'Why did we mock those who warned us about apartheid? - former Naspers chairperson

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Ton Vosloo.
Ton Vosloo.
Jaco Marais
  • The former chairperson of the Naspers board, Ton Vosloo, has acknowledged the media "acted mockingly" against those who warned against racial segregation.
  • His musings were published in Die Burger after he attended a relative's graduation.
  • Seven years ago, Media24, which is part of Naspers, apologised for its complicity in apartheid.

Why did the media act "so mockingly" against those who warned about the dangers of apartheid?

This is one of the questions Ton Vosloo, the former chairperson of the Naspers board, journalist and editor, asked in a letter published on Netwerk24 and Die Burger.

"These musings of an elderly Afrikaans speaker are far too late. Why did we, in our fiery youth and with our prowess as seasoned journalists, act so mockingly against those who warned us about the perils of forced racial segregation?" he wrote.

"Why did we support the government of the time when it violated the Constitution by filling the Senate with staunch Nationalists to remove the so-called coloureds from the electoral roll?

"Why did we merely accept it when Justice and Police Minister Jimmy Kruger - to the applause of a National Party audience - defiantly said the death of Steve Biko at the hands of the brutal security police left him cold?"

Vosloo, who started as a junior reporter at the company, was reflecting after attending a relative's graduation at the University of Cape Town.

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"I recall the Afrikaner nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s; the prison sentence that was imposed if you advocated for open universities. The persecution of Nusas [National Union of South African Students], the branding of forward-thinking students as communists or liberals. That stuff is now forgotten and buried," he wrote.

"As I was sitting there [at the graduation], I became ashamed of our beliefs and actions at the time. We spilt so much unnecessary blood and effected pain and punishment, instead of building a joint society as we now experience it, with all its flaws.

"It's a different country now. If managed properly, we can also get to a normal level of acceptance without the sharp edges of racism."

Nasionale Pers (National Press) was founded in Stellenbosch in 1915, soon after the foundation of the National Party, which later governed the country and enforced a system of racial segregation.

When apartheid was abolished, the Afrikaans press declined to make a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), News24 previously reported.

However, more than 100 Afrikaans-speaking journalists later submitted affidavits to the TRC in their individual capacity, acknowledging the Afrikaans press had been integral in helping to keep apartheid in place and should have accepted moral responsibility for what happened.

In 2015, the Khulumani Support Group called on Media24 and Naspers to create a fund for victims of gross human rights violations.

This after then-Media24 CEO Esmare Weideman apologised for the company's role in apartheid, acknowledging complicity in a "morally indefensible political regime and the hurtful way in which this played out in our newsrooms and boardrooms".

She made these remarks at the 100-year celebration of Naspers and Die Burger.

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article it was stated that JBM (Barry) Hertzog founded the Nasionale Pers. This is incorrect and the article has been amended.

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