Perceptions and constructions of cholera in the Eastern Province Herald and Daily Dispatch, 1980-2003

Van Zyl, Kylie (2010) Perceptions and constructions of cholera in the Eastern Province Herald and Daily Dispatch, 1980-2003. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




While the growing literature on South Africa’s healthcare and epidemics has often mentioned cholera in passing, there is as yet little academic work dedicated to it. This thesis addresses that deficit by examining the causes, spread and extent of cholera in South Africa between 1980 and 2003. Furthermore, it examines cholerarelated coverage in two newspapers, the Daily Dispatch and the Eastern Province Herald to determine how cholera and people with cholera were represented, and show how changes in the coverage of two major epidemics between 1980 and 2003 exemplify the political transition in South Africa, reflect changing political ideologies and reveal the shifting role of media within this period. The thesis argues three main points. Firstly, that representations of cholera and those who were sick with cholera were based on long-standing tropes connecting disease, class and ‘race’. Secondly, that policy-making based on these tropes influenced the unfair distribution and quality of health resources along racial lines, resulting in cholera outbreaks during the apartheid era. Failure to address these inequities post-apartheid, and the replacement of racial bias with discrimination on the grounds of socioeconomic development, resulted in further cholera outbreaks. Thirdly, using Alan Bell’s newspaper-discourse analysis framework to examine cholera-related articles the thesis compares and contrasts apartheid and postapartheid coverage in the two newspapers. This analysis reveals that during the 1980s the coverage was uncritical of the government’s handling of the epidemic or of its racially-discriminatory healthcare system. The newspapers uncritically accepted government-employed medical professionals as the final authorities on the epidemic, excluding alternative viewpoints. The coverage also “blamed the victim”, constructing affected “black” groups as potential threats to healthy “white” communities. Conversely, post–1994 coverage was criticised the government’s handling of the epidemic and the state of the public healthcare system. Government-employed medical professionals or spokespeople were not accepted as incontestable authorities and a range of sources were included. The coverage also shifted blame for the outbreaks to the government and its failure to address public health service delivery and rural development problems. The thesis shows the historical threat to the health of communities posed by uncaring governments.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Daily Dispatch, East London, South Africa, Eastern Province Herald, Port Elizabeth, Journalism, Cholera, Epidemics, Mass media
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN4699 Journalism
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > History
ID Code:2160
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:07 Nov 2011 09:42
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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