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Tuesday, 19 September 2017 12:21

Congratulations to Dr Ufuoma Akpojivi

Faculty Teaching and Learning Award

Dr. Ufuoma Akpojivi is one of the 2017 recipients of the Faculty of Humanities Teaching and Learning Award for undergraduate teaching. According to the selection committee, they were really impressed with his considered approach to student learning at Wits. "It was particularly noted how your innovative pedagogical approaches were fostering critical thinking and transformation. The integration of African scholars and modes of thought were seen as particularly important in light of calls for decolonisation. Finally, your interest and efforts in contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning through seeking out opportunities to write on your practice and ideas and through engaging in the PG Dip Higher Education is exactly what we aspire for colleagues in the Faculty."

Monday, 18 September 2017 11:27

Congratulations to Prof Nicky Falkof

Prof Nicky Falkof, HOD at Media Studies, was awarded a Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers at the National Research Foundation annual awards ceremony in Bloemfontein on 14 September. She was one of two winners of the award in 2017, along with Dr Musa Manzi from the Wits School of Geosciences. The award recognises exceptional research performance by NRF Thuthuka grant holders.
See the video


Bruce Mutsvairo (ed.)
Palgrave Macmillan. 2016. 341 pp. ISBN: 978-3-319-40948-1
Reviewed by Job Mwaura University of the Witwatersrand This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Digital Activism in the Social Media Era: Critical Re ections on Emerging Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa is a volume edited by Bruce Mutsvairo with a collection of essays on digital activism in sub-Saharan Africa. This book comes at a time when critical re ection and insightful analysis of digital media experiences are most needed in sub- Saharan Africa. In the foreword section of this book written by Herman Wasserman, the purpose of the book is summed up as: collating experiences of digital media from different countries in Africa, their political environment, what drives activism while also exploring new theoretical and presenting an overview of methodological approaches for examining digital activism. While scholarly research on sub-Saharan Africa has focused on a range of experiences with digital media, there is no suf cient literature on the use of digital media for activism, and this is the gap the book is attempting to ll. Recognition of the mobile phone as the most important digital platform in contemporary Africa, the proliferation of which remains an example of how media technologies can be adopted to suit speci c contexts, is well articulated by the authors in this volume. According to Wasserman, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp accessed through mobile phones have not only become a space for alternative voices away from mainstream media agendas but also important platforms for socio-political deliberations, and important tools for mobilisation purposes by activists.
This book has a total of fteen chapters, divided into three parts (Political Engagements in Mediated Online Communities, Digital Transformations: Civic
of south africa
African Journalism Studies
Volume 38 | Number 1 | 2017 | pp. 152–155 http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/recq21/current
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23743670.2017.1329249 Print ISSN 2374-3670 | Online 2374-3689 © 2017 iMasa
Reviewed by Job Mwaura Digital Activism in the Social Media Era
Activism in the Africa Blogsphere, and Gender and LGTB Movements Online: Emerging Debates). The rst part of this book highlights the potential nature of digital media as a space for political deliberations and a tool of mobilisation for activists. It crafts this using various cases which highlight how social media has been used by various socio-political movements such as Zone 9 bloggers (A group of 9 bloggers in Ethiopia who wrote blogs for activism) and Baba Jukwa (A blog that exposes corruption in Zimbabwe) as well as a platform for political deliberations in countries such as Uganda and Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone particularly, social media discourses on Facebook and Twitter contributed to the sacking of Vice President Sam Sumana (Chapter 5). Such a case sheds more light on the importance of political engagement in sub-Saharan Africa mediated online communities. One important strength in this part of the book is the clear discussion on the potential of user-generated-content on social media to transform socio-political environment of different countries in Africa (Chapters 2, 3 and 5). The transformation of activism to a more individualised form through social media networks as highlighted in (Chapter 4) con rms Castells' (2015) views that power in contemporary society lies in the interactions of networks created online. Different authors in this section have also managed to highlight how African governments are increasingly clamping down the internet and its various applications as well attempting to silence democratic oppositions, civil rights groups and activists' mobilisation against poor governance.
The second part of the book (titled Digital Transformations: Civic Activism in the Africa Blogsphere) discusses the transformative potential of civic engagement by online communities in pushing for socio-political change. The book highlights the #Fe esMustFall/#MustFall/#RhodesMustFall (Student-led movements that were ghting for decolonisation of South African universities as well as reduction of university fees) as movements that have attempted to push for change using social media tools. The authors in this section also discuss how the internet has provided a platform for civic participation, where it has been termed a contemporary public sphere, thus advancing Jurgen Habermas' theory of the public sphere. One weakness in this section is that it is dominated by cases from South Africa, much to the exclusion of cases and experiences from elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. The discussion on the use of social media for civic engagement in Kenya and the citing of cases such as #OccupyPlayGround (a movement that formed to protest the grabbing of a school playground in Nairobi by powerful individuals in government) could have been fascinating in this context.
