SA ‘didn’t support’ exiled journo

2014-05-15 00:00

FORMER press ombudsman Joe Thloloe yesterday said South Africans were complicit in the death of renowned journalist Nat Nakasa, who died in exile in the 1960s.

“We as South Africans were complicit in Nat Nakasa’s death. We did not shout enough when the Nationalists did this [refused him passport when he was awarded the Nieman Fellowship at Havard University] and then he decided ‘I am leaving’,” Tholoe said.

The veteran journalist was speaking during a panel discussion after the opening of exhibition on the life and career of Nakasa in Durban.

Nakasa left the country in 1964 on an exit permit, after accepting he would never come back to the country when he was refused a passport to pursue studies in the U.S.

Thloloe, who credited his friend Nakasa and Can Themba for showing him how things were done in journalism, said he was a rebel.

“He was a rebel like us. He fought the system. He spoke with an English accent. His departure was his way of fighting the system,” he said referring to his exile.

However, Thloloe said Nakasa died a troubled man after he sent a telegraph to the former editor of Rand Daily Mail Allister Sparks, who helped him secure the fellowship, and committed suicide.

He said while there are moves to repatriate his remains, “this is an opportunity to go back to his writings”.

Mathatha Tsedu, another veteran journalist, said he never got to meet Nakasa, but was influenced by his book to pursue journalism as a career.

Tsedu said Nakasa had received a lifetime opportunity in the Nieman Fellowship at the height of his career.

“Who would have said no, but the price was big,” he said.

Tsedu, who also received the fellowship in 1996, said the efforts to bring back Nakasa’s remains were an important chapter “that will bring back one of our own”.

Tsedu said the South African National Editors Forum was planning on holding its annual general meeting next year in Durban so that it could pay homage to his grave when he has been reburied at Heroes’ Acre.

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