote about, is at play. As a target of a defamation suit myself, I have come to better understand how the scapegoating mechanism plays out, and how to remain positive in the face of attacks. I have been told in confidence that more high profile defamation suits are being planned in the months ahead which as a side effect risks further damage to the credibility of the media. I don’t think that these can be easily nipped in the bud but the litigation needs to closely monitored by SANEF to harvest the lessons on offer.


Returning to the story of Phil Graham’s tragic demise, it needs to be said that he had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in June 1963, two months before he took his own life. Perhaps this stands as a caution that people with such mental health tendencies ought not to pursue a career in journalism, given the endless suffering and tragedy that they have to report on daily. However, in my experience of working with people with bi-polar disorder they are often uniquely able to discern what is really happening in any given situation. It is better that the media find ways of ensuring that the organisational culture of newsrooms and studios is supportive. I can vouch from forty years of social work experience, and my own life story that the truth does indeed set us free. But I can also say that invariably it first makes us miserable. SANEF needs to create safe spaces for journalists to experience the synergistic satisfaction of their fundamental human needs, so that they will, like Mixael de Kock and Christy van der Merwe, do their jobs without having to suffer and sacrifice so much.


My Personal Background

I am a professional social worker specialising in human rights advocacy and empowerment, working with vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, families and communities. I graduated in 1982, and for the first 20 years of my career worked in humanitarian and community development contexts with faith-based and other civil-society organisations.

In addition to my formal professional work I have, since my university days, actively participated in the broader social movement to promote the deepening of participatory democracy in society and accountability of the State.

Environmental justice and social sustainability have been the connecting threads throughout my career. In 2002 I was employed by the World Health Organisation Africa Regional office as an Advocacy and Communication Officer and deployed to the UN Regional Inter-Agency Coordination and Support Office to respond to the severe drought and HIV/AIDS pandemic that was ravaging the Southern Africa region from 2002 to 2005.

It was in the course of my service within the UN Humanitarian system that I began working closely with journalists and editors to report on disasters and appeal to the public and State actors for humanitarian interventions.

Since 2005, given my participation in the media industry, I have used this to string my bow with an additional string in quest of social justice for vulnerable and disadvantaged families and communities. Since 2006 my main focus has been to work with the Amadiba rural community living on the Pondoland Wild Coast to challenge unjust development plans that are in violation of their constitutional rights.

The first is the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project which has an Australian controlled junior mining company Transworld Energy and Minerals Pty Ltd (a majority owned subsidiary of a Perth based venture capital company listed in the ASX as MRC Ltd) eager to receive mining rights to realise their ambition to make some $250 million for their investors.

The other is SANRAL’s N2 Wild Coast Toll Road, which like the Gauteng E-toll system is now in deep trouble.


About John GI Clarke

John Clarke hopes to write the wrongs of the world, informed by his experience as a social worker and theologian, to actualise fundamental human rights and satisfy fundamental human needs.  He has lived in the urbanised concentration of Johannesburg, but has worked mainly in the rural reaches of the Wild Coast for the past decade.  From having paid a fortune in toll fees he believes he has earned the right to be critical of Sanral and other extractive institutions, and has not held back while supporting Sustaining the Wild Coast (, the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute ( and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (, in various ways.