The third part of the book (Gender and LGTB Movements Online: Emerging Debates) is dedicated to emerging gender issues as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. This section particularly highlights how the LGBT community uses digital media to ght for their rights. In one of the chapters by Mhiripiri and Moyo, titled "A Resilient Unwanted Civil Society: The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe Use of Facebook as Alternative Public Sphere in a Dominant Homophobic Society", the authors discuss how members of the LGBT community in Zimbabwe transitioned from the use of printed literature to the use of social media platforms. This
Reviewed by Job Mwaura Digital Activism in the Social Media Era
is after the Zimbabwean government banned the use of such literature and prohibited their exhibition at a book fair.
The homophobic heterosexual community in Zimbabwe also torched their literature. Social media such as Facebook has thus offered an alternative place for communication and advocacy for the Zimbabwean queer community. The next chapter by Currier and Moreau, titled "Digital Strategies and African LGBTI Organizing," recognises the importance of digital media as a tool for mobilisation during activism and a place where members of the LGBT community can access information. The authors, however, warn against exclusive use of social media as it could be used to perpetuate the circulation of false news about the LGBT community due to its instantaneous transmission. This part is also dominated by discussions of LGBT in Southern Africa (Zimbabwe and South Africa) with very little mention of other geographical regions in Africa. The adoption of an anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda in 2009, which caused an international outcry and sparked intense debate in the media, including social media, would have been an interesting inclusion in this part of the book.
In addition, part three of this book also discusses gender movements that have emerged in recent years in sub-Saharan Africa. Mpofu's chapter titled "Blogging, Feminism and the Politics of Participation: The Case of Her Zimbabwe" highlights the potential of the internet as a tool of empowerment of women in Zimbabwe through an internet site called "Her Zimbabwe." Here, women can access and articulate their issues which are largely ignored by the mainstream media. Mutopo's chapter in the same part, titled "Gender and Media Representations of Land Based Reforms in Zimbabwe," discusses women's rights in land matters and analyses the biased reporting by state- owned media on land matters in Zimbabwe. A chapter on the #Bringbackourgirls movement by Dorothy Njoroge concludes this edited volume. While the discussion of these emerging gender issues is important in African society where gender disparity has not been overcome, there are a few notable shortcomings that have emerged in this section. Chapter 14 is completely unrelated to digital activism or gender-related movements in sub-Saharan Africa. Discussions on sexual harassment online and subsequent activist-related activities such as #MyDressMyChoice (A Kenya campaign against sexual harassment by public transport crew) could have provided better material in this section titled Gender and LGTB Movements Online: Emerging Debates. Although the #WomensMarch (A global protest that took place on January 21st 2017 against anti- women statements attributed to President Donald Trump, amongst other gender issues) occurred after this book was published, related movements that have emerged from online communities in the past would have made the book much more comprehensive.
Generally, this edited book is an important contribution to literature on digital media in Africa. This is primarily because the continent has witnessed a proliferation of digital tools (social media networks) in recent years and their importance in political transformation has just begun to attract scholarly interest. Further, the discussion of a wide range of cases of digital activism from sub-Saharan Africa provides strong
Reviewed by Job Mwaura Digital Activism in the Social Media Era
evidence for claims by a number of authors (such as Iginio Gagliardone, Glenda Daniels and Tanja Bosch) that political participation in virtual communities can be a catalyst for political transformation.
In addition to concerns raised in every section of the book, some of the chapters adopted a less preferred research method in social sciences – quantitative research. While using a range of methodologies could be seen as a strength of this book, the mere counting of words such as in tweets overlooks the deeper analysis of discourses happening online. The danger of this is that some information could be missed out, such as the reason why a certain phrase appeared frequently on social media networks, the motivation for using such phrases and even perceptions may not be easily unpacked. I feel that such concerns need to be addressed in future. Despite these minor issues, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in studying African media, especially digital activism, or to anyone looking for material on media in sub-Saharan Africa.
Castells, M. 2015. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.
JOB MWAURA is a Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He is researching on Digital Activism in Kenya. His research interests include Social Media Studies, Online Activism, Citizen Journalism and Media and Democracy.

