Afrikaner newspapers were essential supports for Afrikaner nationalism, and from the 1870s onwards they were used to mobilise Afrikaners, and after 1914 to achieve political power. Writing about the press in the 20th century, Hachten and Giffard say: ‘The Afrikaner press was a creation of Afrikaner political aspirations, established by the National Party to spread its message and strengthen its power base. Unlike virtually all the English papers, not a single Nationalist newspaper began as a commercial venture. They were intended to sell not news so much as a party line.’ [1]

The history of the press houses and their publications is a complex series of developments, of competition between conservative northerners and a more liberal southern faction, of mergers and takeovers, eventually resulting in the dominance of Nasionale Pers and the demise of its main competitor, Perskor.

Scores of newspapers were published from the 1870s onwards. What follows is a survey of key Afrikaner newspapers, with profiles of their ideological and editorial policies, and the complex relationships between newspapers, press houses and the National Party. A far from complete list, it will be more fully developed in the future.

Early newspapers

Dutch and Afrikaans newspapers emerged early in the 19th century, with De Verzamelaar (The Collector) appearing in 1826 and De Zuid-Afrikaan in 1830.

Newspapers began to have a significant presence especially in the late 19th century, when the Afrikaans language movement and the first Afrikaner political organisations emerged, the Afrikaner Bond being the most significant of these.

The Afrikaner Bond was dominated at first by Stephanus Jacobus du Toit and later by Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr. Both edited and produced newspapers, probably the earliest examples of successful and lasting newspapers in the language that finally took form as Afrikaans. They disagreed about the language of the Afrikaners, with Hofmeyr favouring High Dutch to Afrikaans.

Du Toit, one of the founders of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners, first published Di Patriot in January 1876, while Hofmeyr took over the Zuid Afrikaan in 1871.

According to TRH Davenport, one of the Bond’s biggest successes in the early 1890s was in growing Dutch newspapers. New newspapers included Ons Land, De Paarl, Onze Courant, Philipstowsche Wekblad and Het Oosten. Some of these were suspected of having been funded by Cecil John Rhodes. [2]

De Zuid Afrikaan

De Zuid Afrikaan, probably the earliest successful Afrikaner newspaper, was first published in 1830 by Christoffel Johan Brand, an advocate. It was printed by the Juta publishing company, owned by Carl Juta, who would go on to grow his company into a major book publisher in South Africa.

The Zuid-Afrikaan ‘was formed largely as a reaction to the indifference of the English press to the Afrikaner’s needs and the attempted Anglicisation of the Afrikaner by the government’, [3] according to David Wigston. It reacted to the liberal views of John Fairbairn, who was active in the movement to abolish slavery.

A representative of the Cape Dutch settlers, the paper was first edited by a former Frenchman, Charles Etienne Boniface, and from 1839 by Brand himself. The paper lobbied for the interests of the Boers and was critical of British rule and especially antislavery laws.

According to Hermann Giliomee, the newspaper ‘articulated the temper of the Afrikaner slave-owners. It was incensed when the government issued regulations limiting corporal punishment of slaves when it banned protest meetings against the measure.’ [4]

Giliomee writes that Brand was one of the first generation of well-educated Afrikaners who desired self-rule. ‘He championed representative government, but hesitated to give any firm commitment on the part of the Afrikaner slave owners that they would support abolition after a grant of self rule. All he did was to give vague assurances that under a system of representative government the “owners of slaves [would] pay attention to the interests of themselves, as well as the interests of the slaves.”’ [5]

Brand was a legal adviser to The South African Commercial Advertiser, one of the first independent newspapers in the Cape Colony, which was edited by the radical advocate against slavery, John Fairbairn. But when Brand hesitated to support the abolition of slavery, relations with Fairbairn and the Commercial Advertiser became antagonistic.

Fairbairn feared that if self-rule was granted before slavery was abolished, the legislative assembly would be dominated by slave-owners and they would halt abolition. The conflict between the two newspapers became a clash between English and Afrikaner white South Africans.

In the end the grant of self-government was delayed for two decades.

De Zuid Afrikaan under Hofmeyr

Hofmeyr was the editor of the Volksvriend at the young age of 17. About  a decade later, in 1871, he became the editor of De Zuid Afrikaan and merged the two papers.

