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Joe Thloloe talks about depravity in South Africa

- By Wits University

Wits University has conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature on the former South African Press Ombudsman, Joe Thloloe, during a Graduation ceremony on Thursday, 3 April 2014.

The University has elected to recognise Thloloe for his valuable contribution to the field of journalism in a career spanning six decades. Thloloe was applauded at the Faculty of Humanities’ Graduation ceremony for his important role as a leader, an activist for free speech and an exemplar of the values of independent professionalism.

His journalism career started in 1960 when he joined the Bantu World newspaper and was the first black journalist on the Rand Daily Mail. He also worked at the Golden City Post, Drum, Transvaal Post, World and Sowetan, where he was deputy editor. His journalism career was often interrupted by arrests and solitary confinement under the oppressive apartheid government.

He became head of news at SABC and editor-in-chief at eTV. Thloloe was a founder and leading member of the Union of Black Journalists, later renamed Mwasa and most recently the Black Editors’ Forum. He is the former Press Ombudsman, a position in which he has gained enormous respect for his key role in the fight against government intrusion and regulation. A former chairperson of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, he is currently a director in the Press Council of South Africa. Read the full .

In an address soon after his capping by Wits Chancellor Dikgang Moseneke, the Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa, Thloloe told graduates and guests that he never even in his wildest imagination “conjured up a moment like this, where the august University of the Witwatersrand would honour me for the small decisions I made from one moment to the next as I tried to live my life as well as I could.”

In his address entitled Roots, metaphors and values in our storytelling, Thloloe spoke about professionalism in journalism and a famished South Africa.

As a custodian of ethics in journalism, Thloloe said he was disappointed that two thirds of the 537 complaints received in 2013 against magazines and newspapers, actually adjudicated in favour or complaints pointing to a decline in professionalism.

Thloloe also lamented the lack of diversity in the South African workplace where people seek to replicate themselves by appointing candidates that present a familiar image.

“South Africa should be the richer precisely because of what we have endured over centuries,” he said.

Sharing his guiding principles, Thloloe said his political mentors including the likes of Robert Sobukwe and Nelson Mandela amongst other political greats, had taught him that “the other always comes first”. Consequently, he used his career to tell the lives of the voiceless and downtrodden, ahead of any other stories.

to read his address.

 Thloloe is currently a visiting associate at the Wits Department of Journalism where he is writing  his memoirs based on his more than 50 years in journalism.