Jun 14, 2017
Mail & Guardian

Media links Gupta emails to the corrupted – it's not fake news
Glenda Daniels 13 Jun 2017 00:00



Be very clear about this fact, and it's fact, not fake: the reason some people (President Jacob Zuma's faction and the Gupta family) are asking for authentication of the leaked emails is they're playing for time. They hope they can set up a judicial commission of inquiry, which will be a sham. Even asking a stupid question such as Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's: "How did they get the emails?" gives the game away – they know the emails are theirs.

We also know that the ANC communications document, titled The Battle for Ideas, with the wordy subtitle Towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Catalysing Economic Growth, Building an Inclusive Society & Advancing a Balanced Public Discourse, for its June 30 to July 5 national policy conference has nothing in it on fake news.

We also know that the ama­Bhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism has been uncovering the Gupta/Zuma patronage rot since the inception of the investigative unit in 2010. It reminds me a bit of the Weekly Mail and Vrye Weekblad in the mid-to-late 1980s. Week after week those two papers extensively covered the murders of anti-apartheid activists by the Civil Co-operation Bureau. Yet in the 1990s, people said: "We didn't know." There was so much denialism; it took many years for it to all sink in.

The incredulity with which the Gupta emails have been received is not because no one knew but because no one knew the extent of how deep the corrupt patronage tentacles had dug into the government and attempts to control the news – even to the point of last week's revelation that Oakbay Investment's chief executive, Nazeem Howa, gave advice on how to buy the Mail & Guardian and hide who is buying it.

It may sound un-nuanced and superficial to say there is a good side and a bad side in South Africa right now, but that's exactly what it is.

Recently, I have been tempted to say no to interviews as a media analyst for TV, radio shows and online videos. I am afraid I am not saying something original and, like everyone else, I'm not providing solutions to the problem of fake news. But I can't say no because it'd be letting the good side down.

There is nothing on fake news in the ANC's Battle for Ideas document. Some of the main items for discussion are old hat. Whoever wrote the document probably copied and pasted it from the previous version and then added in a paragraph on "radical economic transformation" to update the look and the zeitgeist of the ruling faction.

Some of the ANC's discussions on communications at the national policy conference will be about:

ICT and the fourth Industrial revolution;
What to do about the SABC and its financial woes and content issues;
Print media and transformation;
Ownership of the media;
A media empowerment charter;
The need to align strategies with the National Development Plan (perhaps "radical economic transformation" has replaced the NDP because you seldom hear about it);
Dissatisfaction with the co-regulation system of the Press Council; and
Observations about social media surpassing traditional media.
The good part is that the mantra of "broadband access for all" is still in the policy document, but it still has not been implemented 20 years down the line.

It's fascinating that a second good policy is "open access/open government". This is ironic, given how the ruling faction is trying to pretend the Gupta emails have to be authenticated.

"The Battle of Ideas," says the ANC, "is an important ideological tool. Within a space where a number of ideological positions struggle for supremacy – of class tensions within society – the ANC as a revolutionary movement cannot neglect the importance of mobilising society around a common vision that presents a credible political, social and economic narrative that is in itself an alternative to that of the dominant capitalist class. This is the Battle of Ideas."

This point is indicative of how stuck is in the past the once glorious revolutionary movement is.

But nothing to say about today's reality of fake news? That's because the Zupta faction is involved in spreading fake news through its own news outlets, including The New Age and ANN7 TV. I don't think anyone from the Zupta faction wrote the policy section on communications in The Battle of Ideas. It doesn't have the same vitriol against the mainstream media or the investigative press.

The national policy conference is going to be a nail-biting one regarding which faction will win the day.

Is it possible that the Gupta emails rent asunder the corrupt and spoke to the consciences of those who are prevaricating? At last month's ANC national executive committee meeting, we heard that it was a roughly 50/50 split with a slightly heavier number against corruption. But, in the end, only 18 spoke out against it.

The media is playing its part in trying to make the powerful and corrupt account to the people of South Africa.