From 1878 onwards Hofmeyr called for the recognition of Dutch in political, civil and social life, a campaign that became a rival to SJ du Toit’s call for the recognition of Afrikaans. Du Toit and his fellow Genootskappers felt that Dutch was too far removed from the experience of Afrikaner youth to serve as the language of the people.

In 1894 De Zuid-Afrikaan merged with Ons Land, and a decade later, in 1904, Hofmeyr retired from his post as editor.

After 1915, the paper suffered from its competition with Die Burger and went into decline. It folded in 1930.

Di Afrikaanse Patriot

Di Afrikaanse Patriot was launched by SJ du Toit after he and a few others founded the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners  (the GRA, the Fellowship of True Afrikaners). Launched in Paarl on 14 August 1875, the organisation was dedicated to the recognition of Afrikaans as a language in Parliament, schools, the civil service and society, and from its beginning called for the formation of the Afrikaner Bond.

Du Toit shared editorial responsibilities with his brother, Daniel Francois du Toit, and from the start the paper was a rival of Hofmeyr’s De Zuid Afrikaan, which called for the recognition of Dutch instead of Afrikaans.

The first issue was published on 15 January 1876. The newspaper took an anti-English, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist stance, decrying free trade in goods, railing against merchants, bankers and agents of British financial capitalism. It targeted in particular the Standard Bank, accusing it of sending much of its dividends to its London head office.

The newspaper used a version of Afrikaans that was accessible to ordinary Afrikaners – some labelling it a ‘kitchen language’ – and became immensely successful. By the early 1880s the newspaper’s circulation reached 3,700. According to TRH Davenport: ‘From the start the paper cultivated a friendly, informal relationship with its readers, and was not afraid to talk down to them.’ [6]

Published as a monthly from January 1876, it became a weekly in January 1877, with the Du Toit brothers acting as editors. When SJ du Toit moved to the Transvaal to take up a position as an education officer in 1882, DF du Toit assumed full editorial responsibilities. He wrote under the moniker ‘Oom Lokomotief’, and encouraged readers to write to him, presenting lengthy correspondence columns from readers throughout the colony in every edition.

On 20 June 1879, SJ du Toit published his call for the formation of the Afrikaner Bond. In October 1880 the Patriot incited Afrikaners of the Transvaal to rise against British rule, prompting the Cape Synod to investigate the newspaper, whose stance it disagreed with.

Between December 1880 and February 1881, the paper called for the establishment of a Huguenot memorial, while four editions between March and April 1892 mounted attacks on the Standard Bank for being an exploiter of small Afrikaner businesses.

After 1892 the paper lost much of its readership as SJ du Toit had begun to support Cecil John Rhodes, the English magnate, in Rhodes’ battle against Paul Kruger, the Transvaal president.

By 1904 the paper folded.

Other newspapers

There were several newspapers in Afrikaans during the late 19th and early 20th century. Die Volkstem was the mouthpiece of the party of Louis Botha, Het Volk, and edited by Gustav Preller.

Advocate JHH de Waal edited De Goede Hoop, which was launched in 1903. De Waal ran into difficulties by 1913 because his publishers did not approve his nationalistic stance. [7]

Het Western, a Dutch weekly, was launched in 1904.

B. Newspapers after Union

The 20th century history of newspapers and the competition between press houses of the north and south is a complicated series of events, with instances of co-operation breaking out into outright rivalry – for economic, political and social influence.

Three newspapers were established in 1915 that were to acquire great significance: Het Volksblad, Ons Vaderland and Di Burger. The publication of these papers also marked the beginning of media giants that dominated the print industry. Later, these press houses began to become differentiated according to their ideology and the regional interests they represented.

The various newspapers, according to sociologist T Dunbar Moodie, ‘each served as the mouthpiece of a prominent political figure, who in turn represented one of several rival social metaphysics. Die Burger represented the opinions of DF Malan, Die Volkstem those of General JG Smuts, Die Vaderland those of General JBM Hertzog (and later NC Havenga), and Die Transvaler those of JG Strijdom and HF Verwoerd.’ [8]

Those based in the Cape formed Nasionale Pers in 1914, while the northern interests formed companies that would much later become Perskor. The Broederbond dominated the north while agricultural and the emerging finance capital dominated the south. The two houses would eventually clash economically and ideologically, a conflict that would be seen as one between verligtes and verkramptes – respectively liberals and hardliners.

