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Joseph Nong “Joe” Thloloe

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Joseph Nong “Joe” Thloloe Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to and achievement in the field of the media, literary writing and journalism, for his contribution to the liberation struggle and his role in the transformation of the media in post-apartheid South Africa.
Profile of Joseph Nong “Joe” Thloloe

Joseph Nong “Joe” Thloloe was born in 1942 in Orlando East, Soweto. A highly experienced journalist, Thloloe is a widely known and respected newsman who has contributed to the promotion of ethical journalism in South Africa.

Beyond his active participation in the field of journalism, he has also selflessly contributed to the struggle for freedom, which saw him detained and tortured many times from a young age.

While a learner at Rolando High School in 1958, he joined the Africanist when they broke away from the African National Congress and became a founding member of the Pan-Africanist Congress in 1959. In 1960, Thloloe was convicted for his role in the 1960 Anti-Pass Campaign that led to the Sharpeville Massacre. He was detained for four months in 1976 following the students’ uprising of that year; detained in 1977 for 18 months under the Terrorism Act, 1967; banned in 1981 for three years under the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950; and detained, tried and jailed for 19 months between 1982 and 1984.

In 1962, he became the first black journalist at the Rand Daily Mail when the publication started its township edition.

His coverage of labour issues, especially in the 1980s, was closely linked to the growth of the black labour movement. A patriotic writer, he used his weekly column Labour Watch to expose the United States of America (USA) and European companies, flouting the extremely moderate Sullivan Principles (American) and the Codes of Labour Practices (European) for companies operating in South Africa that they had agreed to observe as a condition for remaining here at a time of disinvestment.

Importantly, his writing also celebrated the victories of workers, which helped to boost their confidence and encouraged them to join trade unions.

In 1988, Thloloe was promoted to managing editor of Sowetan, serving as a deputy to the then editor, Aggrey Klaaste. In 1994, he was appointed first as an input editor at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and later as its editor-in-chief responsible for television news and current affairs. In this position, he played a role in the transformation of the SABC from state broadcaster to public broadcaster.

Looking for a new challenge, he joined as a consultant in 2000 and then as editor-in-chief, responsible for news and current affairs programming. In 2006, when changed its news policy, he walked out without waiting to find another job. This action again proved he is a man of principle who stands up for what he believes in regardless of the consequences.

Thloloe has served as president of both the Union of Black Journalists and the Media Workers Association of South Africa. He is former chairperson of the South African National Editors’ Forum, a body he helped establish, and also sat on the Human Rights Commission’s panel investigating racism in the media.

He has also served on the judging panel for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s World Press Freedom Prize.

Thloloe is currently the South African Press Ombudsman. The respect he commands in the media and broader society has added to the credibility of the press’ self-regulatory mechanism in South Africa.

Thloloe serves as chairperson of the board of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and is a former chairperson of the Nordic-Southern African Development Community Journalism Centre in Maputo.

Among the accolades he has received is the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1988 and the Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism in 1982. The Louis Lyons Award is decided by 21 US and international Nieman fellows from nominations from around the world.

In 2008, Thloloe received the Allan Kirkland Soga Lifetime Achiever Award at the Mondi Shanduka Newspaper Awards.

In 2012, the University of Rhodes conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Thloloe.

One can only hope that young journalists can follow in the footsteps of this great man who exudes professionalism and has remained true to the profession of journalism for over 50 years.