Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's Black Press Has a Key Role in Democracy Bid

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's Black Press Has a Key Role in Democracy Bid

Article excerpt

IN a few brief years, we have seen an astonishing transition for the better in world affairs: The fall of the Berlin wall. Communism's collapse. Prospects of peace in the Middle East.

Now South Africa is about to undergo dramatic change. Its first democratic elections are scheduled April 27, 1994. The result will be a black government. Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), will probably be the country's first black president. But two huge problems cloud the future. One is the extent of current violence - political and criminal, between blacks and whites, and black upon black.

If the violence can be contained and elections are held, the second problem will be disappointed expectations thereafter. Many blacks believe, unrealistically, that a black government will somehow produce for them economic equality with whites. That may happen eventually, but not overnight.

Is post-apartheid South Africa, then, headed for disaster? Not if South Africans like Aggrey Klaaste have their way. Mr. Klaaste, who has just been visiting the United States, is editor of the Sowetan, the largest newspaper in South Africa. He is black. His newspaper's readers are black. Some 230,000 of them buy it every day, most of them in the area just outside Johannesburg called Soweto, a string of townships that are home to more than 3 million blacks. The Sowetan, developed by the white Argus newspaper group to reach black readers, now outsells the group's white papers.

To avoid criticism that blacks have no media ownership role in South Africa, the Argus company intends to divest itself of the Sowetan and sell it to black investors.

Klaaste has undergone the years of harassment that have beset most black South Africans, and particularly black journalists. An earlier newspaper he worked for was banned by the white government. …

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