Zwelakhe Sisulu (Posthumous)
The Order of Mapungubwe in
Zwelakhe Sisulu (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to quality journalism; and as a reporter exposing the cruelties of apartheid and encouraging unity among the people of different political persuasions to fight for liberation. He was a pioneer of broadcasting in post-apartheid.
Profile of Mr Zwelakhe Sisulu
Mr Zwelakhe Sisulu was born on 17 December 1950 in Johannesburg. He was a towering figure in the field of journalism, where he played a pioneering role in the establishment of a free press unequivocally committed to the liberation of the country from oppression. Sisulu was a reporter who used to expose the atrocities committed by apartheid authorities.
He was also a leader of media workers who united and influenced people from different political parties to fight against apartheid. Sisulu started his journalism career at the Rand Daily Mail where he covered the June 1976 uprisings in Soweto.
He was still a young journalist when he was touched by the sight of police at Orlando Police Station collecting corpses of young people who had been killed during the Soweto Uprising in June 1976. Subsequent to that, Sisulu worked for different newspapers, including the Sunday Post, which he edited, before he founded the New Nation in 1986.
While at the Sunday Post, he was sentenced to prison for his refusal to reveal information about sources of one of his reporters and he led a 1980 strike which resulted in his banning from journalism for several years. After his house arrest, he was a Nieman Fellow until 1985 before working for the Sowetan.
In 1986, he founded the New Nation (defunct since 30 May 1997), before police arrested him and held him without trial as part of the emergency and mass arrests in South Africa at the time.The newspaper was editorially aligned with the African National Congress (ANC), which stated on its masthead: “The media of the powerless.”
At the time it was South Africa’s largest black newspaper. After his release from a two-year detention and after the unbanning of the ANC, Sisulu served as former President Nelson Mandela’s press secretary and also the Director of Information of the ANC.
He was detained with thousands of others during the state of emergency and was held for two years without trial. After the release of the Rivonia trialists, including Mandela, Sisulu became their media spokesperson. He was the first post-apartheid Chief Executive Officer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and under his leadership, the SABC recorded many achievements, including the promotion of Mandela’s vision of unity and reconciliation.
After leaving the SABC, Sisulu co-founded the New Africa Investment Company that includes the publishing house David Phillip, Soweto TV and Prime Media Broadcasting. This was among the first black-owned businesses at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
His illustrious career in journalism saw him garner numerous accolades, including Nieman Fellowship; Louis Lyons Award for Courageous Journalism; International Human Rights Law Group Award; Union of Swedish Journalists Award and Rothko Chapel Award for Human Rights.