Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Media Department academic celebrates first book

AUTHOR: Dr Trust Matsilele AUTHOR: Dr Trust Matsilele

His life’s journey has taken him from a difficult childhood in Zimbabwe to struggling to make ends meet in South Africa.

But Dr Trust Matsilele overcame the odds to become a respected journalist and successful academic, whose excellent teaching skills were recognised by the Institution earlier this year.

The senior lecturer in the Media Department is now celebrating the next step on his journey – the release of his first book, which comes less than four years into his academic career.

Titled Social Media and Digital Dissidence in Zimbabwe, the book is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Matsilele, who joined CPUT in 2019, said the topic relates to his PhD studies, adding that he wanted to understand the intersection of social media and digital media as forms of counter hegemonic expression.

“In most dictatorships in Africa citizens have resorted to using social media to counter state propaganda. My interest was really to see to what extent this was applied in Zimbabwe, in part because Zimbabwe remains a dictatorship. Some scholars locate it as a hybrid model which has some semblance of democracy as well as some semblance of dictatorship, so I was trying to understand how Zimbabweans were using social media to contest hegemonic narratives or to contest state narratives or state propaganda.”

He continued: “At the very core of the study was trying to understand how, historically, citizens have spoken back to power”.

Matsilele said that the literature that followed the Arab Spring tended to glorify social media as a revolutionary or revolutionising tool.

He was interested in understanding if this was indeed the case.

“After understanding that, I wanted to trace in African people’s lives their modes of expression protesting a domestic power. What I was trying to say was that African people have always protested and these are the ways that they’ve protested before social media. I’ve used African folklore as a point of departure, African proverbs, African idioms, African songs. I would trace the forms of protest that we are seeing in African people’s lives – how do they express themselves in today’s world or today’s social media sphere.”

Matsilele was born and raised in Zimbabwe where he and his twin brother were left at a police station as babies,

His story was documented in an article by his former employer, Forbes Africa magazine and outlines how he ended up working at a scrapyard in South Africa, living on a dumpsite to beating the odds to become a respected journalist and political consultant before pursuing a career in academia.

Earlier this year he was among the recipients of the CPUT Teaching Excellence Awards.

Matsilele thanked his colleagues in the Faculty of Informatics and Design for their support.

“One of the contributing factors that made the project a success is the support I received from the faculty, through the Dean making sure that there were available funds to do the editing of this work. I also received support from the Centre for Communication Studies and Prof Nic Theo was also very active in making sure I didn’t lose track.”

He expressed his gratitude to Dr Blessing Makwambeni (Acting HOD: Media Department) Prof Nirvana Bechan (HOD: Media Department) and other colleagues in the Media Department as well as the book’s reviewers and independent readers.

Matsilele is currently editing two books, one contracted with Palgrave Macmillan titled: New Ecology of Journalism in Africa: Innovation, Newsmaking Cultures and Citizen Engagement, which is expected  to be published later this year or early next year and another titled: Media, Social Movements, and Protest Cultures in Africa, currently being reviewed by Routledge.

“I am currently working on a project, with Dr Sisanda Nkoala, looking at how South African female politicians are appropriating social media. Together, with Dr Nkoala, we have co-authored four articles and one on talk radio has been published and another one is set for publication this December. I have also done some research with other colleagues within the department such as Dr Joseph Adebayo, Dr Blessing Makwambeni and Mr John Bulani. I believe that a department that researches in the community has a propensity to achieve shared outcomes.”

He has published more than 20 peer-reviewed articles.

Some of his affiliations include:

  • International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) 
  • Global Risk Journalism Hub, South African Affiliate researcher https://www.globalriskjournalismhub.com/affiliate-researchers  
  • South African Communications Association member (SACOMM) 
  • South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) member and education cluster committee member
  • External reviewer for UCT's Centre for Film and Media Studies, Tshwane University of Technology and have also reviewed for the University of Johannesburg and University of Limpopo

*For more on the book, click here:

Written by Ilse Fredericks

Email: Frederickskennediji@cput.ac.za