Meet the Team
Bukeka Silekwa: Roving Reporters intern
Bukeka Silekwa is a Rosebank College journalism who cut her journalism teeth with Roving Reporters earlier this year in documenting the bizarre trial of a man subsequently convicted in the Durban Magistrate’s Court of being a ‘serial’ rock thrower. Bukeka then went onto the blow the lid on how young women wanting abortions had resorted to sleeping overnight on the pavement outside Durban’s Addington Hospital in the hope of getting service at the hospital’s Termination of Pregnancy unit. Some queued in vain.
In her application for a Roving Reporters internship, Bukeka wrote: “I am accustomed to a fast pace and stressful environment where efficiency and accuracy is a priority, and multi-tasking a requirement. I thoroughly enjoy challenge and work hard to attain my goals. I have a holistic approach in all that I do and I give my responsibilities 110%.” Bukeka has indeed done that, earning a well-earned place on Roving Reporters team. Bukeka also helped launch the Sunday Tribune Game Changers series which gives voice to people who are making this world a better place both for nature and for people.
Thabiso Goya: Roving Reporters intern
Thabiso is a student journalist with the soul of a poet on a never-ending quest to reflect this through his work.
As a Durban University of Technology alumni, he’s done it all from scrounging for sound-bites for RadioDUT, covering student strikes for JournalismIziko and subsequently being accused of being an “MI7 agent” by student leaders with an over-inflated sense of importance. Writing about a tree-hugging society group in the University’s newsletter was also not seen to be part of the “cause”.
His favourite writer is Ta-Nehisi Coates and he hopes to build enough credibility so that one day he writes a book dispelling once and for all the myth that Isaiah Shembe died by throwing himself off a cliff because he believed he could fly.
Izze Siemann: International intern
Izze (Isabella) Siemann loves to write – and travel. The McGill University environmental science and English literature honours student worked her way down from central Africa to start her apprenticeship with Roving Reporters. She has also served as science and technology editor at The McGill Tribune and as an extern at EARTH Magazine, spreading awareness of environmental problems and scientific discoveries. In January 2018, Izze began her African sojourn, starting in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania on a McGill field study semester, and later backpacking through Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana before coming to South Africa to join Roving Reporters. This apprenticeship has not only given Izze the chance to ‘get out there and write stories’ but has also enabled her to develop skills beyond the realm of print journalism, including helping develop this website. It has fueled her dream to one day work as a traveling science reporter (ideally for National Geographic because this girl really can dream).
Devarshini Munsami: Roving Reporters intern
Devarshini Munsami got her first assignment covering the Nature, Environment and Wildlife Filmmakers Congress in Durban.
In her application for a journalism internship, Devarshini wrote: “A little about me; I am 5’5 in height so I can run fast which I am currently working on. Last year I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Education (from Unisa) but my heart is in writing and other challenges. I love being fit and healthy but every now and then my head does not listen to my heart so I am sort of a junk food-fitness somebody. I love animals and when I need to escape to somewhere nowhere, I read and watch a lot of movies. I love adventures and out-of-doors events and even if I might feel my life was endangered, I would live like it would be my last day on the globe. In conclusion, I really hope I convinced you to give me a chance to live my dreamy world of writing.”
Catherine Jakins: Roving Reporters researcher
University of KwaZulu-Natal masters student Cath Jakins wears many hats. When she’s not working on her dissertation, “The modus operandi of rhino poachers in KwaZulu-Natal”, she’s a personal assistant, au pair, waitress, bartender – and now budding journalist.
“Boots on the ground will not solve South Africa’s poaching problem,” wrote Cath in her first story for Roving Reporters in 2017. “Everyone rolls their eyes when I say this, and I know it sounds twee, but poverty and inequality need to be dealt with. That is what’s driving poaching. Eighty percent of people living near protected areas earn far less than a living wage They are being approached by individuals offering them R15 000 for one night’s work, so they do it,” says Cath.
While security experts have called for tougher military-style action on the ground to combat poaching, Cath reckons this will lead to a war that can never be won. “It will turn into a bloodbath, becoming more and more violent, with people in communities turning against each other: the rangers and people working in conservation living ostracised within the broader community.
“Research also shows that for every poacher killed, there is another one waiting to go in, because he, too, wants the money.”
Cath’s passions – beyond wanting to protect our wilderness areas and save rhino populations – include yoga, education of young people and wildlife photography. Her love of the African bushveld and its wildlife inspired her research topic.
Roving Reporters is currently seeking a commission to guide Cath through writing a three-part series on rhino poaching, documenting the lives of rhino poachers and giving voice to people who are seeking creative solutions to this endemic problem.
Gabriel Sithole, Fieldwork facilitator
Radio personality, entrepreneur, wildlife photographer and activist… that’s some resume. And it’s just as well because Gabriel needs all the skills he can muster for a tough job. Armed with a camera, Gabriel is on a mission to undo the destructive behaviour of people by documenting the wonders of the natural world.
He also hopes to teach folk not to reach for a stick every time they see a snake.
When Sithole is not behind the microphone on Vuma 103 FM breakfast show, he is out and about in a Ford Ranger working with Roving Reporters and other organisations in documenting some of the most critical challenges facing conservation efforts in South Africa.
