Who's who in the non-white Web 2.0 South African Zoo

This blog post was updated for some corrections in June 2012.

Mandy de Waal, a freelance journalist, wrote this article on ITWeb, profiling top social media gurus in South Africa. When I first read it, I found offensive not because it’s inaccurate, rather because it is incomplete. The main reason I take issue with this is because it’s an example of lazy journalism. She interviewed eleven people, all white, asking them about their Web 2.0 dream team is. Maybe she did not have a non-white person on speed dial. Yet she could still have made her point without having to call them the white boys club.

Ramon Thomas “dream team” of black Social Media experts:

Vinny Lingham SEO guru Internet entrepreneurVinny Lingham: This is the one person I assumed Mandy de Waal would interviewed for her piece. Maybe she skipped him because he moved to San Francisco Bay Area for a period of time. I’m not sure where he was based at the time the initial column. Vinny is a master at raising start-up capital for his Internet business ventures. Beside his SEO background I believe his experience naturally leads him to role of business development. Persuading other people to invest their cash into your business is a crucial factor to business growth.

Khaya Dlanga youtube video blogger Khaya Dlanga: A video blogger on Youtube has over 10,000 subscribers on his Youtube channel. I first met him at the annual Digital Citizen Indaba, a blogging conference, at Rhodes University last year. In his day job he works for an advertising agency, according to his LinkedIn profile, the Jupiter Drawing Room, one of the top agencies in South Africa. Another feather in his cap is that Khaya is one of the contributors to the Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader group blog. What I would like from Khaya is to produce a weekly video blog for myself and in turn I would like to help commercialise his videos. There is a great potential to create a DVDs (like the Ask a Ninja DVD) based on his videos and sell this online, direct to home or to video rental chains in South Africa. His outstanding quality is his sharp sense of humour and wit.

Rafiq Phillips SEO guru bloggerRafiq Phillips: Cape Town based SEO expert, hardcore technology blogger and Internet evangelist blogs at WebAddict. He is the co-creator of iDrive a portal for finding driving schools in South Africa. Both of us represented South Africa as bloggers at the TEDGlobal Conference in Tanzania last year. The iDrive platform was accessible on MXit until recently. The innovation from him has led to him being featured on a Carte Blanche segment in March 2008. Rafiq would be the obvious person to run search engine campaigns and also act as the lead blogger to drive traffic and attention.

Charles Ash bruin-ou.com webmasterCharles Ash: The founder of the Bruin-ou.com community portal for multiracial or mixed race people. Charles has a technical background in the IT industry and started this community website while living in Cape Town a few years ago. Its been a labour of love for him and I was once more directly involved. He has built a 10,000 strong user community and a website that generates over 3.5 million page views per month with zero funding or institutional support. Since he started his own hosting company, Charles would be my choice to run the technical back-end from hosting to system administration.

Nur Ahmad Furlong designerNur Ahmed Furlong Cape Town based WordPress guruNur Ahmad Furlong: A web strategist and graphic designer also based in Cape Town. He blogs at Nomad-One and also at TechLeader. From what I can tell he is a fantastic designer but what really strikes me as unique is his ethically motivated approach to business. The fact that he has been spearheaded the launch of WordPress meetings in Cape Town is a testament to his passion for getting the good word about the WordPress open source blogging platform out and bringing together the growing community of enthusiasts in South Africa. I look forward to having him redo some professional blog designs for me in the near future and maybe some other branding work that requires a sharp eye for detail.

Yusuf Mahomedy Worksucks authorYusuf Mahomedy: Author, work radical and blogger at Worksucks and Work911 on The Times. His professional track record is impeccable as a Tax Consultant at Ernst & Young and Senior Manager in HR at MTN Group. What impresses me about him the most is his output: he has published 2 books (Worksucks & Smart Reward Strategies) and contributes to trade journals like HR Future. Since 2007 we have delivered several seminars together and most recently this Internet Cafe workshop. What I would like from him is help in self-publishing my own book, and also putting all the business processes in place, especially those who focus on human resources as I continue grow my business and move from casual to full-time employment of people.

Mario Olckers copywriter graphic designerMario Olckers: A multi skilled web developer, blogger, copywriter, graphic designer at Hogsback Media Networks. Mario was first introduced to me by Charles Ash, and even though we have not yet collaborated we have had numerous conversations. His skills in copywriting are what I need the most. You can also follow him on Twitter since I deleted my account.