Naspers, linked to Willie Hofmeyr, Sanlam and the Cape NP, would go on to publish Die Burger, Het Volksblad, and Beeld.

Perskor would go on to publish Die Transvaler, Die Vaderland, Oggenblad, Volkshandel and Inspan.

Die Vaderland, Afrikaanse Pers and the Dagbreekpers breakaway

Ons Vaderland was established in 1915 by National Party supporters in Pretoria who formed Noordelike Drukpers. The main shareholders were JBM Hertzog, Tielman Roos, NC Havenga, CF Beyers, Karel Red and Rev JH Greyvenstein.

A bi-weekly publication, the first edition appeared on 10 September 1915, edited by Prof Jan Kamp. The first fulltime editor, Harm Oost, began his duties mid-1916 after he was released from detention in The Fort for his stance against participation in World War I.

In 1931 Hertzog and others formed Afrikaanse Pers Beperkt, one of the three precursors of Perskor. Registered in December 1931, it incorporated Noordelike Drukpers and took over the paper and renamed it Die Vaderland.  All the signatories of this Afrikaanse Pers were cabinet ministers in the Hertzog government, except the prime minister’s son, Albert Hertzog. [9]

The paper supported the fusion government in 1934, the coalition between the NP and the South African Party, which saw Hertzog and Jan Smuts assume power. Afrikaanse Pers was by and large a liberal nationalist organisation, supporting Hertzog’s vision of a unity of English and Afrikaner whites, a bilingual ‘South Africa First’ policy.

In June 1936 the paper became a Johannesburg-based afternoon daily, edited by Willem van Heerden. Control of Afrikaanse Pers now passed to NC Havenga, the leader of the Hertzog-inspired Afrikaner Party.

According to Davies et al, ‘In the 1940s, Afrikaanse Pers became a refuge for a number of figures associated with the paramilitary and pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag.’ [10]

Van Heerden, after a disagreement with management, left Die Vaderland. The paper’s advertising manager, Marius Jooste, also left. This grouping, led by PJ Meyer, Marius Jooste and Van Heerden, formed Dagbreekpers Beperk in 1947, ‘as a vehicle for their reintegration into the mainstream Nationalist movement’.

Dagbreekpers has a curious history. Since Jooste and Meyer did not have sufficient capital for their new venture, Jooste approached Strathmore Investments – an English mining company that owned Weekblad, a Labour Party publication – to partner with. Strathmore had control of Dagbreekpers, and insisted that their new paper, Dagbreek, was not aligned to any political party.

They launched Dagbreek, a Sunday paper that appeared in June 1947, with Van Heerden as its editor. The holding company for the new venture was Onafhanklik Pers van Suid Afrika Beperk (OPSA, Independent Press of SA), which Jooste controlled. [11]

In response to these developments, Afrikaanse Pers launched Sondagnuus in July 1947.

Dagbreekpers took over Sondagnuus, merged it with Dagbreek, and relaunched it as a Sunday paper, Dagbreek en Sondagnuus.

Jooste formed the Dagbreek Trust in 1951, which would be a major controlling force behind the group’s publications, in support of the Hertzog tendency.

In 1953 the NP fought its first general election after its 1948 victory. OPSA switched its support from Hertzog to DF Malan, the prime minister. J Scott, one of the English-speaking shareholders, withdrew from OPSA. Now Jooste’s Dagbreek Trust took control of OPSA, and new trustees were appointed, including HF Verwoerd, BJ Schoeman and JG Strijdom.

In 1956, Jooste launched the group’s first black publication, Bona, aimed at urbanised blacks living in the townships. Later, in 1964, the group extended their black publications, buying Zonk magazine and Imvo Zabantsundu, a newspaper.

In 1962 Afrikaanse Pers merged with Dagbreekpers, to become Afrikaanse Pers (1962) Beperk, effectively under Dagbreekpers’ control. The latter was now also in control of Die Vaderland. The Malan-Hertzog split was papered over as a new Afrikaner unity emerged after the country left the Commonwealth and became a republic in 1961.

Die Volksblad

Het Volksblad was a transformation of Dutch weekly Het Western, and was published by Naspers in March 1915, the first of the three papers to be launched in that year. At first a weekly based in Potchefstroom, it moved to Bloemfontein in 1916 and in 1925 became a daily.

