Obituary: Prof Gavin Stewart

It is with great sadness that the South African Communication Association (Sacomm) has heard about the death of one of its founding members, Prof Gavin Stewart, a former head of journalism at Rhodes University and a noted journalist.

In 1974, when the idea of Sacomm was first aired amongst communication academics at the University of South Africa and the then Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit, Stewart was one of the very few colleagues at  English language departments willing to engage with Afrikaans academics. His stance was expressively anti-apartheid, but he was also a great believer in communication and in the need to keep discourse going in a country then dangerously on the brink of breakdown.

Stewart was then as co-author of the first Sacomm constitution adamant that the organisation should be free from discrimination and be from the outset multi-racial, a decision that ran counter to the prevailing status quo at the time, with Afrikaans academics supporting white-only academic organisations.

His influence in developing journalism as a field of study is unmistakeable. He will be sorely missed. (ASdeB)

see also the SANEF statement on the passing of Prof Gavin Stewart.

Obituary: Hennie Groenewald

The South African Communication Association (Sacomm) has learned with sadness of the death of one of its former presidents, Prof H.J. (Hennie) Groenewald, who passed away on 8 September 2013.

Groenwald was deeply involved in the field of communication.  He was Professor and Head of the Department of Communication at the University of Fort Hare, as well as professor of communication in the Departments of Communication at Free State University and at Northwest University (Potchefstroom). He was also a research specialist at the Institute for Communication Research of the Human Sciences Research Council. He obtained MA and PhD degrees from Free State University. On retiring from academia, Groenwald spent some time on a family farm outside Prieska before moving to the Strand where he passed away.

Groenewald had a special interest in intercultural and developmental communication as specific branches of interpersonal and media studies.

During the troublesome l980s in South Africa Groenewald argued that ethno-centrism discouraged contact and communication between members of different culture groups, whereas intercultural communication could contribute to a greater understanding between diverse groups. In a co-authored article he showed how political, national and belief ethnocentrism could pose the greatest threat to intercultural communication in South Africa and elsewhere.

It was also important for Groenewald to show how society was not only multi-layered in terms of the elements of interpersonal communication, but also how intercultural communication could affect mass media, especially television and vice versa.

Groenewald was, according to Prof Keyan Tomaselli of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the first South African communication researchers to anticipate a conservative non-racial language to occupy the political space into which the National Party moved in the l980s.

A former colleague, Prof Gustav Puth of Pretoria University, said Groenwald was a passionate and dedicate teacher who will fondly be remembered by colleagues and students.

Another colleague, Prof Pieter Fourie, of the University of South Africa, described Groenewald as a humble and friendly man who was an enthusiastic member and a previous president of Sacomm. He was also one of the Unisa Department of Communication’s most experienced external examiners.

Sacomm wishes to convey its sympathy to Groenewald’s two daughters Margaretha and Herna, as well as their families.

SACOMM13 Conference: 25-27 September 2013, Port Elizabeth

The SACOMM 2013 annual conference will be hosted by the Department of Language, Media and Culture at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth.

The conference explores the theme of Social Cohesion, Engaged Communication, and will include papers in the disciplines of Corporate Communication, Communication in general, Media Studies and Journalism or Film. SACOMM13 will be held on South Campus NMMU from the 25th – 27th September 2013.

The theme Social Cohesion, Engaged Communication aims to capture the function of the media in the public sphere during a democratic age. SACOMM13 aims to engage communication between academia, industry and the civic community.


Taryn Isaacs
Department of Language, Media and Culture
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) – South Campus
Tel . +27 (0)41 5042236  
Fax. +27 (0)504