Letter to Cape Times

Posted on December 27, 2013


For those who have not followed this matter, a “freedom of  information – editorial independence” row has broken out in Cape Town. It concerns the effective firing of the editor of the Cape Times, Alide Dasnois, for allegedly not sufficiently covering the death of Nelson Mandela.  But the Cape Times coverage has received international acclaim, having been done in a 4-page “wraparound” that gave more information than any other morning newspaper.  However, other agendas are clearly at play and it appears that the newly appointed editor has decreed that all letters — most apparently attacking the actions of the putative new owner, Iqbal Surve — will not be pubished since “all correspondence on this issue is now closed”.

This (above) is the background to the following letter:

Outrageous myth juxtaposed with clear reality is the essence of good satire. On this basis, I compliment the Cape Times for an excellent op-ed item (Cape Times dropped the ball, December 24). But the choice of the first two pages of the special edition wraparound to illustrate the accompanying rant by the man who now calls himself Zenzile Khoisan also provided a first rate example of the educative role of journalism.

Khoisan, for all his claims to experience, clearly has little knowledge of newspaper production or, for that matter, the very recent history of press coverage of the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. He would do well to read the Man Friday column by Tony Weaver that explained how the Cape Times managed to produce what Time magazine has ranked as one of the 14 best front pages in the world regarding this historic event.

In fact, the only comparative front pages and special edition coverage to match what the Cape Times did, were produced on the following day. This is not surprising since the formal notice of death only came late on the Thursday night, beyond the deadline for most morning newspapers.

As a journalist and editor with more than 50 years experience ranging from underground anti-apartheid “samizdat” to senior posts on major magazines and newspapers in several countries, I hail what the Cape Times editorial team accomplished. It was a feat in the best traditions of journalism and is deserving of the greatest accolades.

As such, I find it both sad and worrying that gross, and perhaps malicious, misrepresentations about the Cape Times Mandela coverage continue to be touted publicly. The facts are in the public domain: it should now be obvious that those individuals and groups responsible for the creation and propagation of the myths clearly have agendas other than real transformation and journalistic excellence.

Terry Bell

Posted in: Commentary