We launched South Africa Votes 2014 in January, with the earnest intention of telling the story of South Africa’s election from the perspective of the South African street. And tell stories we did. We reached thousands of people across the country, and abroad, successfully complementing media coverage of an intriguing election season. We received a generous grant from the Open Society Foundation and ran a successful Indiegogo campaign.
And as the election concluded, we were asked by readers, “Where to now for SA Votes?”
It became clear to us that we could not let the project fizzle away into obscurity. There was a demand for the approach to be expanded.
And so, The Daily Vox was born.
The motivation of this site, is much the same as South Africa Votes 2014, an attempt to address the agonising prejudice of South African media on the political dynamics of the country.
And certainly, recent history proves a need for the media space to better adapt to the dynamics of South African society.
First came the continual barrage of service delivery protests that were ignored except to report main roads were blockaded with burning tyres by some people from some settlement wanting homes, or water, or something- so expect traffic.
Then came Marikana. And our media battled to find its feet to tell the stories of the actual people who had embarked on the strike.
With some notable exceptions, the people impacted by the daily tragedy on our streets seemed voiceless in our media.
And with all these thoughts swirling in my head, there was the knowledge too, that a landmark election was fast approaching. A twenty year anniversary for South Africa was already stamped on the calendar but we seemed tangled in rhetoric: The anti-ANC/ZUMA media and the pro-government, nostalgic lot. Both unfair. Both delusional. Both past their sell-by-date.
In many ways, there is a disconnect between the people and the English speaking media in this country, as we know it. The country is changing, but is the media reflecting these shifts either in demographic, ideals or questions that people, especially the young, are asking?
Consider how our president and his administration is covered.
President Zum’s administration needs to be held to account for the decisions of his government. Yes. Totally. But when last did you read about the lives of the people his mistakes affect most? Their voices are simply ignored, their experiences swept aside in a chorus of righteous indignation over his misdemeanours.
It is a startling paradox.
Little wonder then, that his administration, ANC-supporters can call upon racism at the drop of a Kanga?
Meanwhile, there are more young people in this country than we know what to do with and their disinterest in politics is dangerous, even if it might be painfully easy to understand.
Besides, the sushi-shows, the celebrity-orgasms, there is little that speaks to them.
There is little that represents young people in South African media.
The English speaking media speaks an antiquated language. It talks of the past, be it resentfully or gleefully, and speaks of the present with spite, or favour.
But it’s not just the young who are under represented.
For far too long has public opinion been directed, manipulated by media houses, political analysts, academics and think tanks.
Where is the South African public voice in all of this?
Where are their needs listed, described without interruption, without prognosis?
Where is their unedited sentiment framed, without the coating of a Castle Lager ad?
Sometimes, it’s not just the politicians who forget that though ordinary people might revere symbols, ideas, and memories, it is dignity they crave most.
The basics of a decent wage, secure housing and sanitation, equal rights and fair governance remain universal ambitions.
We hope to keep the voices speaking, and genuine street sentiment at the centre of our discussions here. Our intention is drive the election story through the voices of South Africans of all spaces.
As a collection of journalists, we are an independent project, not linked to any political establishment, nor any media house.
This is your platform. This is your community.
If you have a story to tell, feel free to contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.
Besides, memory is most lucid in the voice of the first person account and not in the historical recollection of a scholar, no matter how object they might pretend to be.
For now this website is in a beta phase. Over the next few weeks we’ll be welcoming more contributors, adding more content, and refining the nuts and bolts of the operation. Stay tuned. Get involved.
Material on The Daily Vox is syndicated exclusively to The Sowetan newspaper and website in South Africa. For any enquiries on Africa-wide and international syndication, please contact Azad Essa.