Volksblad was edited by Van Rhyn from 1925 until 1948. In the 1930s, it waged a mutual aid and economic mobilisation campaign, especially in the columns by Dominee Kestell, and politically it backed DF Malan.

It was adopted as the official organ of the Free State National Party following the fusion government of Hertzog and Smuts.

C. The Naspers empire and Die Burger

De Burger was published in July 1915 in Cape Town by supporters of the National Party under the leadership of JHH de Waal. It was the first paper published by the Nasionale Pers (Naspers) group, which became enormously successful in later years. The paper was the mouthpiece of Afrikaner nationalists based in the Cape.

Its first editor was DF Malan, who resigned from his position as a minister in the church to take up the editorship. Giliomee writes that it ‘became the most important intellectual influence over Afrikaner nationalists’, and that ‘from the start it combined the themes of anti-imperialism and anti-big capital’. [12]

DC Boonzaier, a gifted cartoonist, amplified these themes with his illustrations, one of the most famous being the Hoggenheimer figure, meant to depict represent Jewish capitalism, an oft-repeated stereotype of the times.

In 1914-15 a rebellion welled up against participation in WWI on the side of the British. De Burger from its first issue focused on the anti-English rebels, helping to raise money to settle civil claims from lawsuits brought by people financially affected by the rebellion. The Free State rebels alone had to settle an amount of £300,000. De Burger helped raise the money needed, organising fetes and bazaars for the Helpmekaar movement. The newspaper and Nasionale Pers, its owner, gained stature among Afrikaners as a result of their efforts.

In 1922 the paper was renamed Die Burger, in line with the adoption of the Afrikaans language as opposed to Dutch. In 1924 the National Party took power after entering into a coalition with the Labour Party – this after Jan Smuts’s South Africa Party lost the election.

In 1934 the NP and Smuts’s SAP formed the ‘fusion’ government. Naspers opposed fusion. Die Burger, according to Giliomee, ‘recognised the fact that the struggle for Afrikaans, opposition to Hoggenheimer and the “civilised labour” policy had held the NP together. The merging of the SAP and NP would put all these pillars under pressure.’ [13] Albert Geyer, the editor of Die Burger, mounted a relentless campaign against fusion.

Geyer resigned as editor in 1954, and Piet Cillié took over the reins. The paper  now ‘became more radical in defending the Afrikaner nationalist “revolution” that was ushered in by the 1948 election victory’, according to Giliomee. [14]

Cillié warned that Coloured voters in the Cape would have the role of deciding the victor in elections. Two years later, in 1956 the government enlarged the Senate so it could create a majority that would remove Coloured voters from the voters roll.

 Cillié wielded enormous influence, and his column, ‘Dawie’, was used to publicise the standpoint of the Cape Nationalists. By 1958, after a decade of NP rule, Cillié began to exercise greater independence from the National Party, reserving the right to criticise Afrikaner leaders if he did not agree with their actions, programmes or policies.

Cillié infuriated Verwoerd when he supported the idea of direct representation for Coloured voters.

D. Voortrekkerpers

In the early 1930s the Nationalists were concerned that they did not wield  political influence in the Transvaal – of the 150 members of parliament’s House of Assembly, only one MP was from the Transvaal, JG Strydom.

Fifteen Nationalists led by Willie Hofmeyr and DF Malan met in Stellenbosch on 30 September 1935, and decided on a plan to finance a new newspaper, Die Tranvaler, based in the Transvaal. The group was made up of mainly Naspers men, and in an echo of the formation of Naspers, they approached wealthy farmers and found a sponsor in Pieter Neethling, who pledged £5,000 if a thousand other contributors would donate £100 each. Appeals were made in Die Burger and Die Volksblad for Afrikaners to contribute to the venture. By December the group secured £25,000, and by August 1936 about £50,000, half of what was needed. [15]

They named the company Voortrekker Pers Beperk, with Malan and Strijdom among its nine directors, and H Herbst as manager. Nine people were appointed to the board, including WA Hofmeyr, DF Malan, FC Erasmus and JG Strijdom.

