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Yolandi Groenewald
By Sumayya Ismail

Twenty-six year old Yolandi Groenewald says she was too young to
remember the complexities of life under apartheid. “All I remember was
Liewe Heksie [an Afrikaans children’s television show],” she says, “not
all these problems”.

But for young people born under apartheid South
Africa, the important issues were never very far below the surface,
even if they were not a conscious reality.

“In grade two I remember classrooms had charts of
bombs and limpet mines,” Yolandi recalls, “so if we saw one, we could
identify it”.

Born in Kempton Park in July 1979 into an Afrikaans
family, Yolandi says she had a “typical Afrikaans upbringing”, but she
smiles adding, “I also share a birthday with Nelson Mandela”.

Yolandi remembers a lot of bomb drills and talk of
‘terrorists’ growing up. But she thought “the terrorists were
Russians,” not black people.

Yolandi’s parents were more liberal than others in
the Afrikaans community. Her mother was a 70’s hippie and her parents
voted ‘yes’ in the referendum to abolish apartheid.

Still, for most of her childhood, Yolandi says she
was politically unaware. After Mandela was released from prison she
remembers there being a lot of talk about how the “ANC would ruin us”.

She decided to read up more of the history of the
country, and in standard 7 “developed a political conscience” as she
calls it. She studied journalism at university and after graduating
landed an internship with the Mail & Guardian, where she has worked
ever since.

Yolandi mostly reports on land and development
issues, but having recently completed an investigative journalism
training course with the USAID funded Investigative Journalism Workshop
(IJW) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, she says
“investigative journalism is the best way to make a name for yourself”.

Yolandi says that before the training workshops, it
was a challenge finding sources and talking to the right people, “to
dig deeper and find the people who would dish the dirt”. At the
workshops, she learnt practical skills that she has since put to use,
“interpersonal skills, and how to create a trusting relationship with a
source,” she says.

Yolandi feels that South African journalism today is
not in depth enough, “it is shallow, especially the dailies,” she says,
“they need to ask more questions, be in-depth and vigilant.”

“Journalists need more resources, support and more
training like the IJW,” she says, “and there needs to be more editorial

Yolandi, who one day aspires to be "just editor
of something” says that the media has changed a lot since apartheid.
“It is no longer trying to change the country, but highlights the
problems and offers criticisms,” she says, “It has more of a
developmental agenda.”

She firmly believes training can help with this
agenda. In terms of the workshop training, it has already helped her
overcome many of the professional challenges she has faced. “It has
made me a better writer,” Yolandi says, “and I have learnt such a lot.”