Using the thousands of Gupta emails, it is linking the dots between the palace in Dubai; theft from the state-owned entities (power utility Eskom, weapons company Denel, rail, port and pipeline company Transnet, passenger railway company Prasa, airline company SAA and public broadcaster SABC); the Gupta Bollywood-style wedding, which used the Waterkloof Airforce Base and after which Sun City had to beg for payment; the dubious dealings of Brian Molefe, former chief executive of Eskom and frequenter of the Saxonwold shebeen; the tales of Gigaba, who was previously minister in two other departments – home affairs and of public enterprises; the president's son who is in business with the Guptas and is kept by them (including paying off the woman who had his child); the fake intelligence report to oust, among others, Pravin Gordhan as finance minister; the bid to bribe former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas; the bags of money to bribe others ...

How much more do we need to convince a faction of the ANC and its supporters? We have the formerly oppressed and presently corrupt denying their emails and looting.

As Frantz Fanon said: "Beware the obscene imitations and caricatures, humanity needs something other from us."

Glenda Daniels is a senior lecturer in media studies at the University of the Witwatersrand


Wednesday, 26 April 2017 10:59

Glenda Daniels

 My areas of intellectual interest are: media, journalism, censorship, freedom of expression and democracy, Social media and twitter in the newsroom; Media landscape and transformation. I have a Media Matters column at the Mail & Guardian. I am also  author of two volumes of State of the Newsroom South Africa, 2013 and 2014.

My monograph: Fight for Democracy: the ANC and the Media in South Africa was published in 2012, (Wits Press).

My  theoretical area of expertise is radical democracy.

I  teach the following courses: Media and Politics at Honours Level, Issues in the SA News Mediato third years, Sociology of News Production to second years.

Prof Mehita Iqani has been awarded a visiting fellowship to Sussex University later this year.

Seven Asa Briggs Visiting Fellowship awards have been made to a prestigious group of international academics and Sussex faculty.

Named after a 'founding father' of the University and its second Vice-Chancellor, this new scheme enables inward visits for internationally outstanding academic collaborations to work on specific projects with Sussex faculty. The scheme is designed to enable our researchers to engage in collaborative work with the best people in their field, regardless of their institutional base.

Professor Michael Davies, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research said: "The awarding panel were delighted with the quality of the cohort of inaugural Briggs Fellows who want to come here and work with Sussex faculty across the spectrum of our research strengths, from the humanities to the physical sciences."

Mehita Iqani, Associate Professor in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, will be collaborating with Dr Simidele Dosekun, MFM on the project African Luxury: Aesthetics and Politics. The project moves beyond predominant views of Africa as a place to be 'saved', as well as more recent formulations of it as 'rising,' to focus on the visual and material cultures of luxury consumption – champagne, designer wear, glitzy shopping malls and so on – on the continent.


The Media Studies department is very proud of this achievement. Congratulations, Mehita from the team.

Thursday, 02 March 2017 00:00

Seminar by MA student Mbuyisi Mgibisi

CISA Invites you to a seminar:

The media wars and their discourses in the South African print media'


Mbuyisi Mgibisi


Mellon Graduate Fellow

In post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa, "media wars" appear to have become a strong feature. Traditionally, the news media rarely report about another media. Interestingly, media wars seem to manifest themselves more when news publications subject each other to critical scrutiny. Recent media wars between newspaper companies and editors have highlighted the agonistic pluralist nature of the South African print media which is facing persistent and complex disruptions. This research asserts that a notable feature of these media fights is that they are linked to the battle to gain market share in South Africa print media market stranglehold by big media and are often couched in ideological discourses which are constitutive of editors and media owners speaking out publicly about issues internal to the media in order to carry the freight of public attention. The foci of this study will be two-fold: First, it seeks to investigate whether these media wars are related to the broader issues of transformation in the South African print media. Second, the study seeks to unravel how some of the country's leading news publications represent their competitors using editorial platforms and will investigate the editorial motivations behind certain representations. Despite the growing interest in media wars, South Africa is still represented by lack of literature published in the field. The main rationale behind the study is to show how the issue of media's 'independence' from political parties plays itself out in the ideological discourses during the tensions between newspaper companies and editors in the period between 2010 and 2015. Two examples or case studies of media fights will be critically examined in this study and a qualitative discourse analysis will be undertaken In order explore ways in which the media war texts spoke to or problematised the main theories employed in this study, namely: Critical Political Economy (CPE) and Michel Foucault's material post-structuralism blended with Bourdieu's concept of the 'media field'.

Keywords: media wars, agonistic media space, market share, ideological discourses, transformation, representations.

