Century of Sundays
||05 March 2006 12:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Last night printing presses all over the country churned out six hundred thousand copies of the Sunday Times. Today's edition was number five thousand two hundred.
Every major event of the 20th century has been captured on its pages. Since the first edition on the 4th of February 1906, it has grown to become the biggest-selling newspaper on the African continent with a readership of over three million.
Mondli Makhanya (editor): 'It's able to marry hard news with the soft and the fluffy, and also with very strong analysis. And the fact that it has got everything for everybody.'
Mondli Makhanya is the current Editor.
Mondli: 'So if I, as the driver of the newspaper, did not have fun with it, I would bore the heads out of my readers.'
Moky Makura (Carte Blanche presenter): 'This is the first volume of all the Sunday Times editions - printed in 1906. As you can see, it is crumbling, so I cannot actually show you any more than this.'
The first edition of 'The Paper for the People' sold out in just three hours.
Mondli: 'The story goes that the clergy of Johannesburg were very cross that the Sunday Times was coming out on a day when people were supposed to be worshipping. But people wanted something to do on a Sunday, so it was an instant success.'
Moky: 'These are some of the award winning journalists that have written for the Sunday Times. We spoke to some of them to find out how they got the big stories over the last few years.'
In 1987 the Tzaneen surrogate mother who carried her own daughter's triplets was big news.
Brian Pottinger (former editor): 'The worst thing for us was that the story had been signed up by a foreign newspaper. And that was an intolerable challenge to us. You know, in our own back yard some foreign newspaper had signed up an exclusive.'
Former editor Brian Pottinger remembers journalist Charmaine Naidoo persuading a nurse to take photographs of the newborns.
Brian: 'And I remember us all gathered around the light box looking at the pictures of these three little creatures and one of us saying, 'Are you sure it's the right thing? What are we going to do if it is wrong? Maybe we were conned by the other guys?' And Charmaine said something along the lines of, 'Listen you wimps, I guarantee it is right -now publish!' So we did, and it was right.'
Roger Makings covered the crash of the Helderberg in 1987.
Roger Makings (journalist): 'The plane crashed about 164km out to sea off Mauritius. So what we had to do is, we got into a plane - a two-engine plane - and flew out over the wreck. There was something in that aircraft that shouldn't have been there. It might have been completely innocent cargo, but it was highly flammable. We know that they caught the fire, but they couldn't put that fire out and eventually it got so hot that it weakened the structure... the tail section of the aircraft... to the point where it broke away from the fuselage. And then of course you just had this huge big fiery missile going into the sea. The big question was of course what happened? And, twenty years later, that is still the big question. What happened?'
In the '80s the Sunday Times had a columnist Jani Allan who eventually became the news.
Linda Shaw (astrologer): 'Jani used to write articles about all the leaders and all the top people in the country or the world at the time. And she was almost a movie star in her own right.'
Linda Shaw is the Sunday Times astrologer who used to share a flat with Jani Allan.
Linda: 'She had powerful men in love with her. She used to have a rule about not letting anyone in the door unless they had huge presents. So I used to have to go down and check to see if they were bearing gifts before I was allowed to let them through the door. And when she met Eugene Terreblanche - who was at the time the leader of the AWB - she became quite bewitched by him. She wrote this extraordinary article which people remember to this day about his blow-torch blue eyes...'
[Article on screen]
Jani Allan sued Channel 4 for claiming she was Terreblanche's lover.
Mokey: 'So did the affair actually happen?'
Linda: 'I'm a little reluctant to say anything because in the end the court case said that she had not been defamed, but they didn't actually say if anybody had lied or not lied. So I am not sure what the legalities are, so I am keeping my mouth shut here.'
In the early '90s the right wing made their presence felt with the assassination of Chris Hani.
Ray Hartley (Deputy Editor): 'This is the defining Sunday Times story in a way.'
Moky: 'Why is that?'
Ray: 'If there is news breaking of this magnitude on a Saturday, there is an expectation among readers that they are going to get on Sunday the definitive story on this.'
Ray Hartley is the Deputy Editor.
Ray: 'They have the full story of how he was caught, the eyewitness who saw it all happen, and the most phenomenal pictures.'
