Memoirs of Life in South Africa

English 162: Literature and Place (A Queens College Study Abroad Course)

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Blog #12

January 29th, 2012 by mikestrianese · No Comments · Uncategorized

The post ( — sorry, the hyperlink won’t work) I chose deals with a theft charge against Ms. Mayet and  Phil Timkhulu, founding members of the Union of Black Journalists, or UBJ.  Mayet and Timkhulu were charged with having stolen money from the state liquidator when the UBJ and other organizations were banned on October 19, 1977.  Mayet and Timkhulu were arrested Monday, December 19th of that year.  Questioning their safety and feeling as if something bad could happen to them, Mayet and Timkhulu withdrew the funds.  The UBJ “had a printing press, an electric typewriter, very possibly a type-setting contraption, a filing cabinet or two and various oddments of the usual office furniture” that went missing and were not possessed by the state liquidator.  Mayet would like the TRC to look into their whereabouts in hope to award their value to a new library that was opening in Soweto at the time.


ADV POTGIETER: Thank you Hugh. I don’t know, we’ll probably have to look into it but this must be a record. I mean at least the re-born UBJ came into being in ’75. It seems to have been formed somewhere around ’73. But the time that it was really becoming active and the time that you became involved, that was in ’75.

MS MAYET: That’s correct yes.

ADV POTGIETER: And then it was banned in ’77. I mean within two years. It might be a record. I mean we’lllook into that. And I suppose what you’re saying is that the fact that it was a black organisation has attracted the attention of the authorities and that’s when you were on this collision course. No matter what you did, I mean you say that basically you were striving to advance the interests of your members, I mean you’re not a political organisation as such.


ADV POTGIETER: So I mean it seems by definition, just the fact that you were a black organisation that that sort of resulted in this sort of instant banning.

MS MAYET: Ja, that’s correct. 







MR LEWIN: Juby, if I could just ask one question about the relationship between journalists and politics, because we heard yesterday a great deal, we had a great deal of discussion about this. I’ve got two questions actually but the first is in relation to that. The experience of UBJ members seems from your testimony and also from history to have been one of total confrontation with the then government, so that people like Joe Thlolwe, like Zwelake Sisulu, like yourself spent a large amount of time in detention. Do you thing that was inevitable at that stage?

MS MAYET: Ja, I guess I would say that. I don’t think the system liked us very much at all. I don’t think they liked the way we wrote about what was happening, so whether we were politically inclined in whichever way at all or not, this was going to happen. I personally was not a political person. The problem here is that in this country, if you were black, you were political whether you liked it or not because politics bound up your whole life. Politics was where you lived, where you worked, who you slept with, what bus you took, you know, the whole thing. So whether or not you were a political person, which I was not, I still became a political person, but I was a journalist first and foremost and I think I can safely say that of most of my colleagues at that time.

MS MKHIZE: As one of the senior journalists, if I may ask you, how do you think unions should restructure or position themselves today …(intervention)

MR NUTTALL: Proprietors, proprietors bodies are you talking about now?


MR NUTTALL: Yes. The Newspaper Press Union at this present time I gather is holding a congress at the Victoria Falls and I gather that on the agenda is a proposal for transformation of the NPU which is being put forward by one of its members. I will be interested to see the outcome of that, because the NPU still exists to some extent, it’s still made up of the sort of profiles that I’ve painted from across the spectrum. It seems to me that it’s absolutely essential that a body like the NPU in fact should transform itself into being able to speak and represent and act for a much wider range of media diversity as I have indicated than it has done up till now. I think the era of looking after its own members and its own newspapers is well past, and that it should now be addressing in fact the wider needs of communication and interaction with communities. The small publications that I was able to sponsor in recent years through a development trust that I worked for are crying out for training, for support, for equipment. The Independent Media Trust, which I have served on for the last five years, has done what it can but it has lacked resources to do it. The NPU has resources. And I believe in fact it should be transforming itself to be able to encourage media diversity, to ensure that the smaller voices that are emerging all over the country are given a chance to move towards some degree of viability and not to live or die according to the whims of those who subsidise them. So that for me would be the major area of transformation that a body like the Newspaper Press Union should be considering.


“[Mayet and Timkhulu] appeared in court on the 21st of December, got bail of R500 and were remanded. When the case finally came to court on Tuesday 25 April 1978 [they] were both acquitted.”





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