Johannesburg - The National Press Club came under heavy criticism on Saturday after it announced rhino in South Africa the 2012 newsmaker of the year.
In the year which saw 34 miners shot and killed in Marikana, the Limpopo textbook delivery saga, the expulsion of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and controversy over President Jacob Zuma's home in Nkandla, South Africans were shocked by the press clubs announcement.
People took to social networking site Twitter to vent their disapproval.
“The NPC didn't really declare The Rhino Newsmaker of 2012 did it? I'd sooner declare (at)chestermissing Newsmaker of 2012!,” political analyst Eusebius McKaiser wrote on Twitter.
Eyewitness News journalist Mandy Wiener said: “The National Press Club voted The Rhino newsmaker of the year for 2012. In the year of Marikana, Malema, Mdluli and a textbook crisis.” Spin doctor Chris Vick wrote: “Aon provides insurance cover for #rhino. Aon sponsors #NPC Newsmaker of the Year. Rhino declared newsmaker of the year. Join the dots.”
Aon South Africa is an insurance broker which sponsors the National Press Club's newsmaker of the year.
Another twitter user said: “I actually think these #rhino campaign people bought that newsmaker of the year title. No other explanation.” The National Press club made the announcement in Pretoria on Friday night.
“The onslaught on these African giants has not only resulted in much debate in the country and elsewhere in the world, but has also united people to rally behind campaigns against the bleeding of our heritage,” press club chairwoman Antoinette Slabbert said in a statement.
“History was made last year. A record number of 668 rhinos were poached, a harsh sentence of 40-years for a kingpin in the poaching industry was handed down and an international accord to try and stop poaching was signed.” She said rhino poaching had constantly been in the news and evoked strong emotions.
Former National Press Club chairman Yusuf Abramjee also spoke out on Saturday against the decision to make the rhino the newsmaker of the year.
“The announcement came as a surprise and shock to me. I agree rhinos were in the news in 2012, but newsmaker? Surely not,” Abramjee said.
“There were a series of individuals, organizations and events that made the news. They include Marikana, Nkandla, Mduli, Outa, Cosatu and etolls.”
Most of the tweets seen seemed to support the August 16 shooting at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana as the newsmaker of the year.
“Concerned as I am about the assault on rhino populations, the newsmaker was “The Marikana Miner”,” a Twitter user wrote.
“What the hell is 'Our South African Rhino?' The National Press Club is such a mad organisation. Marikana is the 2012 newsmaker you trolls!,” wrote another.
“Rhino was voted newsmaker of the year? Hayi man this defies logic! Lives were lost in Marikana. How quickly we forget.”
Another tweet read: “How is the rhino named Newsmaker of the Year? Does Marikana not spring to mind, guys? That's pathetic.
“The man in the green blanket in Marikana was SA newsmaker of the year. Not a rhino.” - Sapa