From the pen to the ballot box, that is how former journalist and now ActionSA councillor Edwin Ntshidi is known to those who have followed his work as a journalist.
Ntshidi was born 45 years ago and grew up with his grandmother and uncle in Wesselsbron, Free State.
Like many South Africans who grew up in the days of the brutal apartheid system, Ntshidi’s upbringing was not the easiest.
“I grew up under very difficult circumstances – my mother was not there. I was raised by my grandmother and my uncle. After the death of my grandmother I started being a thug,” he said.
“I had to hustle for myself. We used to do house breakings, mugging people, but thanks [must go] to my uncle who I told I wanted to go to school in Johannesburg.”
Ntshidi moved to Johannesburg in 1993 to pursue his dreams of being a television presenter. However life lead him to being a journalist.
“I went to African Cultural Centre where I was training as an actor, musician and dancer. There was that process of Deutsche Welle training centre. They came to South Africa to offer a scholarship to SA students, and that is where I was inspired by journalism,” said Ntshidi.
“I started doing journalism and it was really interesting. I met a lot of people and made a lot of contacts and that is where I told myself that this might be what I wanted to do.”
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Ntshidi began an illustrious radio career at Radio 1584, where he did his practicals, and later went to Network Radio Services which later became Live Africa Network.
“Live Africa Network was liquidated and June Law brought it back.
“We rented a place in SABC and that is where I started applying for jobs.”
Ntshidi said his biggest breakthrough in radio came when he was hired at Jacaranda FM.
“I have to say, Jacaranda FM is the radio that exposed me a lot. I worked for almost all the radio stations in South Africa, except for Classic FM and Power FM, but Jacaranda is where I was exposed,” he said.
During his spare time, Ntshidi enjoys spending time with those close to him and enjoys a good braai with good conversations.
“I am not really a sports person. I used to be a Bloemfontein Celtics fan and when it was bought by Royal AM, I stopped supporting club football. I only watch important matches like the World Cup.
“I was married for 14 years but got divorced. I have children who visit me, but for now I am single, so hanging out with friends is what I do when I am free,” he said.
On his move from being a journalist to being a politician, Ntshidi was accused of promoting his current political home and its leader, Herman Mashaba, through his reporting during the local government elections last year to gain the councillor position he currently occupies in the Joburg metro.
“I was not reporting on Herman Mashaba; I was reporting the news,” he said.
“The reason I joined this party is because I think it could be the one that changes this country. I was asked by a friend of mine to call Mashaba to address them in Slovo Park. I called him and he came.
“His address in that community inspired me. I was like … who is this guy? I have written about Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki and [Nelson] Mandela but asked myself, who is this one who comes up with such nice ideas.
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“Mashaba did not approach me; I took it upon myself that I wanted to change this country. I went for an interview but I did not know I was on the list of councillors until seven days before they were announced.”
He said despite his years of writing damning stories about corruption, he had never seen any change in government, and maybe being on the other side, he would have a better opportunity to hold those who were corrupt accountable.
“Being a politician gave me a chance to fix the problems I had been complaining about. I had worked for 25 years as a journalist and I wrote a lot about corruption, but nothing was done.
“I have been an activist in Slovo Park and I was also a journalist, but I never changed anything,” he explained.
“Today I was able to push a motion that Slovo Park must get electricity, toilets and water. People will now have electricity, better sanitation and they will get houses.
“That, for me, is a lot and I couldn’t have done it if I was a journalist.”
Agendas for reporting news
Ntshidi also raised concerns that the reporters seemed to have their agendas for reporting news instead of reporting news as it happens.
“There are people who push their own agendas in journalism or those of others because they have this thing of who they support which is very wrong. “In my time I would write about anyone and not protect somebody else,” said Ntshidi.
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“While I was at SABC, I wrote a story about Moqhaka local municipality. I was asked by our national editor what I wanted in Free State because I was not reporting in Free State.
“That story was stopped because she was friends with the spokesperson – I was basically silenced. There are a lot of journalists who are paid not to write stories about the ones who pay them.”