The launch of Die Transvaler in the north was opposed by LJ du Plessis of the Broederbond. Nevertheless, Malan’s group approached HF Verwoerd, at the time a professor of social psychology at Stellenbosch University and a member of the Broederbond, to become editor of Die Transvaler and he accepted. This would prove to be the Cape group’s undoing, as Verwoerd would side with the northerners and Die Transvaler would become a voice for the Broederbond. (See next section on Die Transvaler)

F. Die Transvaler under Voortrekker Pers

The first edition of Die Transvaaler, 16 pages long with a 24-page supplement, appeared on 1 October, 1937. An editorial in the first issue, on ‘The Jewish Question from the Nationalist Point of View’, written by Verwoerd, attacked Jewish ‘meddling’ in Afrikaner financial affairs and called for Jews to be deported.< [16]  Broederbonder LJ du Plessis contributed a piece on ‘The Asiatic Flood in South Africa’, while Strydom wrote a long piece on ‘The Maintenaince of White Civilisation’. The paper referred to Blacks as ‘kaffirs’. [17]

The paper had problems attracting advertising, and Jewish firms especially refused to advertise, given the paper’s hostility to them. Verwoerd warned that they were using their businesses as a weapon against Afrikaner Nationalism, and urged his readers to boycott businesses which did not advertise in its pages.

The paper was also in competition with Die Vaderland, the Transvaal evening newspaper that supported JBM Hertzog. The Cape Nationalists had hoped Verwoerd would temper the republicanism of Strijdom. However, Verwoerd sided with the Transvaal NP, and by 1939 Naspers withdrew and the paper fell under the control of the Transvaal NP.

Verwoerd promoted his Nationalist cause in the paper, focusing on Afrikaner social and cultural issues and events, denigrating Blacks, Jews and institutions such as the South African Institute of Race Relations, which he accused of being ‘Negrophilistic propagandists’. [18]

Verwoerd achieved some success in extending NP reach in the province, and in the 1938 elections, 70,000 people voted for the NP which, although amounting to a single seat, was more than double the 30,000 that supported the party in provincial elections in 1936. He drew Afrikaner voters away from the Labour Party. [19]

Verwoerd focused on the centenary celebration of the Voortrekker movement and on the Boer defeat of Dingaan 100 years earlier on 16 December 1838.

After the breakout of World War II in 1939, the Nationalists profited from the break between Jan Smuts and Hertzog, and the NP won 43 seats in the 1943 elections, 11 from the Transvaal (with almost 132,000 votes in the province). [20]

Die Transvaler opposed the alliance with the Allies in WWII, seeing the war as a ‘British imperialist adventure’ and denouncing Smuts for ‘dragging South Africa into the conflict’. Verwoerd proposed that South Africa reach a separate peace with Hitler. The emergence of the Ossewa Brandwag saw its members side with Die Transvaler, and the two organisations were housed in the same building. OB members also attacked the premises of Die Vaderland.

Verwoerd resigned as editor of Die Transvaler after being elected an MP in the elections of 1948, when the National Party won and took the reins of government. Verwoerd was replaced by JJ Kruger, who served as editor until 1960.

In 1950 the newspaper moved its offices from its premises in Hoek Street in the Johannesburg city center to Jorissen Street, Braamfontein.

GD Scholz was appointed editor of the paper in 1960, serving until 1968, when he was succeeded by CF Noffke.

The newspaper provided massive support for the National Party in the run-up to the 1953 general election, in which the party increased its support. The chairman of Voortrekkerpers, JG Strijdom, became prime minister when DF Malan resigned in December 1954. He chose Verwoerd to succeed him as the chairman of the company, and Verwoerd also succeeded Strijdom as prime minister in 1958, demonstrating a clear relation between newspaper editors and board members and political power.

The Transvaler campaigned for South Africa to be declared a republic, and Verwoerd broke SA’s ties with Britain to declare SA a republic on 31 May 1961.

When Verwoerd was killed on 6 September 1966, he was succeeded by BJ Vorster, who was also appointed chairman of Voortrekkerpers.

E. Die Beeld and Rapport

With half of the Afrikaans readership living in the north, Naspers sought to expand it footprint in the Transvaal and Free State. It decided to launch a Sunday paper there, the decision partly economic, but also political.

