The media should refocus its efforts from simply passing on information to its audiences about events and other developments to ensuring that it involves the people in coming up with the material so that they understand the issues and effectively contribute towards coming up with solutions, Mangaung Metropolitan executive mayor Thabo Manyoni said.
Manyoni said the media should be taking the leading role in empowering the people but it was falling short of fulfilling their basic function of keeping people adequately informed.
Addressing the first Free State Community Radio HUB elective conference held in Bloemfontein last weekend, the mayor said as set out in the country’s constitution, it was important for particularly the community media to shift its attention towards getting the communities in which they operate, to promote diversity and build an inclusive society where no one feels alienated or segregated against.
“From the look of things, I can safely say enough has not been done by community media to educate our people,” said Manyoni.
He said the social ills experienced by society today such as the high usage of illicit drugs, alcohol and violent crimes against women and children were an indication that community was not well empowered to protect itself such vice.
“It is important to address these crucial matters in building better communities,” he added.
Manyoni said such behavioural patterns were an indication that enough was not being done to empower people to make informed decisions that are not only unfavourable to themselves.
Turning to the recent xenophobic attracts, the mayor said the unfortunate events clearly demonstrated a lack of knowledge among ordinary South Africans about the country’s neighbours and the support they gave to the country during the days of the struggle.
“We helped paint our country in negative light,” said Manyoni, adding that it was the role of the media to educate people especially at grassroots level due to the immediate contact it has with the community.
He condemned the deaths of the foreign nationals who died during the attacks saying it should not be allowed to happen again.
The mayor also said the proliferation of the Izikhothane or Skothane culture was another indication that communities still had a lot to learn.
The Izikhothane practice refers to South African showmanship or dance battles in which individuals or groups of individuals compete against each other in front of large crowds to determine which party is wealthier.
The ‘battles’ are performed using material items such as money, mobile phones, clothes or alcohol. In most instances a battle is won by the intentional destruction or wastage of one’s own expensive items in order to demonstrate the lack of concern for such material possessions due to the ability to afford more of the same.
A competitor’s chances of victory are improved by having items that are more expensive than those of their opponent.
“It is your responsibility through positive dialogues to transform the minds of our people and ensure that they become responsible citizens. But it’s only through education that this objective can be achieved. The time to take your rightful place in our own communities is today,” said the mayor.
Manyoni however said that he was not passing on government responsibility to the community media but was simply suggesting ways of promoting dialogue among the people so that they can work together in developing their communities.
“We need to lead by example as leaders. Though we have done well, it is still not enough and more should be done to ensure that our people are knowledgeable and ready to take the country forward, without discriminating against any race,” he concluded.