The one Sunday they didn't have a picture was the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The paper put an artist's impression of the man on the front page because there had been no photographs of him for 27 years.
When former President FW de Klerk fell in love with Elita Georgiades, reporter Nicola Koz managed to sit next to her on a flight to Athens.
Nicola Koz (journalist): 'And she would say to me, 'Please don't put that in' or 'Okay, you can put that in', or, 'How are you going to phrase this?' And I would tell her. And I think I won her trust and her confidence, and she seemed almost completely relieved.'
When Princess Diana died on a Sunday morning in 1997, the Sunday Times brought out their first ever 'special edition'.
Brian: 'The paper had gone; the presses had closed; the trucks had gone; the staff had left. And so, at about 4:30 in the morning, we began reassembling the whole team. And it was wonderful. We asked six or eight people to come in and eventually the whole team came. So early in the morning we were putting together this eight-page supplement. We brought the trucks back. It was astonishing... it really was.'
The paper has a proud tradition of exposing corruption. In 2001 ANC Chief Whip Tony Yengeni made it onto the front page.
Ray: 'I don't think I have ever experienced a story being put through its paces... you know, throughout a week - throughout several weeks - to nail it down, to make sure all the facts were correct. It was a phenomenal news event.'
The most recent exposé was the Jacob Zuma rape story.
Mondli: 'By Saturday we had nailed it. We knew we had established as fact that a rape charge had been laid. We had spoken to many, many people and we were confident that it was correct to run that story.'
Moky: 'Did you sleep that night?'
Mondli: 'A few hours. And I woke up at three a.m. and all I was thinking about was the story. It was the most difficult decision I have had to take in my journalistic career.'
Moky: 'Every single edition of the Sunday Times since 1906 has been stored here in the Library on microfilm. This is a hundred years of history reduced to a couple of shelves.'
And scrolling through these records reveals the breaking news that shaped the 20th century.
Russell: 'Halley's Comet is now clearly visible in the early hours of the morning, and is a very fine sight.'
The 12th of April 1912 was a Sunday, so it was only a week later that the paper covered the story of the sinking of the Titanic.
Russell: 'In the North Atlantic, in the spring of the year the iceberg is always a menace.'
In June 1914 a tiny newsflash gave no hint of the misery that would soon engulf the world.
Russell: 'The German ambassadors at St Petersburg and Paris presented ultimatums yesterday asking Russia and France to declare their intentions regarding the military activities of these powers.'
Throughout the First World War the Sunday Times published photographs to give their readers a sense of what was happening in Europe.
In 1922 the focus shifted to a local crisis - the miners' strike. The Sunday Times gave comprehensive coverage of the events.
Russell: 'Fordsburg is a regular inferno owing to exchange of firing and use of guns and machine guns by the government.'
In 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and the paper would soon be reporting on the build-up to another war.
Russell: 'There's no use in being pessimistic or optimistic about this war. Just plain solid determination and faith are going to win it for us.'
South Africans went to war to fight for King and country and the Sunday Times reported throughout, including D-Day and the invasion of Europe, as well as the final days of the conflict.
Russell: 'The hour for major operations against the Japanese mainland is approaching. Throughout the United States today there is a mounting tension.'
The next day the Americans dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. By the following Sunday the war was over.
Russell: 'It is expected in London that Japan will give her answer to the Allied surrender terms within 24 hours.'
President Truman: 'I hereby deem a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan.'
The climax of the post-war euphoria was the Royal family's visit to South Africa in 1947.
In 1948 the National party won the general election and South Africa entered a darker period, dominated by apartheid and the country's struggle against it.
Russell: 'A middle-aged European gunman attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister Dr Verwoerd in full view of 30 000 people packing the arena at the Milner Park Showground, Johannesburg, yesterday afternoon.'
In 1964 the Rivonia trial was underway. Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment and the liberation movement went underground.
Although they did not support the government, Verwoerd's assassination was extensively covered by the Sunday Times.
From the first heart transplant, to South Africa's first Miss World; from the Border war and the Soweto uprising, to the birth of the Rosenkowitz 6 and the death of Steve Biko.
Biko: 'It will be a completely non-racial egalitarian society.'
It is this feisty spirit of independence that has made the Sunday Times a paper for the people for 100 years. Here's to the next hundred.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.