Date: Thursday 9 March 2017
Time: 2.00 pm
Venue: CISA Committee Room


Wednesday, 22 February 2017 00:00

PhD funding and project

PhD studentship

Funding is available for a PhD student to work on an NRF-funded project entitled 'Risk, anxiety and moral panic in the global south', based in the Media Studies department at Wits. The student in question would need to be registered for a PhD at Wits and supervised or co-supervised by the grantholder. S/he would ideally be beginning her/his doctorate at the start of 2017, although students who began in 2016 and have not yet had their proposals passed will also be considered. Applicants must have an excellent Masters degree (70%+) and a PhD project that is relevant to the topic. The selected candidate will be expected to complete the degree in good time and to produce at least one publishable output. S/he may not hold this studentship concurrently with another NRF grant, although other sources of funding may be acceptable. South African citizens are preferred and female and Black candidates are particularly encouraged to apply. The studentship is worth R70,000 a year, subject to renewal.

Details are below. Interested candidates should please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This project is concerned with questions of risk, fear, anxiety and moral panic in the global south (a problematic but useful term). It aims to emphasise issues of race, space and power, as well as to initiate more comparative studies of urban forms and representations across the global south.
Moral panics, urban legends and other narratives that develop to explain or express social anxiety are valuable sites of analysis for what they reveal about the way in which groups and societies imagine themselves, as well as the factors of risk, identification and self-perception that help to construct them. Additionally, as these events often play out in the mass media, they are an important location for the investigation of the role of the media. The project is interested in the way in which cultures of fear, moral panics and collective anxieties manifest in circumstances of heightened insecurity and the accelerated social change that comes as a consequence of rapid globalisation and urbanisation.
This interdisciplinary project is interested in how South Africa, as a case study for a global south argument, imagines itself through the media, and how questions of fear, risk, evil and anxiety impact on both the construction of the modern self in South Africa and the appearance of pervasive anxiety formations.
Drawing on the work of the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman and his writings on fear, liquidity and the modern, the project investigates the theoretical concepts of risk, anxiety and moral panic from a global south perspective; the mass media in South Africa as a site of social anxiety; the role of social/digital media in fostering imagined communities that coalesce around shared anxieties of identity; the racialisation of risk and fear; popular myth and narrative as sites for the development of unified or divided group identities; the manifestation of fear cultures in the global south, as represented in South Africa; and forms and modes of urban anxiety across the global south.

Prof Nicky Falkof
Associate Professor and Head of Department
Wits Media Studies
Media Studies YouTube channel

Thursday, 16 February 2017 00:00

Invite to book launch on 21 February at 1pm

Book Launch

Digital Activism in the Social Media Era

Critical Reflections on Emerging Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa



Edited by Bruce Mutsvairo

Palgrave MacMillan


21 February

1pm - 2.30pm


University of the Witswatersrand

Humanities Graduate Centre, Seminar Room, South West Engineering Building, East Campus


Dr Glenda Daniels

Dr Iginio Gagliardone

Prof viola milton


Prof Pier-Paolo Frassinelli


Prof Ylva Rodny-


Bruce Mutsvairo

Iginio Gagliardone & Matti Pohjonen

Admire Mare

Monica B. Chibita

Ibrahim Seaga Shaw & Di Luo

Samuel C. Kamau

Mirjam de Bruijn & Didier Lalaye

Tanja Bosch

Glenda Daniels

viola C. milton

Ashley Currier & Julie

Nhamo A. Mhiripiri & Sithandazile B.

Moyo Shepherd Mpofu


Patience Mutopo


Dorothy Njoroge






Thursday, 16 February 2017 00:00

Welcome Dr Bruce Mutsvairo

The Media Studies department is delighted to welcome visiting scholar Dr Bruce Mutsvairo, who joins the department for this semester as a CODESRIA Visiting Professor. Bruce is a Senior Lecturer in Journalism in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University in the UK, and he is spending his sabbatical with us. Bruce is a former journalist with the Amsterdam bureau of the Associated Press (AP). He is an intersectoral researcher with interests in citizen journalism, social media and political participation, focusing primarily on the sub-Saharan African region. His latest book "Perspectives on Participatory Politics and Citizen Journalism in a Networked Africa: A Connected Continent was published in November 2015 with Palgrave Macmillan. While he is with us he will be teaching a course on Digital Activism in the Third Year "Power" Stream and working on his forthcoming book on Research in Africa. You contact him on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. should you like to get in touch or say hello.


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