March 5, 2021


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Jon Qwelane contributed immensely to the development, safety and promotion of journalism

By Belief Jan 10, 2021

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Abbey Makoe

If it were being not self-restrictive, I would explain the late Jon Qwelane as a “doyen of black journalism”. But to do so would undermine his huge contribution to the development, protection and marketing of the craft.

Qwelane burst into journalism by using the back-door. A wordsmith of notice, he was lurking in his hometown of Mafikeng in the North West, operating as a clerk in the publish business office.

At first contributing as a freelancer to the famous Mafikeng Mail, he hardly ever stopped telling the story of how Oom Leslie Sehume played a significant portion in recruiting him to the mainstream media in Johannesburg.

There, he excelled, frantically learning on-the-task as he had no formal teaching in journalism.

When he edited Tribute magazine, he requested me to contribute a piece to which without the need of my prior know-how he wrote a brief biography of myself, revealing specifics about me which I experienced imagined was strictly a matter among each of us.

He wrote: “Before bursting into journalism, Abbey Makoe was a trench-digger in Rustenburg …”

Like him, and lots of black journalists of different generations, “trial and error” was the most effective trainer from the University of Life.

Bra Jon, as we fondly referred to as him, experienced a complex character. He was my 1st black editor in a vocation spanning a few decades when I initially worked under him in the now-defunct Sunday Star at the famous 47 Sauer Road, Johannesburg, the HQ of the Argus newspapers (now Independent Media).

On behalf of the hordes of black scribes, he shone head and shoulders over the rest in sheer excellence as if to show that whilst English may well not be our mother tongue, we could still excel at the Queen’s language regardless.

To be truthful, Qwelane was not always quick to deal with and experienced a streak of “my way or the highway”.

When jointly with other black scribes we organized to problem the SA Human Legal rights Commission’s adverse ruling on the Forum of Black Journalists’ race-based mostly membership, Qwelane’s rapid acquire was either we choose the make any difference to the maximum court in the land – the Constitutional Court docket – or basically, in the mild of the absence of black outrage, just near shop.

Following comprehensive deliberations, we selected the latter. For 10 several years as a communicate exhibit host on Radio 702, Qwelane significantly amplified the listenership.

But Qwelane could also be his worst enemy. When he started to drop out with the powers-that-be at Primedia, he wrote a brutally disparaging column in the Sunday Solar about the Jewish mafia in charge at 702.

I was now performing in London when he wrote me a deeply sad electronic mail, indicating: “Abram, Whitey has acquired me where by it hurts the most – in the pocket …”

At this stage, he was unemployed and his wife, a nursing sister, was staying victimised at function for simply just remaining Mrs Qwelane. In 2010, luckily, the ANC federal government roped him in to the Division of Worldwide Relations and Co-operation, appointing him South Africa’s ambassador to Uganda.

He retained good friends who experienced earlier deserted him at bay. An adherent to basic principle, he believed until the conclude that it is better to be a peasant on your toes than a gentleman on your knees.

Fare thee nicely Bra Jon. Go very well mate. Hamba kahle! son of the soil.

* Abbey Makoe is the SABC’s professional editor. The post was initially posted on SABC on the web.

** The sights expressed in this article are not automatically people of Unbiased Media.

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