South Africa--I never thought it would finally come down to this, but today I was reassured that The Amazwi Villager, a non profit organization and community newspaper in Acornhoek, South Africa, will never reopen again. The Amazwi Villager was the first and only newspaper around my community, and I was really glad to have been part of it. I was one of the five intern journalists who were selected to join The Amazwi Villager after we graduated from the Amazwi School Media of Arts with a Certificate in Narrative Journalism and Fieldwork studies in 2007.
At first being a journalist was never really something I wanted to do career wise. I thought I was just doing it to kill time, but being part of Amazwi made me change my mind. I started to see that being a journalist wasn’t so bad after all. That is when I wasn’t getting in to trouble with the people I write about. That was sometimes the case with all of us Amazwi journalist because we lived among the people we were writing about in our communities. But besides all of that, being a journalist for The Amazwi Villager also kind of made me feel like I was giving back to my community. I felt like I was their eyes and ears. I was up to date on everything that was going on around here: what was what, who was doing what, and where and how they were doing it.
Sadly the paper was forced to close down last year in November due to financial problems, amongst other things. The editor and founder of Amazwi, Maggie Messitt tried so hard to find sponsors to keep the paper going but with the current economic crisis it proved to be impossible. No one was willing to help us out. Maggie even tried to apply for government grants as well but three weeks ago she broke the news to all of us that they too couldn’t help with the funds needed to run the organization either. Therefore, The Amazwi Villager will remain closed down permanently, unless a miracle happens.
The fact that there will be no more Amazwi really broke my heart. I had fallen in love with the organization and it’s people. They became like my new family. Seeing them everyday in the office really brightened my days when I was feeling down. But my days will be dark now because I will never get to see many of them in one place.
Maggie told us we could go to the office and take home the office furniture we were using if we wished. She didn’t have to tell us twice. The next day we hired a van and collected our desks, chairs and some of our files. I found myself standing in the middle of the office in disbelief. The office that once was filled with our laughter, joy and sometimes sadness was now empty. I could still hear the echoes of our laughter during lunch hours as we talked about our favourite topics: men, men, and more men! And I could still see Cossie dancing around and eating a big meal. Those were the good old days, I thought to myself as I tried to hard not to break down in tears.
It’s really sad to see something so special and unique as the Amazwi organization come to an end. It was truly an asset to the rural disadvanged women of Acornhoek. It focused on them by educating and training them to become journalists. Today, some of the women that the organization trained work for the national papers.
Although I don’t work for any national paper, I do freelance work for both international and national magazines. Some of my articles have also been nominated by some of the editors in South Africa as “Editor’s Choice” for the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards in 2008 and 2009, which to me is proof enough that indeed Amazwi really did something right with us. After a while I turned my back and walked out of the Amazwi office. I still couldn’t understand why a good thing like Amazwi had to come to an end.