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Vuk’uzenzele: 200 editions of putting people first

Written by: Jauhara Khan

This month Vuk’uzenzele is celebrating an important milestone: the publishing of its 200th edition. 

Since it was first published in October 2005, the newspaper has reached millions of South Africans living in rural areas with no access to government news.

Published by Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) twice a month, Vuk’uzenzele aims to help people access important information on government programmes and policies, provide work opportunities and connect fellow South Africans.

GCIS Director-General Phumla Williams said the publishing of the 200th edition of Vuk’uzenzele was more than a celebration for GCIS.

“This is a celebration of underprivileged and vulnerable communities being able to access information that empowers them to change their lives.

“This occasion also celebrates GCIS’s ability to meet its mandate from 1998, which guarantees South Africans the right to information that empowers them.”

With over 254 million copies of Vuk’uzenzele published and distributed free of charge since its launch, Vuk’uzenzele also has the largest print run in the local print industry.

“When we started Vuk’uzenzele we wanted it to reach those in rural communities. One of the issues we had to grapple with was, how do we make this publication accessible? How do we make sure we have a version of the newspaper for those who can’t read English?

“Vuk’uzenzele is available in part in all 11 official languages and braille. We are the only newspaper that has been able to respond to that need. We needed to make sure we provided a publication that is easy to read, accessible, inclusive and talks to the reader,” she adds.

Williams says over the years she has witnessed how Vuk’uzenzele has changed lives.

“What is exciting about Vuk’uzenzele is that it tells stories about real people that motivates anyone who might be thinking, ‘What do I do with my life?’

“A young person may read the newspaper and see someone who has started a green pepper farm. When they see that story it helps them realise that they are also capable of doing it.

“Vuk’uzenzele also gives readers information on how to get help to start their lives. South Africans want to know how to help themselves, but many often don’t know how or where to begin. We have managed to provide government information and respond to the needs of South Africans.”

Vuk’uzenzele also carries government job opportunities which opens doors for unemployed citizens, says Williams.

“We understand that many people are unemployed and cannot afford to buy newspapers, which carry many government jobs.

“We reached out to departments to advertise in Vuk’uzenzele because it is a free newspaper and reaches a wide audience. Our ideal is to get all government departments to advertise in Vuk’uzenzele.”

Williams says the future of Vuk’uzenzele includes plans to increase its digital footprint and to continue listening to the needs of its readers.

“It is helpful to hear what readers want. Our readers must tell us more about the stories they would like to read, like stories about land or agriculture, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need to give readers the opportunity to have their say and find out how they are consuming our content,” she adds.