Die Beeld began as a Sunday newspaper in 1965, at a time that Blue laws from before Union prohibited the publication of newspapers on a Sunday in the Cape and Free State. The NGK church  also preached that buying papers on a Sunday was sinful. [21] Naspers manager Willem Wepener, announcing the credo of the Cape-based publishing house, declared that for Die Beeld there were ‘no holy cows’. [22]

Beeld also reflected a more modernist ethos, and broke with the strict adherence to the National Party strictures. According to Hachten and Giffard: ‘The launching of Die Beeld was a significant step in the emancipation of the Afrikaner press from slavish obedience to the party… It became a newspaper such as Nationalist politicians had never before experienced.’ [23]

Meant to ‘let the voice of the Cape be heard in the Transvaal’, Beeld published an  exposé of the far right Hertzogites in its first issue, and in the next a rift in the NGK, the Dutch Reformed Church. Verwoerd called for a boycott of Beeld because it went into direct competition with Dagbreek, the Sunday publication of the Perskor group.

The publication of Beeld intensified the verkrampte-verligte split, and brought it out into the open, which culminated in the breakaway from the National Party that resulted in Albert Hertzog’s far-right Herstigte Nationale Party (HNP) in 1969. The split would eventually contribute to the clash between Naspers and Perskor (see section below), but it was preceded by an attempt at co-operation.

The formation of Perskor

The northerners, increasingly threatened by Nasionale Pers, took steps to avert the threat after the publication of Die Beeld in the Transvaal in 1965.

Voortrekkerpers and Afrikaanse Pers (1962) Beperk merged to form Perskor on 1 April 1971, bringing Die Transvaler under the control of Perskor.

Marius Jooste and his Dagbreek Trust dominated the group, according to Davies et al, which was chaired by Ben Schoeman. [24]  The Broederbond and the NGK also had great influence on Perskor, which was partly owned by Volkskas. Other large financial organisations with a stake in Perskor included insurance giants SA Mutual and Liberty Life, banking groups Barclays Bank, Standard Bank, Nedbank and construction company Murray & Roberts. [25]

The merger brought Die Vaderland and Die Transvaler under the same press house, which also published Oggenblad, a Pretoria morning daily, and Hoofstad.

Perskor was more successful than Naspers in the magazine market, publishing Personality, Scope, South African Garden and Home, Loving, Keur, Darling, and  Rooi Roos.

Perskor also secured valuable contracts from the state, such as the printing of the telephone directory, and a multimillion rand contract from the Information Department to produce a glossy magazine, titled Panorama.

G. The clash between Naspers and Perskor

The launch of Beeld by Naspers in the Transvaal in 1965 threatened Dagbreek and Perskor’s virtual monopoly of Afrikaans newspapers in the north. Die Beeld began reporting on the verligte-verkrampte split in the National Party, much to the chagrin of Transvaal NP leaders.

With the competition proving too costly for both Sunday newspapers, an agreement between the press houses was reached and Beeld merged with Dagbreek to become Rapport in 1970. But the new paper was more Cape than Transvaal. According to Hachten and Giffard: ‘Although billed as a merger the deal in fact amounted to a takeover by Nasionale Pers. Editorial content of Rapport remained firmly in the hands of Die Beeld’s staff. Willem Wepener, the first editor and longtime Nasionale Pers employee, followed what was, in the context of Afrikaans journalism, a remarkably liberal line.’ [26]

Rapport proved to be popular, becoming the Sunday paper with the second largest circulation, second only to the English Sunday Times. But it was unpopular with the National Party hierarchy. At the NP’s Transvaal congress in 1972, the paper ‘came under fire for from delegates for criticising party policy. In response, Dr Connie Mulder, minister of the interior, said that Rapport was not an official organ of the party… Mulder was cheered by the congress when he said that it was clear that, in general, party members were not happy with the newspaper.’ [27]

In 1973 Naspers decided to reinforce its presence in the north by launching Beeld, this time as a daily. It went through the motions and consulted with Perskor, which was bitterly opposed to the move., but went ahead anyway.

Naspers launched Beeld in Johannesburg in 1974, under the editorship of Schalk Pienaar, in direct competition with Perskor’s dailes Die Transvaler and Die Vaderland. Connie Mulder and Hendrik Schoeman were outraged and tried to block Beeld’s political influence.

Perskor and Die Transvaler

In the mid-to-late1970s Perskor had three newspapers in Johannesburg: Die Vaderland, The Citizen and Die Transvaler.

Die Transvaaler was incorporated into Perskor in 1973. It appointed Willem de Klerk as editor to replace Carl Nöffke.  De Klerk began his editorship on 14 August 1973.

