With only a few weeks left to the finish line, the spirits of aspiring journalists that are part of Food For Mzansi’s Sinelizwi citizen journalism programme are running high.
Currently, 23 hopeful citizen journalists are battling it out for top Sinelizwi bragging rights.
Since last year, 62 South Africans from all corners of Mzansi have been hard at work training to become local community journalists.
The six-month-long, WhatsApp-based programme is supported by the Google News Initiative, and gives participants a rare opportunity to share stories from their communities. These are often remote and off the edge for mainstream media.
The programme was awarded the 2020 Africa Digital Media award for best in news literacy by the international news organisation WAN-IFRA.
Five candidates who are currently rocking the Sinelizwi scoreboard spoke to Food For Mzansi to share their thoughts on being in the top five.
Terri-Ann Brouwers from Plattekloof (473 stars)
Sitting comfortably in the number one position is the Western Cape’s Terri-Ann Brouwers who “feels extremely blessed to be part of such an amazing programme.”
Brouwers has a passion to amplify the voices of people of colour, especially women. She has already completed a higher certificate in journalism and digital media and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism at Pearson Institute of Higher Education.
The young writer says, “I’ve learnt a lot and given it my all, so to currently be at number one in the country is a great feeling.”
Jessica Isaacs from Firgrove (467 stars)
Not far behind on the scoreboard is Firgrove’s Jessica Isaacs. The aspiring journalist from the Western Cape tells Food For Mzansi she was in shock when she read the congratulatory messages on WhatsApp.
“When I saw the message from our games master on WhatsApp, I had to read it over and over again! I was extremely proud and excited.”
Isaacs is a poet, writer and singer who enjoys encouraging people with her gifts.
She says the citizen journalism programme has been an awesome experience. “I feel blessed to be part of the programme and receive such good news. Thank you very much, Sinelizwi.”
Smanga Mhlophe from Stanger (454 stars)
Clutching on to the number three position is KwaZulu-Natal’s Smanga Mhlophe.
According to Mhlophe, being ranked third makes him feel great considering how many participants there were in the beginning.
He says, “Besides the bragging rights, I have learned so much about writing and gathering news. I believe the skills I have learned in the programme so far will help me advance my career as I have advanced to the third position.”
Mhlophe is the author of a book called TakeNotez and also a radio personality.
For his radio work, Smanga has even scooped two awards along the way, one from the Mzansi Kwaito and House Music Awards 2019 and the other as the third runner-up at the 031 Awards 2020 in the media personality category.
Nozipho Ntsingila from Johannesburg (454 stars)
In fourth place is Nozipho Ntsingila from Gauteng. She tells Food For Mzansi that the citizen journalism programme has been a great learning platform for her. She feels honoured and humbled by the recognition.
Having done some journalism work in the past, Ntsingila says she was surprised to realise that she still had a few things to learn about being a journalist.
“God must have put this programme in His plans for me because I have always wanted to pursue journalism as a career and be great at it. I can only thank Him and Sinelizwi kindly for everything.
“A big shoutout to our games master, Duncan Masiwa, for being patient with us at times when we couldn’t meet the deadline and would extend it a bit further. Thank you for being such a cool sport,” Ntsingila states.
Ntshingila is a BA marketing communication graduate from the University of Johannesburg with experience in journalism. She worked for a newspaper called The Messenger and loves news and current affairs.
Lebogang Malebo from Tsakane (448 stars)
Lebogang Malebo is currently placed fifth on the Sinelizwi scoreboard. Malebo, who resides in Gauteng, says he is struggling to contain his excitement. This is pushing him to work even harder and put more effort in the tasks to come, he explains.
“I hope those of us in the top five will inspire our fellow journos. For me, the programme is not about competing amongst the 63 of us, but it is about building and equipping all of us with tools to become citizen journalists that will champion our local community and national stories,” Malebo states.
Malebo, who is a community activist and passionate writer, says he looks forward to the tasks ahead and subsequent thought-provoking discussions. The young writer holds a BA degree in political science and toils as a community organiser for C19GP.
A word from the games master
Meanwhile the programme’s games master, Duncan Masiwa, has expressed his pride in the contenders’ achievements.
“Each one of them has exhibited a natural feel towards citizen journalism and this is clearly displayed in the level of work they submitted.
“Honestly, I am very excited to see who will edge towards the top three positions in the final weeks of the programme. Well done to all the candidates,” Masiwa says.