Gabriel is a brand ambassador for the Ford Wildlife Foundation which supports conservation education and research. It’s a relationship which allows him to put his favourite passion to good use: wildlife photography – and taking Roving Reporters interns on assignments to places they would otherwise not get the opportunity to visit.
In launching the Sunday Tribune’s Amaqhawe Awards, Gabriel also presented award-winning quality photographs to five deserving Game Changers of his choice. Gabriel has since taken Izze and Bukeka on a week-long field trip to iSimangaliso to profile six nominated Game Changers, and will hopefully be heading there again soon to introduce Izze and Bukeka to a man who inspired Roving Reporters environmental journalism training programme: Makotikoti Zikhali.
Diony Lalieu: Ocean Watch correspondent
Diony’s Instagram account would read that she is “driven by an insatiable wanderlust, addicted to the ocean and curious about everything in life”. And indeed, this mother-of-two, thrives on variety, exploration and testing the parameters of the status quo.
Having completed her masters in research psychology, Diony went on to research consumer behavior and strategy for multiple, international brands. Although fulfilling in the sense that her research spanned the continent and exposed her to a variety of cultures and ways of life, it also made her more aware of the ceaseless quest of consumerism, with its lack of regard for the planet and humanity.
Diony’s introduction to Roving Reporters was synchronistic. It was at the 2017 national Longboard Surfing Championships in Durban where Roving Reporters launched its Soul Surfer Awards in aid of marine conservation. The award recognised that many surfers live an exemplary healthy, ocean-centric lifestyle and can play a vital role in educating people about critical issues affecting the health of our oceans. Diony won the award, becoming our first Ocean Watch ambassador.
Back in Cape Town, Diony joined a walked in aid of penguins, donating R1000 to a sea bird rescue centre.
Next, she couldn’t believe her luck when the Human Elephant Foundation sponsored her to cover the 2017 World Whale Conference in Durban as part of our environmental journalism programme – an opportunity she embraced with gusto.
Her early journalistic career was bolstered through attending and reporting on several marine conservation forums, including the 2017 Ocean Stewards Science Session at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Diony was awarded a sponsored University of Cape Town-Get Smarter feature writing course. She produced a lively 2000 word feature article which sealed her place on the Roving Reporters team.
Diony’s fortuitous springboard into journalism, coupled with her experience in research and life-long passion for the ocean, sparked her creation of Ocean Pledge. It’s a social initiative that bridges the gap between awareness and action when it comes to reducing our dependence on single-use plastics – one of the greatest sources of ocean pollution and threat to marine life. As Diony says: “The fish have no choice, but you certainly do!”
Diony now reports for Roving Reporters as our Ocean Watch correspondent in Cape Town.
Matthew Hattingh: Roving Reporters online editor and writing mentor
Roving Reporters online editor and writing mentor Matthew Hattingh is an ink stained drudge, a refugee from the world of print journalism.
Matt started his reporting life at an Eastern Cape knock-and-drop in 1995. His first real story – a flimsy little piece about fake jewellery – made the front page of the paper and the bug bit bad. Hattingh initially specialised in human interest stories. He enjoyed visiting people’s homes to find out about their giant vegetables, unusual pets or collections of kitsch. His beat was everyday triumphs and tragedies.
But like so many before him, he felt he felt he must grow up and get a proper job, to do more serious (boring in other words) journalism. So he moved to covering hard news and local business for a daily newspaper.
That was followed by a long sentence as a sub-editor.
Eventually, tiring of “cleaning other people’s fish”, as a colleague put it, Matt signed up with a Durban daily newspaper for more of the same. He spent the first half of this decade on the news desk, panel-beating mangled copy and trying to coax work out of the work-shy.
Sleep deprivation, deadline pressure and the steady decline of the newspaper industry led to him quitting. But winners, so the cliche goes, aren’t quitters, so he has joined the Roving Reporters team.
Fred Kockott: Director
Fred is not certainly not your suit and collar type. He has been described by colleagues as a breed of journalist now so rare in South Africa, they should be listed by CITES. In addition to being an award-winning investigative journalist, Fred is an entrepreneurial thinker.
During his early journalism career in South Africa in the mid 1980s, Fred was instrumental in establishing the independent news agency, Concord News, that served the small, but burgeoning independent press and foreign media. In the late 1980’s Fred’s exposés of police complicity in political violence in KwaZulu-Natal earned him widespread recognition and ultimately nomination for the Thomas Pringle Press Freedom Award.
On April 27 1994 – the day all South Africans could vote for the first time – Fred organised a celebratory music festival at The Knoll, near Pietermaritzburg. Fred was later contracted as a consultant to the Tatham Art Gallery where he set helped set up the The Free Stage, the Phemba Kahle Music School, the Echo Ngezandla Zethu Art and Craft Bazaar and other initiatives that enjoyed the participation and support of hundreds of local artists.
Fred returned to journalism in 2002, winning a series of awards and notable commendations for his work at the Sunday Tribune between 2003 and 2010, including runner-up for the first Taco Kuiper Trust Award for Investigative Journalism.
Fred resigned as a senior writer for the Sunday Tribune in May 2010 to establish Roving Reporters.
When Fred’s not working, which is not very often, he surfs and is still learning to play guitar.