Media24 CEO Esmare Weideman has apologised for Naspers’s role in apartheid.
“We acknowledge complicity in a morally indefensible political regime and the hurtful way in which this played out in our newsrooms and boardrooms,” she said to applause at the 100 year celebration of Naspers and Die Burger newspaper in Cape Town on Saturday night.
Weideman said there was much to look back on and be proud of, but also much to make one’s head hang in shame.
“Tonight, we celebrate our successes with pride, and acknowledge our failures with humility.
She recalled how Conrad Sidego, the first reporter of colour at Die Burger, had to walk a distance to relieve himself because he was not allowed to use the company’s bathrooms.
“In that story is recorded decades of suffering and humiliation. And for this reason tonight [Saturday] we offer a formal apology.”
JBM (Barry) Hertzog formed the Nasionale Pers (National Press) in Stellenbosch in 1915, soon after founding the National Party. The party 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.
However, over 100 Afrikaans-speaking journalists later submitted affidavits to the TRC in their individual capacity. In these affidavits, they acknowledged that the Afrikaans press had been integral in helping to keep apartheid in place and should have accepted moral responsibility for what had happened.
Weideman said the company had learnt from history and played a “critical” role in the socio-political changes in the country. It acquired City Press, DRUM and True Love in the eighties and founded the biggest daily newspaper on the continent Daily Sun.
“Today we can proudly say that we publish for all South Africans, that we tell their stories, that they have all found a home at Media24.”
She said the company’s story was one of transformation of race and gender and the dropping of political and social bars.
The cornerstones of the company were equality and freedom of speech, she said.
Hundreds of people braved the cold to celebrate the company’s milestone in front of what was formally known as the Naspers building on Heerengracht Street.
The building has undergone a facelift in recent months with steel ‘roots’ shooting out from the ground and upwards along the façade towards the sky.
And now it has a new identity to match. It was renamed the Media24 Sentrum/Centre on Saturday night.
Iconic singers Vusi Mahlasela and Laurika Rauch treated guests to a joint performance of the anti-apartheid song “Weeping”.