By Sumayya Ismail
Twenty-six year old Yolandi Groenewald says she was too young to
remember the complexities of life under apartheid. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAll I remember was
Liewe Heksie [an Afrikaans childrenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s television show],ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she says, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œnot
all these problemsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
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.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIn grade two I remember classrooms had charts of
bombs and limpet mines,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Yolandi recalls, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œso if we saw one, we could
Born in Kempton Park in July 1979 into an Afrikaans
family, Yolandi says she had a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œtypical Afrikaans upbringingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â, but she
smiles adding, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI also share a birthday with Nelson MandelaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Yolandi remembers a lot of bomb drills and talk of
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“terroristsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ growing up. But she thought ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthe terrorists were
Russians,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â not black people.
YolandiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s parents were more liberal than others in
the Afrikaans community. Her mother was a 70ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s hippie and her parents
voted ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“yesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ 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 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œANC would ruin usÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
She decided to read up more of the history of the
country, and in standard 7 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œdeveloped a political conscienceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â as she
calls it. She studied journalism at university and after graduating
landed an internship with the Mail & Guardian, where she has worked
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
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œinvestigative journalism is the best way to make a name for yourselfÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Yolandi says that before the training workshops, it
was a challenge finding sources and talking to the right people, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œto
dig deeper and find the people who would dish the dirtÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â. At the
workshops, she learnt practical skills that she has since put to use,
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œinterpersonal skills, and how to create a trusting relationship with a
source,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she says.
Yolandi feels that South African journalism today is
not in depth enough, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œit is shallow, especially the dailies,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she says,
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œthey need to ask more questions, be in-depth and vigilant.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œJournalists need more resources, support and more
training like the IJW,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she says, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œand there needs to be more editorial
Yolandi, who one day aspires to be "just editor
of somethingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â says that the media has changed a lot since apartheid.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is no longer trying to change the country, but highlights the
problems and offers criticisms,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she says, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt has more of a
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. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt has
made me a better writer,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Yolandi says, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œand I have learnt such a lot.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â