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Top citizen journalists honoured at Sinelizwi ceremony

Top performing candidates from 8 provinces were honoured at the first-ever Mzansi Sinelizwi Citizen Journalists of the Year ceremony held today. Sinelizwi, a WhatsApp-based programme, was presented by Food For Mzansi in partnership with the Google News Initiative

South Africa, meet the top three performers in the Sinelizwi Citizen Journalist of the Year awards. From the left are Nozipho Ntshingila (first runner-up), Gugulethu Mahlangu (winner) and Lebogang Malebo (second runner-up). Photo: Food For Mzansi

A new crop of citizen journalists, representing “the people formerly known as the audience”, were honoured at the glitzy Sinelizwi Citizen Journalist of the Year ceremony today.

Hosted at the Rhebokskloof wine estate in Paarl in the Western Cape, Terri-Ann Brouwers, a Plattekloof journalism student, was announced as Sinelizwi’s citizen journalist of the year. Two Gauteng candidates, Nozipho Ntshingila and Lebogang Malebo, were the first and second runners-up, respectively.

Duncan Masiwa, a Food For Mzansi journalist and Sinelizwi Games Master, featured with Busisiwe Mganxele. She is the Eastern Cape’s top Sinelizwi performer. Photo: Food For Mzansi

Sinelizwi (“We have the word” in Xhosa) is Food For Mzansi’s citizen journalism programme presented in partnership with the Google News Initiative (GNI).

The top performing candidates, trained in a year-long WhatsApp-based initiative, travelled from across South Africa to attend the ceremony.

‘Moment of breakthrough’

Addressing the awardees, Food For Mzansi co-founder and editor-in-chief Ivor Price said: “We see you and we honour you. In the last year, we have tried our level best to give you, the people formerly known as the audience, the tools to tell your own stories through Sinelizwi.

“This is your moment of breakthrough. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. We are inviting you to unleash the power of citizen journalism in our newsroom and beyond.”

Global sports journalist Robin Adams with Food For Mzansi co-founder Ivor Price. Photo: Food For Mzansi

Initially, 62 South Africans were enrolled for the Sinelizwi initiative. Candidates included unemployed youth and graduates, farmers and farmworkers, retirees and high school students from all nine provinces.

In the end, just more than 20 completed the programme.

“Citizen journalists are so important,” said Duncan Masiwa, Food For Mzansi journalist and the Sinelizwi project leader.

“These are the people who report on issues affecting off-the-grid communities. We taught them that their lives, their communities and their stories are no less valuable because they often live in remote, rural areas.”

‘Sinelizwi has become a lifeline’

In her virtual address to attendees, GNI recipients manager Sarah Hartley said, “I am pretty amazed by your progress this year… looking at you progress we cannot wait to hear more about what you will achieve moving forward.”

Food For Mzansi’s Sinelizwi top performers travelled far and wide for the awards ceremony. Photo: Food For Mzansi

Masiwa said he was particularly proud of Brouwers, who walked away with the top honours. Brouwers also received the Sinelizwi Games Master award and was announced as the Western Cape’s top performer.

Television host Chanelle Davids-Abrahams hosted the Sinelizwi Citizen Journalism Awards. She is featured with Lieketseng Lecheko, the top performer in the Free State. Photo: Food For Mzansi

“She considered the programme as a lifeline because of her battle with depression and anxiety.

“Every time she received a message celebrating her as a shining star, she always said it put a smile on her face. These are the type of stories that I will always remember,” he said.

Commenting on her victory, Brouwers said: “This programme saved me in my darkest moments… I cannot begin to explain what this means to me, I don’t know what this programme sees in me, but I am starting to see it in myself.”

The awards function was hosted by TV personality Chanelle Davids-Abrahams. Robin Adams, who transitioned from Golden Arrow bus driver to global broadcast journalist, was the guest speaker.

Singer, songwriter and vocal coach Zeldene McDonald was the guest performer at the Sinelizwi awards. Previously, she has performed with international superstars Tevin Campbell, Robin S and Peaches and Herb. Photo: Food For Mzansi

Adams said: “This is a refreshing reminder that journalism is in good hands… I am happy to be in the company of greatness.”

He further advised the Sinelizwi graduates to keep on dreaming. “Chase your dreams with gusto. Whatever the dream may be, big or small, chase it with everything that you have got!”

Meanwhile Food For Mzansi co-founder Kobus Louwrens said, “Thank you for putting up your hands and staying the course and lasting this long in the process… We are proud and have a lot of respect for what you pulled off. Thank you for making this project a success.”

Last year, Food For Mzansi’s Sinelizwi project received the 2020 Africa Digital Media award for best news literacy project by WAN-IFRA, the global organisation for the world’s press.

Meet Sinelizwi’s shining stars

Sinelizwi Citizen Journalist of the Year 2020, top performer in the Western Cape and winner of the Games Master award: Terri-Ann Brouwers from Plattekloof.

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.

Top performer in Eastern Cape: Busisiwe Mgangxela from East London.

Having just received her junior degree, Busisiwe Mgangxela is a passionate, young farmer who owns a piece of land in Cambridge.

Top performer in Free State: Lieketseng Lecheko from Sasolburg.

Aspiring writer, blogger, and community activist Lieketseng Lecheko dreams of a day where rural communities will rediscover the beauty and potential of farming. 

Top performer in Gauteng and winner of the award for outstanding programme participation: Nozipho Ntshingila from Johannesburg.

Nozipho Ntshingila is a BA marketing communication graduate from the University of Johannesburg with experience in journalism. 

Top performer in KwaZulu-Natal: Simanga Mhlophe from Stanger.

While studying journalism at Rosebank College, Simanga Mhlophe already started freelancing for a local newspaper. Today, he is the author of a book called TakeNotez and a radio personality.

Top performer in Limpopo: Rejoyce Legodi from Polokwane.

Rejoyce Legodi holds a degree in public administration from the University of Limpopo. She also graduated from the Young African Leaders Institute.

Top performer in Mpumalanga: Sharon Ndlovu from Nelspruit.

Sharon Ndlovu is not only smart, but hard-working too. The Nelspruit visionary tells Food For Mzansi that she is a team player and very creative. Working under pressure and delivering on time are some of her strongest traits.

Top performer in North West: Gugulethu Mahlangu from Rustenburg.

Gugelethu Mahlangu is not only a rising farming star, but also an avid reader who has been writing since her high school days.

Sinelizwi News Journalist of the Year: Lebogang Malebo from Johannesburg.

A community activist and passionate writer, Malebo holds a degree in political science and believes, writing is another form of engaging with millions.

Farmer’s Inside Track Podcast Contributor of the Year: Melanie Baumeister from Sedgefield.

With her strong roots in the Eastern Cape, Melanie Baumeister was raised to celebrate diversity and listen to, and learn from the stories of other people.

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