A verligte theologian, a Dopper – religiously conservative but politically liberal – De Klerk was the originator of the terms verligte and verkrampte. Acording to Hachten and Giffard: ‘He had attacked petty apartheid; he had warned the country to pay more attention to the views of the outside world; he had criticized the standard of parliamentary debate… De Klerk transformed Die Transvaler from a stodgy party rag into a far more lively and independent-minded paper.’ [28]

Facing fierce competition after the launch of the daily Beeld in September 1974, Die Transvaler underwent a liberal transformation of its image, with De Klerk driving the new direction. De Klerk was in favour of scrapping petty apartheid, of allowing ‘grey areas’ in cities where urban black workers could live, and he reported on the tensions within the ruling party. [29]

According to Louw: ‘…for the first time in years the paper’s main emphasis was not on political matters but on news, however controversial and sensational at times’. Louw adds that De Klerk was initially not given a free hand in expressing his viewpoints. He wanted to change the newspaper from ‘a conforming NP mouthpiece to a more critical one’. This led to a clash between De Klerk and Prime Minister John Vorster. [30]

With Perskor experiencing declines in sales, Did Vaderland was incorporated into Die Transvaler in 1981.

De Klerk resigned from his position on 18 May 1982. (see section M)

Muldergate, or the Information Scandal

In 1978-79, it emerged that the government had been conducting a propaganda campaign within South Africa and abroad, buying up newspapers to present the country in a positive light. Newspapers referred to the debacle as the Information Scandal.

According to Hachten and Gifford: ‘The South African Department of Information

had been conducting a secret propaganda war to sell apartheid to the world. The multi-million-dollar campaign had been attempting for six years to use public funds, without the knowledge of Parliament, to influence media, politicians, and other opinion makers in the United States, Europe, and Africa.’ [31]

Minister of Information Connie Mulder was found to have established a R64-million slush fund to finance the operation, including the launch of The Citizen, and lied to Parliament about his role when asked about the affair.

The prime minister, Vorster, resigned in September 1978. Mulder, a director of Perskor and leader of the Transvaal NP, was forced to resign his government position in November 1978.

After the revelations, The Citizen was sold to Perskor at a giveaway price.

The Afrikaner press, at first wary that the reports in English newspapers were exaggerated, eventually joined in the calls for heads to fall. According to Hachten and Giffard: ‘Thus Die Transvaler,  mouthpiece of the National party in the Transvaal, complained in a front-page editorial about the "amazing abuse of

power." And the party organ in the Free State, Die Volksblad, demanded that "this festering sore .. . be rooted out without sparing any person's name, position, status or personal relationship”.’ [32]

Perskor Fraud

In its attempts to present its papers as competitive, thereby attracting advertising revenue, Perskor inflated sales figures for its various pubications.

According to Hachten and Giffard: ‘An expose in the Rand Daily Mail in 1980 revealed that Perskor had been lying to the Audit Bureau of Circulations about the sales of its three main papers, Die Transvaler, Die Vaderland, and The Citizen. An ABC audit showed that Perskor had exaggerated the circulation figures of Die Transvaler by about 20,000 copies a day - virtually the entire claimed increase. Figures for Die Vaderland and The Citizen had been inflated by about 6,500 copies a day each. In September 1983, Perskor pleaded guilty to criminal charges of falsifying the circulation figures for three and a half years from January 1977.’ [33]

Naspers boss Piet Cillié met with Perskor’s Ben Schoeman on 1 December 1980 and demanded compensation for Beeld 's loss of advertising revenue, but Schoeman proposed a merger between the two press groups. Cillié was opposed to this and said Naspers was opposed to monopolies.

Marius Jooste continued to propose a merger but Naspers lodged a claim against Perskor. Jooste died in October 1982 and was replaced by Willem van Heerden.

The two press houses reached a deal in which they shared the market, with Perskor withdrawing from the morning market, making Die Transvaler an afternoon paper, leaving Beeld the only Afrikaans morning daily in Johannesburg. Die Vaderland remained as Perskor’s afternoon daily.

Die Transvaler folded in 1993.

PW Botha, the demise of Perskor and the triumph of Naspers

In the wake of the Information Scandal, Vorster was removed and succeeded by PW Botha, representing a political victory for the Cape Nationalists and the verligtes.

