As we wrap up and take stock of SACOMM 2018 at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and prepare to pass on the baton to the University of Cape Town (UCT) for SACOMM 2019, we want to take the opportunity to thank you all for your engagements and collegiality during what was a spectacular conference.
And for this we owe Prof. Pier Paolo Frassinelli and Mr Collen Chambwera a huge thank you! They carried this out through tremendous hard work and with the support of our SACOMM administrator Ms Annelize Vermeulen, the UJ School of Communication planning committee. Thanks also go to Prof. Nyasha Mboti and Prof. Colin Chasi for developing this year’s conference theme ‘Communication at a Crossroads’.
We had close to 200 delegates, 31 sessions, two plenaries and five book launches and a special screening of filmmaker Rehad Desai’s movie ‘Everything Must Fall’. And this year our delegates, apart from representatives from a wide range of South African universities, also came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Swaziland, Namibia, Malawi, Australia, Sweden, England, the United States and apart from the academic community we also had independent scholars, activists and civil society representatives from among others the Tembelihle Crisis Committee, Right2Know campaign, and the South African Department of Communication, as well as media houses and journalists.
The presentations were all of great quality and depth and the appreciation and collegiality in discussions around the challenging as well as exhilarating communication environment we find ourselves as both a discipline and practice, unparalleled.
Speaking of which, even though we have always emphasised an openness to topics and discussions, many of you did take the bait on the ‘crossroads challenge’, and we had presentations on everything from crossroads in journalism, corporate communication, ethics, teaching practices, social movements to technology in the service of democracy. And of course, many more interesting presentations talking to changes in the broader communication landscape. All of which was topped off brilliantly by Prof. Francis Nyamnjoh in his keynote address on the ‘Rational consumer: Bad for business and politics. Democracy at the crossroads of nature and culture’. And dare I say to a full house on the last day of the conference!
We also had a near full house for this year’s AGM and I think scheduling this mid-conference drew the membership. We had report backs from the interest groups chairs; Dr Mvuzo Ponono (Media Studies and Journalism); Mr Francois Smit (Screen Studies); Prof. Lida Holtzhausen (Corporate Communication); Mrs Martine van der Walt Ehlers (Communication Studies); Prof. Pier Paolo Frassinelli (Communications Advocacy and Activism); Prof. Bruce Mutsvairo (Communication Education and Curriculum Development); And last but by all means not least, Ms Linah Nkuna and Dr Theo Ngcongo (Emerging Scholars). And as always we had thorough discussions and deliberations on the running of SACOMM business. This year one main resolution was taken, and that to set up a task team headed by Prof. Keyan Tomaselli to look at the Constitution of SACOMM as well as the implications and desirability of an organisational name change, from South African Communication Association to Southern African Communication Association.
And speaking of Prof. Keyan Tomaselli, Prof. Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, Prof. Arrie de Beer and Prof. Pieter Fourie, our honorary SACOMM members deserve thank you’s for their continuous support and engagement with SACOMM matters big and small. Prof. Fourie and Prof. Tomaselli also both launched their books at this year’s SACOMM, ‘Media Studies volume 4 Social Media and Mediated Communication Today’ and ‘Making Sense of Research’. And they were accompanied by Prof. Herman Wasserman who launched his book ‘Media, Geopolitics and power: A view from the global South’, Prof. Nicole Stremlau and her book ‘Media, Conflict and the State in Africa’ and Prof. Bruce Mutsvairo and Prof. Beschara Karam with their book ‘Perspectives on Political Communication in Africa’.
As we handover to UCT for SACOMM 2019, I also want to say thank you to our colleagues from the East African Communication Association, who are taking the lead on a discussion at this year’s International Communication Association’s (ICA) regional conference in Ghana, to forge closer relations between our professional and interest organisations on the Continent. And this is important as we want to strengthen our own professional organisation as well as our cooperation with our sister organisations. The value of SACOMM and other organisation on the Continent is central to the establishment and the strengthening of the discipline and the many cogent disciplines and sub-fields it encompasses. This also goes for assisting emerging scholars in establishing themselves within a discipline, through networking, training and opportunities more generally. Putting such an affiliation on your CV does count and rightfully so. Thus we have a responsibility here to continuously strive to add to the professional life of our academics, emerging as well as more established. In later years the focus on advocacy has also become more prominent and highlighted, not at least in our own context through renewed decolonisation and transformation debates in our discipline as well as the higher education landscape more broadly. SACOMM has recognised this, not at least through it’s ‘Advocacy and Activism’ interest group that has become progressively more active since its first inception in 2015.
We have so much to build on, so we truly look forward to seeing you all in Cape Town in 2019!
Ylva and Elnerine
On behalf of the SACOMM Executive