Praise for new isiZulu paper

A Sunday Times isiZulu edition will hit
the streets on 7 November.
(Image: Bongani Nkosi)

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Bongani Nkosi

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has applauded Sunday Timesdecision to publish versions in isiZulu to promote wider use of the country’s other official languages.

Sunday Times, a national weekly newspaper owned by Avusa Media, will print and sell the isiZulu edition in KwaZulu-Natal province from 7 November 2010. The 32-page broadsheet will be called the Sunday Times Zulu Edition.

“PanSALB believes that the idea will encourage other national media houses and other organisations to recognise the role of official languages in the country,” the organisation’s spokesperson Sibusiso Nkosi said in a statement on 3 November.

“This announcement deserves praise and our support,” Nkosi added.

The Sunday Times Zulu Edition is a critical development that will “help in the preservation and promotion of our indigenous languages”, PanSALB said.

Breaking into the market

Sunday Times is hoping to penetrate the isiZulu readership market that’s currently dominated by Ilanga, Ilanga langeSonto, Isolezwe and Isolezwe ngeSonto. These newspapers are among the highest sellers in the country, although they are only distributed in KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of Gauteng.

Isolezwe ngeSonto, the Sunday publication launched in 2008, recorded a 34% sales hike in the first quarter of 2010, selling about 71 219 copies a week – according to its owners, Independent Newspapers.

Sunday Times said the new publication came about after market research, which indicated that there’s high demand for an additional isiZulu newspaper.

Sunday Times Zulu Edition will have a strong focus on provincial politics, municipal developments, celebrity news and sport. It will sell for R8 (US$1.17), which is cheaper than the Sunday Times English version.

Sunday Times’ KwaZulu-Natal bureau, where staff will be based, has been thoroughly prepared for the new venture. “We have already had several dry runs with a team of sub-editors translating stories and laying them out with Zulu headlines, said Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley in a statement.

“We have established an operation dedicated to serving this edition in our KwaZulu-Natal bureau,” he added.

The paper will be run by Avusa Media editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya, also former Sunday Times editor, until a new one starts in January 2011.

Preserving indigenous languages

English remains the dominant language in South African print media. Of the 10 other official languages, it’s only isiZulu and Afrikaans that have a presence in mainstream newspapers. The other official languages of the country are siSwati, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Setswana, isiNdebele, Xitsonga, Tshivenda and SePedi.

PanSALB, a government organisation, is advocating for newspapers to be published in these languages as well to promote their usage. “We hope that in future, such efforts [like Sunday Times’] will be extended to other languages … ” said Nkosi.

IsiZulu is the most widely spoken language in South Africa after English. According to PanSALB, it’s the home language of about 24% of South Africans, while about 50% of the country’s population understands it.

Makhanya believes the venture will “play a positive role” in improving South Africans’ access to information.

He sees the paper as Avusa’s way of developing the use of isiZulu. “We are extremely proud to be making a contribution to the growth of an indigenous language. This in no small way contributes towards us living up to our claim as ‘The paper for the people’.”