“We need you [journalists] to dream dreams. We need you to remind us of where we came from. We need you to remind us of the ideals that have driven us. Let us make every day a World Cup day in South Africa!” declared Archbishop Desmond Tutu in closing this year’s Highway Africa and World Journalism Education Congress. “
For goodness sake, tell it as it is!” he implored the audience, “we are not going to make it with uninspired and uninspiring teachers.” Lifting the already merry mood with a pastor’s oratory, Tutu concluded, “I only see our country as a scintillating success waiting to happen. Help it to happen.” The archbishop was sweet icing on top of a wildly successful four days of several simultaneously organised events by the Rhodes School of Journalism and Media Studies.
“It’s become a bit of a festival, not just a conference,” grinned Prof. Guy Berger of Rhodes University, before a manful attempt to add his vuvuzela voice to the chorus of positivity emanating from the closing ceremony earlier. Buoyant, Berger encouraged delegates to the Highway Africa Conference and the World Journalism Education Congress leave with some questions.
“Is South Africa, Africa? Is Grahamstown South Africa? Is Rhodes University Grahamstown?” Berger asked, before adding with more sober joy that “we weren’t perfect, but we showed it is possible.” He got a standing ovation.
“Up to a few minutes ago I thought Guy could do it all,” joked Joe Foote over Berger’s spluttering vuvuzela-blowing skills. But he continued in similar spirit in the WJEC report-back. “It’s impossible to give because I have no idea what the impact of the conference,” he said, “it all depends on you [the delegates].”
It is my feeling that journalism education is much stronger today than it was four days ago… Just the energy going outward is going to help us all,” he continued, before asking delegates from the various continents to stand in recognition of the conference’s diversity, extolling African in particular.
“You will never know how much you have contributed,” Foote said about Africa. “From the collective grateful hearts in this room, we salute South Africa for all they have done to make this such a successful meeting.”
Chris Kabwato whom Berger had dubbed ‘Mr Highway Africa’ lauded his boss’ leadership, noting that conferences, “usually transient”, need unyielding impetus to survive. “You have given us a vision,” he said, “this sustainability is your vision.”
The uniqueness of Highway Africa is that it is 14 years old, and we keep getting better Kabwato said, adding with pleasure that his worries now included too small a venue.
“How do we stop people coming to Grahamstown? It’s a lovely nightmare, I assure you.” He admired the WJEC for their “madness to agree to hosting two parallel events,” and bid the delegates farewell with great vigour. “Thank you and bon voyage!”
Professor Jane Duncan also presented a report on a “very very successful” Digital Citizen’s Indaba, which aimed to “empower ordinary citizens to become digital citizens.” The enriching experience was further augmented by the WJEC and Highway Africa, meaning that events included “very interesting cross-pollinations” of thought.
“We have definitely achieved our objectives this year,” she said.
Nomasonto Ndlovu, the Global Manager of Business Tourism in South Africa, said South Africa’s “almost irresistible” offer of hospitality was demonstrated by the FIFA World Cup, “showing, not telling, what South Africa is about.”
“The international press has been singing our praises,” she said, and encouraged the delegates to do likewise, using the most powerful medium: word of mouth.
“And of course digital,” Ndlovu joked, “I have to show I was listening! Spread the word, spread the good news: that South Africa is open for business!”