It is with great sadness that Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership has learnt of the death of Govin Reddy, the Institute’s founding director who also served in a variety of senior journalism roles in South Africa and Africa.
A media intellectual and activist
A media intellectual and activist, Reddy -- who passed away last week -- was the first director of the SPI. He came to the post in 2003 with strong credentials. During the Apartheid period, he edited the Africa South news magazine while exiled in Zimbabwe; and during South Africa’s transition to democracy he helped reorientate the SABC’s radio stations towards proper public service.
The Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, set up in Johannesburg by the veteran journalist Allister Sparks to build the capacity of the media to serve a non-racial democracy, engaged Reddy in a senior position, and many trainees benefited from his expertise and insights.
Reddy subsequently served as chief executive of the Weekly Mail (which later became the Mail & Guardian). He was also an early board member of the Media Development and Diversity Agency, and would have been distressed to see the decline of this institution that did much to support community newspapers.
At the SPI, Reddy combined forces with media lecturer Peter du Toit to design South Africa’s first post-graduate diploma in media leadership – a sought-after qualification which continues today to empower young people for executive roles in the media in Africa.
The Institute itself was founded with a generous grant from Atlantic Philanthropies under its South African representative, the late Gerald Kraak, and named after Plaatje who was a leading media entrepreneur 100 years ago.
“Govin’s stature reinforced the name of the Institute, ensuring that it got off on a strong footing,” said Prof Guy Berger, former Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies.
Due to family reasons, Reddy did not stay on in Grahamstown, but returned to Johannesburg after ensuring sustainable momentum at the SPI. It was him who suggested the recruitment of the respected editor and international journalist Francis Mdlongwa as his replacement, and who has successfully shepherded and expanded the Institute ever since. However, Reddy continued to have close links with the Institute. He was a frequent guest lecturer there, as well as at the Journalism Department at the University of Stellenbosch.
Passion for independent and professional journalism
“This was a person who stood out for his passion for independent and professional journalism, and his belief that the example had to be set by media leaders,” Berger.
Mdlongwa, who worked with Reddy at the SABC as head of News and Current Affairs of Channel Africa, the SABC’s external news service, said African journalism was poorer for the passing of a “giant of African journalism who has left a lasting legacy of excellence in the profession”.
“We will always remember Govin for his staunch support for a fiercely independent and critical media that probes key societal issues very deeply and serves its audiences without fear or favour while holding up the flag of ethical conduct,” ~ Mdlongwa said.
Our condolences go out to his friends and family.