The South African National Civic Organisation(SANCO) on Tuesday paid tribute to veteran anti-apartheid journalist, Allister Sparks for helping bring down South African Prime Minister John Voster in the infamous government propaganda scandal known as the “Muldergate scandal” and exposing the death of Black Consciousness Movement leader, Steve Biko at the hands of South Africa’s security forces.
The 83 year-old celebrated South African editor and author suffered a heart attack after spending 12 days in the Morningside Clinic due to an infection. “We wish to convey our condolences to his family,his colleagues in the media industry,his compatriots and fellow anti-apartheid activists who shared with him the values of freedom, equality and justice for all and the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, united and democratic South Africa,” said SANCO National Spokesperson, Jabu Mahlangu.
Mahlangu said that the over 13 000 African journalists that Sparks had trained at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) he had founded are today the watchdogs of democracy and the living heritage he has left us. He said that Sparks will be remembered for his courage in the face of the authoritarian apartheid police state. “Sparks was a true patriot who loved his country and all of its people.He fought against racism and risked his life as well as that of his family for justice and equality,” he highlighted.
Mahlangu asserted that the award winning journalist and former editor of Rand Daily Mail’s also made a meaningful contribution towards the transformation of the South African Broadcasting Cooperation (SABC) after he was appointed by the late President Nelson Mandela to serve on its board in 1995. He said that Sparks played a pivotal role in position the public broadcaster as a global player when he became the editor of the Corporation’s television news and current affairs and launched a 24-hour Africa news channel, called SABC-Africa, for satelite broadcast to the entire African continent.
He added that his dismissal as the editor of Rand Daily Mail following a controversial decision by the newspaper company’s Board of Directors to make the paper appeal more to the country’s affluent white community-and less to the poorer blacks signifies the pressure that journalists face on a daily basis in the newsroom. “Our responsibility is to preserve that the institutions he valued and those that were closed to his heart so that they serve the cause of freedom, democracy, reconciliation, nation-building and social cohesion,” he underscored.
Internationally acclaimed Tomorrow is Another country, Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa were among the books that were authored by the veteran journalist who was born in Cathcart in the Eastern Cape in 1933 and began to work as a reporter on the Queenstown Daily Representative in 1951. The father of four sons was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and South African correspondence for a number of international publications including The Washington Post and The Economist, the Observer in Britain, and Holland’s leading business daily, the NRC Handelsblad.