The South African Academy for Science and Art awarded this prestigious literary prize to author, poet and playwright Adam Small for his dramatic oeuvre this year.
His most famous work, Kanna Hy Kô Hystoe, appeared in the 1960s.
'A new injustice'
In a letter to the academy on Monday, managing director of Protea Boekhuis Dr Nicol Stassen said that although he doesn't doubt the fact that the academy should've awarded the prize to Small years ago, he thinks the academy did not act fairly.
"According to the (academy's) rules it is clear that only works of writers who published new, original work during the 'previous three calendar years', are considered for the prize," Stassen said.
"It is unfortunate that the academy did not award the prize to Adam Small in the past, when it could've been awarded according to the rules.
"One can understand that the academy wants to rectify an injustice of the past. However, one can't understand that the academy commits a new injustice this year to make up for it."
Suspend the rules
Professor Jacques van der Elst, chief executive of the academy, said in response that the academy acted under the regulations and indicated that similar situations have existed previously.
Stassen replied by saying that the award was not in accordance with previous decisions.
"In the past it has been decided once or twice not to award the prize - rather than, as in this case, to award the prize to people or works that are not eligible for the award."
Andre P Brink, himself a Hertzog Prize winner, said: "We were all aware of the three-year rule and the academy used it for years as the reason why they 'could' not award Small with the prize.
"The fact that they now did it anyway, suggests that they deliberately decided to suspend the rules and one would've appreciated an announcement about it."
"This could clearly not have happened coincidentally," added Brink.
"I am very happy to see that this injustice that lasted nearly half a century was finally, it seems, undone."
Breyten Breytenbach, who has also won the prize, congratulated Van der Elst via e-mail on Monday.
"Rather late than never," he wrote. "I think it's a deserved recognition of the well recognised work of a really important writer...
"My congratulations to the academy board for the almost obvious decision."