"It was a puzzling and challenging story in that not only did the police confirm it right away, but some family members of the musician, who died in late 2009, were also claiming the man was genuine," says Editor, Mazwi Xaba.
"Mgqumeni Khumalo's fans were confused, excited and angry - some all at the same time - because they were there, or followed closely through our newspaper, the death and burial of the real maskandi star and the related stories concerning his rivals in the industry. Either they had mourned the wrong man, or something supernatural was happening, a modern-day Lazarus.
"They demanded answers from us. And within hours our journalists were right there in the heart of KZN, in the sleepy village of Nquthu which had burst into activity. Unlucky for us, the man was cordoned off and could only be seen by permission. We had to be patient and keep digging, remembering that hundreds of thousands of people were relying on us to find i-Secret
, to use the title of Khumalo's hit album.
"The story broke on the Thursday," says Editor, Mazwi Xaba. "It was quite odd, this man coming out of the blue, to make such a startling claim. It quickly gained momentum - this outlandish story of the resurrected musician, fuelled by social media and radio. We got phone calls from people swearing they had seen 'him' or 'heard him talk'. Some claimed to have even shaken his hand and felt that he was indeed alive. People were challenging us, demanding that we go out there and check this story out."
Weekend Editor, Slindile Khanyile, picks up the story, "By Friday, we had more detail and some visuals of the guy and the story seemed even stranger as the man did not resemble the singer we knew. Many questions remained unanswered and more people converged on the village and, of course, copies of our newspapers flew off the shelves and streets."
"It was a tricky balancing act trying to gauge demand," says publisher Sithembiso Buthelezi. "We up-published but hadn't anticipated the tens of thousands of extra copies that were needed. There was always the possibility that the story would fall flat - as it had a potential of doing right from the moment it broke. I had to keep in constant contact with reporters on the ground."Isolezwe
wasn't the only media covering the story but readers wanted the Isolezwe
version - the one that gives them all the facts in their own language and lets readers decide for themselves. The one source they could trust. In its ten years of publishing (the title will be celebrating its 10th birthday in April), the Zulu title has established a reputation as a reliable, trusted source of news which is one of the main reasons it's the number one selling newspaper in KZN.
"Another plus for us is that we're on sale every day so readers know that our accounts will be updated and fresh," says Xaba. Readers followed in their thousands - daily Isolezwe
sales hit 137 168 on the Friday and averaged 117 295 for the week.
Weekend Editor, Khanyile, says, "I can't tell you how it feels to see readers respond like that. Sales are off the charts because readers trust and believe in us."
Sunday's Isolezwe ngeSonto
sold 113 391 copies and Saturday's Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo
- which was only launched in August last year - sold an impressive 81 432.
"And it seems some of these new buyers liked what they read because the figures grew from fantastic to astounding in the second week. On Monday February 6, we sold a record 164 399 copies and the weekend editions also did splendidly recording 87 406 (Sunday) and 79 672 (Saturday).
"We've earned the trust of our community," says Xaba. "We've been tested before and handled such tricky stories very well, telling them without encouraging hearsay, rumours and unfounded beliefs. We focus on the real impact of the claims on people - and the various members of the extended family." These individual sales are based on Independent Newspapers' internal sales information and are not audited. The most recent audited sales (October - December 2011) are
Isolezwe 103 467,
Isolezwe ngeSonto 80 050 and
Isolezwe ngoMgqibelo 58 851.