It is one of the toughest reporting challenges for South Africa and no doubt the most important: understanding in its proper context the awful scourge of poverty and inequality that cuts across the national landscape. Because the problem is so large and its impact so broadly spread, our media struggle to focus on it.
This was understood by the late Eugene Saldanha, The founder of Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa was an activist, civil society leader and policy advisor, whose life’s work was fighting for social justice. Eugene played a key role in strengthening the South African civil society sector: he believed in the critical role of the sector in building and maintaining constitutional democracy and he set up and led two important NGOs: the Non-Profit Partnership and then CAF Southern Africa in 1997. He was influential in advocating for parliamentary reforms in regard to creating an enabling environment for civil society organisations, and was a leader in lobbying government to fulfil its responsibility to the sector. In particular Eugene fought for civil society sustainability through reform of ineffective government institutions such as the Lotteries and National Development Agency (NDA).
To commemorate that work and give expression to the insights that animated it, the Mail &Guardian newspaper and Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Southern Africa created an annual fellowship in social justice reporting. The Eugene Saldanha Memorial Fund Fellowship enables a young journalist to spend a year working at the paper researching and presenting articles on poverty, inequality and the realisation of human and socio-economic rights.
The Eugene Saldanha Memorial Fund, which finances the fellowship, is administered by CAF Southern Africa. It is supported by individual donations and the generosity of international private foundations with which he was associated.
As CAF Southern Africa chief executive Colleen du Toit says: “Freedom of the press was, for Eugene, an absolute non-negotiable and within that independence he wanted to see increased exposure of persistent injustice, inequity and discrimination.”
The M&G and CAF Southern Africa believe the fellowship enables a reporter to do just that.
Meet the Fellowship holders:
Heidi Swart (Current Eugene Saldanha Fellow for social justice reporting)
Heidi Swart has a background in social work and social research. She made a career change to journalism in 2010 when she was accepted for a cadetship at Independent Newspapers. This involved a year of in-house training with the Cape Argus and Independent’s investigations unit, under the auspices of veteran investigator Ivor Powell.
Following this, she worked at the Cape Community Newspapers for six months, a branch of Independent Newspapers. She completed a six-month internship at the Mail & Guardian’s centre for investigative journalism, amaBhungane. She is the Eugene Saldanha Fellow for social justice reporting in 2012.
Kwanele Sosibo (The inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow)
Kwanele Sosibo studied journalism at Durban’s ML Sultan Technikon before working at Independent Newspapers from 2000 to 2003.
In 2005, he joined the Mail & Guardian’s internship programme, and later worked as a reporter at the paper between 2006 and 2008 before working as a researcher. He was the inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow in 2011