Amahle hates Monday morning briefings at the Umlazi Herald community newspaper where she works as a journalist. After she wrote a story that implicated a local counsellor in tender fraud, the man and his bodyguards burst through the doors of their office, threatening to maim and sue.
The counsellor also said adverts from government and the municipality would no longer run in the Umlazi Herald. Amahle was demoted from hard news to soft news. Now all the interesting news stories go to Thami, who she was training just a few months ago.
“Good morning, guys! I’ll make this quick because I have a meeting at headquarters,” says her boss, Smangaliso, sitting down between her and Thami. “What stories are you on?”
“I have three court cases. Murder, robbery and cable theft,” says Thami. “Then I have a meeting with the press officer at Umlazi Central Police Station to see what else is going on.”
“Great, Thami. That should fill the hard news section for this week’s issue,” says Smangaliso. He turns. “Amahle, what do you have?”
“Quite a bit. I’m going to the Ray of Hope Orphanage to write a profile on them. ‘Letters to the Editor’ are already done. ‘This Week in History’ as well. The opening of the library at D section is on tomorrow, so it will be in this week’s issue.”
“Great. Good stuff,” says Smangaliso. “Thami, go ahead. Amahle stay a bit. I have a story I need you to follow.”
Smangaliso scrolls his tablet. A great sense of injustice wells up in Amahle’s heart. She remembers the day she was demoted. The unfair reason was simply that she searched for the truth and wrote about it once she found it.
“Right, here we go,” says Smangaliso. “The municipality is announcing a music festival. They have a press conference in two hours. I need you there to get a few quotes to give the story life.”
Amahle writes down all the details. Smangaliso heads for the door. He turns back and says, “Amahle, make sure you don’t ruffle feathers at that press conference. Just listen, get a quote, come back and write the story. Don’t ask those deep questions of yours.”
Amahle waits with the other journalists inside the venue. Thirty minutes later, the municipal press officer grabs a microphone.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. The press conference will commence.”
Amahle cannot believe her eyes when the press officer introduces the festival coordinator. It is the infamous Ray Mthalane. The same Ray Mthalane responsible for the deaths of 25 workers on a site where his construction company was building a shopping mall.
Ray Mthalane was never brought to book although investigations concluded he was responsible for the deaths. The same Ray Mthalane who organized another festival a few years ago. That festival broke records in terms of revenue but artists were never paid.
She tails Ray Mthalane from a distance when the press conference concludes. She tails him all the way down into the underground parking lot. The cellphone in her shirt pocket is on video recording mode as she pounces on him. The video is live on Facebook.
“Mr Ray Mthalane!” Amahle calls out.
Ray Mthalane turns and takes off his glittering designer sunglasses. “Hi there, beautiful,” he smirks.
“Hi, Mr Mthalane. How does it feel to walk around, getting more jobs from the municipality, while the families of the 25 people who died because of you cutting corners have never been compensated?”
Ray Mthalane is confused; it takes a few seconds before he realizes that this is definitely not a young woman who fancies him.
“How does it feel to short change artists? They performed at a festival you organized but you never paid them. Tell me how all of this makes you feel,” Amahle pounces again.
The confusion on Ray Mthalane’s face quickly turns to rage.
“You worthless piece of trash!” he screams. “Do you know who I am?”
He is running towards Amahle, swinging up his arm up to strike her, but what Amahle says stops him dead in his tracks.
“Do it please!” she says. “I’m begging you to do it. Show the world that you are also a woman beater. Yes, this video is live on Facebook!”
He sees the cellphone in Amahle’s pocket and quickly retreats.
But the video of Amahle going after Ray Mthalane goes viral. The ‘Likes’ and ‘Comments’ reach thousands in less than 30 minutes.
Her cellphone buzzes. It’s Smangaliso, her editor.
“Why don’t you listen?” says Smangaliso, fuming. “Why do you never listen, Amahle?”
“The brief was to listen, get a few quotes and write the story!”
“That’s exactly what I did, Smangaliso. I’m coming back to the office to write–”
“Then why the drama, Amahle?” Smangaliso cuts her off. “What’s all this drama with Ray Mthalane?”
“I had to ask him. Anyway, the video is on my personal account, Sma–”
“Well, the bosses say to tell you to clear out your desk. You are fired with immediate effect!”
Tell us what you think: How might Ray Mthalane have got away with his shoddy building killing people? And with not paying artists?