This article was originally published on Wits Vuvuzela, the Wits Centre for Journalism’s student newsroom.

By Sfundo Parakozov: Lecturer at the Wits Centre for Journalism (WCJ), Dr. Enoch Sithole recently obtained his PhD on his extensive research into media coverage of climate change in South Africa.  

Sithole was born in the old mining town of Barberton in Mpumalanga, in 1965 to a Swazi mother and a Tsonga father. He left Barberton at the age of 12 and went to Mozambique with his dad, spending nine years in the country. Sithole attributes the move to his multilingualism, he is proficient in Tsonga, Swati, English and Portuguese. 

He returned to the country in 1983 and followed his father’s footsteps by working at the same mine in Baberton. “My interest in journalism came under anti-apartheid activism when I joined a workers’ union and became a heavy consumer of news,” shared Sithole.  Consequently, he was recruited at an anti-apartheid newspaper in 1988 called New Nation, he joined permanently as a reporter after three months of training. 

“When I was thinking about my PhD, I tried to find something that would be unique. I could have done my PhD on a purely journalism subject because that is my background.” Sithole decided to research on climate change for his doctorate, noting that the media only covers the topic during conferences or when there are disastrous events. 

His research emphasized that climate change should not be looked at as only existing in the physical science space because solutions to the global issue are also found in social spaces. “If we’re going to involve everybody in fighting climate change we need to communicate. I want to take a subject such as climate change to the masses through journalism and other communication methods,” said Sithole. 

The father of two children and three grandchildren graduated with honours in 2017, a master’s in 2018 and recently a doctorate on April 24, 2023, whilst working as a lecturer at the WCJ. Sithole said the field of journalism is demanding especially when one is trying to complete their studies while working. “One needs to plan their life accordingly, even your family will understand that it’s work, it’s not something you can avoid,” said Sithole. 

Sithole is currently working on a proposal to “determine empirically, not speculatively” why media rarely covers climate change and why people find climate change an elusive subject. This is in addition to a report he wrote for Fojo Media Institute about the inadequacy of climate change reportage in South Africa between 2021 and 2022.  

Programme coordinator at Fojo Media Institute, Jean Mujati described Sithole as a very humble and professional person. She further mentioned that he was recommended by the former WCJ director, Professor Franz Kruger. “We [the institute] needed an expert who understood the South African media landscape, [which is] something that we found in Dr Sithole,” Mujati said.  

Kruger said he worked with Sithole at New Nation in the 1980s. “I appreciate Enoch for his experience in the media, and his insightful way of thinking about issues in journalism. His focus on climate change reporting is timely, and I am very happy that he completed his PhD in the area.”  

“I have my PhD, now it’s a matter of making it work” said Sithole. He further noted that he would love to continue teaching journalism and increasingly combine it with climate change.  

His final words were, “One thing I would like people to know about me is that I tend to commit to what I want to do, I grab hard. When I get into something, I don’t let it go, regardless of how difficult it is”. 

Photo: Sfundo Parakozov