Consider some statistics from TechLeader group blog in terms of contributors by race:

Race Contributors Percentage
white 54 88.52%
black 2 3.28%
coloured 0 0.00%
indian 5 8.20%

What about me, Ramon Thomas? Interested in my contributions to Web 2.0 or Social Media in South Africa. Read or listen to the following interviews:

Sometimes I wonder will South African media ever, ever be more representative. When white people own most of the media companies, produce most of the radio or television content, publish (edit) most of the newspapers, magazines or websites, what do you expect?


Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.

  • This is great, finally we see some folk other than the usual (white) suspects being named in one of these lists.

    One thing though: it’s only fair to point out that Mandy de Waal’s conclusion in her article was the same as yours. In fact, she points out in her conclusion that her ‘article header should rather have read “Welcome to the white boy’s club”…’

  • Wizard

    I liked the overall tone of your post until the end…

    By taking the antipodal point, you are no better than Mandy.

    You know what they say “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. It would have been far better for you to take some of her list and integrate it with yours.

    As a reader I’d then be exposed to a far more representative list, as opposed to what ultimately amounts to to a whinge.

    Plus you’d get the high ground 🙂

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  • Hear hear!

    This post was highly necessary and accurate.

    But I don’t think the exclusion is intentional; merely a side-effect of the local dynamics of the Web industry. The problem with the Web 2.0 circle in South Africa is that it is by-and-large insular – a small crowd of self-referenced individuals run the show.

    I’m not applying blanket-blame, merely trying to convey the mechanics of why we so seldom hear of people outside of ‘the circle’.

    It’s not a racial thing (I hope) but rather just ignorance. The ITWeb article was badly researched and allowed the game of round-robin in the local industry to perpetuate.

    Hopefully we’ll see more of the people you mention in your post being acknowledged in the media. And working with the people in the other article 😉

  • Yup!
    i’ve been thinking about this for a while …
    and yeah, seems you’ve conveyed the message well.
    i like the title!

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  • What, may I ask, is your intention of putting a link to bullshit-chainletters and linking it to copywriting where you mention my name?

    Please take it down and stop stirring shit!

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  • Well OK, I guess the point of the article is that there is lack of racial diversity in the high-profile list of “usual suspects” blogging in South Africa. But it intrigues me that nobody questions the focus on people who blog about the web and IT. Why are these people the ones who are considered influential? Would we put Telkom technicians up on a pedestal and talk about what they’ve done for telecommunications, and quote them ad nauseum just because they have something to say about their particular medium?

    I applaud the attempt to raise awareness of the fact that there is greater diversity out there than some commentators would have us believe, but this post is still perpetuating the myth that life is all about technology. And yes, I understand that that’s the focus of this site, but that doesn’t excuse the misplaced sense that the “important bloggers” are the ones who write about SEO and Web 2.0. Time to move beyond talking about the medium and start focusing on real content.

    I am not knocking these individuals. I have met Rafiq, and he seems a terrific guy — humble and happy to engage with non-tech bloggers — and the others are probably the same. But how about people who deliver “the news” that has nothing to do with the medium? They deserve some profile. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they are a diverse bunch too. They just haven’t been “discovered” by the inner circle.

  • Thanks for the reminder Rory because there are indeed some influential bloggers who do NOT blog about technology and I will post a revised version of this article shortly.

  • Cameron

    seems for all the posturing, racial discrimination isn’t dead. That you felt you needed to write this because the initial article mentioned some people and none of them happened to be of colour is sad. I’m glad you’ve highlighted people who are at the forefront of IT and social media in South Africa, the same as the other list. The difference is Mandy, although she could be accused of laziness, was at least apologetic for the ‘white’ list. She didn’t populate it, she asked a select group of people who gave their list.

    What you’ve done is emphasize the divide by purposely putting out a list of non-white experts. Your’s, unfortunately, smacks more of racism than hers does. but maybe that’s the point.

    I don’t see why we can’t be valued for our content and skills regardless of colour or race. This is the internet – by its very nature, it’s without boundaries or borders (barring maybe china, and a few other segregated areas). To bring our racism to this medium is both backwards-facing and counter-productive, and does nothing to promote one nation, one people working together regardless of race, et al (although mindful of culture, I presume).

  • I’d also highly recommend Saaleha Bamjee-Mayet.

    She writes at http://www.saaleha.com and http://www.electricspaghetti.blogspot.com

    she’s and amazingly talented Muslim woman. Powerful and poetic.

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