Botha’s constitutional reforms resulted in a breakaway from the National Party, led by Andries Treurnicht and Connie Mulder, who formed the Conservative Party.

Perskor was itself now divided. According to Hachten and Giffard: ‘Its board included several verkramptes, or right-wingers, who were anxious to use the Perskor papers to back the conservatives. But the flagship paper, Die Transvaler, was taking a strongly verligte or enlightened line under editor Willem de Klerk. Since the Nasionale Pers paper Beeld was equally liberal, there was no major paper the conservatives could depend on in their fight against Botha's liberalizing reforms. [34]

Perskor fired De Klerk in 1982, but he was appointed editor of Rapport in 1983, jointly owned by Naspers and Perskor.

In May 1982 the CP supporters launched Die Patriot, a fortnightly under Dr C Jooste.

Hoofstad and Oggenblad, both based in Pretoria, did not survive the competition from Beeld after its launch in 1974, and closed in 1983.

H. Post-apartheid developments

The Port Elizabeth-based Oosterlig closed in 1994.

By 1996, when Perskor was owned by Naspers (24%), and Rembrandt (27%), it merged with Kagiso Publishers to form a new consortium, Persebel. < [35]

Perskor suffered a decline in its textbook and stationery divisions in 1998, which forced it to rationalise its operations. It merged with CTP Holdings and Caxton Limited, under the name Caxton. Under the merger, its regional nespapers were sold to the Penrose publishing group, of which Caxton owned 70%.

In 1999 Perskor sold its share of Rapport to Naspers, which has since become the most valuable company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Die Vaderland became a regional newspaper, Noord-Transvaler Metro, before it closed in 1998. [36]


[1] Hachten and Giffard, Total Onslaught; p179

[2] TRH Davenport, The Afrikaner Bond, p141-2

[3] Fourie; Media Studies: Media History, Media and Society, p 33

[4] Giliomee, The Afrikaners, p112

[5] Giliomee, p114

[6] Davenport, p33

[7] Tomaselli et al, Narrating the Crisis; p 120

[8] Dunbar Moodie, The Rise of Afrikanerdom p301

[9] Tomaselli et al, Narrating the Crisis; p 122

[10] Davies et al, p41

[11] P Eric Louw, South African Media Policy, p174

[12] Giliomee, p385

[13] Giliomee, p408

[14] Giliomee, p501

[15] Alexander Hepple, Verwoerd, p42-3

[16] > Wigston, in Fourie, p 36

[17] Hepple, p45

[18] Hepple, p48

[19] Hepple, p50

[20] Hepple p50

[21] Hachten and Giffard, Total Onslaught p183

[22] Hachten and Giffard, Total Onslaught p184

[23] Hachten and Giffard, p184

[24] Davies et al, p412

[25] Louw, p175

[26] Hachten and Giffard, p 186

[27] Hachten and Giffard p186

[28] Hachten and Giffard, p 187

[29] Louw, p207

[30] Louw, p207

[31] Hachten and Giffard, p230

[32] Hatchen and Giffard, p259

[33] Hachten and Giffard, p188-9

[34] Hachten and Giffard; p 189

[35] Pieter Jacobus Fourie; Meida Studies: Institutions, theories, and issues, p68

[36] Pieter Jacobus Fourie; Meida Studies: Institutions, theories, and issues, p67


TRH Davenport, The Afrikaner Bond: The history of a South African Political Party, 1880-1911. Oxford University Press, Cape Town; 1966|Fourie, Pieter J. Media Studies, Volume 1: Media History, Media and Society (Second ed. 2007).|Giliomee, Hermann; The Afrikaners: Biography of a People; Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 2003|WA Hachten and CA Giffard, Total Onslaught: The South African Press Under Attack, The University of Wisconsin Press; 1984|Alexander Hepple; Verwoerd (Political Leaders of the Twentieth Century); Penguin|T Dunbar Moodie, The Rise of Afrikanerdom: Power, Apartheid, and the Afrikaner Civil Religion; University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1975|P Eric Louw, South African Media Policy: Debates of the 1990s; Anthropos Publishers, Belville; 1993|Wigston, David; "Chapter 1: A History of the South African Media". In Fourie, Pieter J. Media Studies, Volume 1: Media History, Media and Society (Second ed. 2007).

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