a reaction to the Gugulethu story from an American student

The spelling of Gugulethu has been a point of confusion for many people, me included. I thought it was Gugulethu, but the road signs all read, Guguletu! Was I wrong? Was the sign wrong? Are there just two different versions of spelling?

Finally, not only is clarity given by IOL News’ article, “City to put ‘h’ back in ‘Guguletu’” by Neo Maditla, but the happy medium this blog has been searching for is found. Remember the two extremes of township media coverage discussed? Charity and violence, particularly police brutality. Well, this article falls in the middle, simply a discussion determining the fate of the Gugulethu (yes, this is the real spelling) signs. This is the exciting middle ground where journalists so rarely come to play.

The photograph featured above is from a Gaurdian articleconcerning the death of Anni Dewani in 2010. Of course, the Dewani killing was a tragedy. It was at first suspected the men from the township mugged and killed Dewani, but it was later discovered that the newlywed husband actually hired the men to kill her. This article was written in the primary stage, when the township violence was initially only to blame. The only photograph used in the Gaurdian story as a representation of Dewani’s violent township death and of Gugulethu to the rest of the world is a photograph in which the township’s name is misspelled. This lends a dark humor to the article. Not only was the article wrong in blaming only township violence, but the very name of the township in question was misspelled. This seems to represent township misunderstandings more than anything else. Imagine how many other news stories picture the township’s sign as a menacing or ominous marker introducing a violent township story, when really, all along, this very marker is simply a misspelling.

The IOL News’ article also remains quite objective. It reports the facts. There are hints that the NP government, most likely in charge of infrastructure at the time, misspelled ‘Guguletu’ because of their lack of knowledge about the Xhosa language (i.e. the signs were made in 1980, during apartheid, and the initial Xhosa dictionary incorrectly left out ‘h’ sounds). But, these ‘hints’ are not arranged by framing, simply by priming (from knowledge of other sources discussing apartheid) and common sense. Biases are left out of the article. For instance, comments or implications of the use of 200, 000 R on the signs are not included, the audience, now informed of the cost, able to draw their own conclusions about the decision (with a little extra research, if necessary, about Gugulethu’s money allocations). This is what good journalism is. The reporting of relevant facts in a manner that is as unbiased as possible so that the audience can, with further research, draw their own conclusions.

This article shows that the city is taking interest in the townships, attempting to show the townships the deserved respect of a correctly spelled name. After all, sometimes all people have is the name from which they are from.

Hopefully, this will inspire further improvements to Gugulethu, and other townships alike.

A big bravo to Neo Maditla. Thanks for finally exploring the middle ground.


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