Riaan Cruywagen was one of the first Afrikaans news anchors to join SABC
Looking at the history of TV in SA, Riaan Cruywagen was a big part of it.
The Afrikaans newsreader joined the SABC since its first television broadcast and was a regular face for the news bulletin on week-nights.
His final broadcast was on November 26, 2012, on SABC.
When I got in touch with Cruywagen to chat about his newsreader days, he happily obliged.
He recalled: “I started broadcasting on radio as a student at Stellenbosch University in 1965.
“The terms and conditions of my SABC bursary included an obligation to broadcast from the Cape Town studios over weekends and during varsity holidays.
“This included reading the regional news on the Afrikaans radio service (the predecessor of RSG), doing continuity shifts on Radio Good Hope, and acting in radio dramas and serials on the commercial service, Springbok Radio.
“So, I have been reading the news now for 55 years.”
It doesn’t matter how old you are, chances are you will either know of or have seen Cruywagen on the small screen.
Cruywagen added: “News reporting and presentation was much more formal than today.
“Proper, good and correct language usage was non-negotiable and fake news hardly existed.
“In the previous political dispensation, news reporting was often somewhat of a minefield, particularly whenever the government declared a state of emergency.
“Any form of censorship is, of course, always extremely frustrating to journalists who are intent on reporting accurately and comprehensively.
“Whatever the prevailing conditions were, as a newsreader I always did my utmost to remain impartial, credible, independent and professional.
“Consequently, I survived many a change of management at the SABC.
“I think the public realised that there was no sense in shooting the messenger if they didn’t like the message!”
Did you start on TV1 before moving to SABC2?
“Yes, after ten years as a radio announcer I was head-hunted to join the newly founded SABC television service in 1975, where I presented my first TV newscast during the test transmissions on November 26, 1975, on TV1.
“That means that this year (2020) I celebrate 45 continuous years on television,” he noted.
As for some of the biggest stories that he covered in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he responded: “Oh, there were so many! Some of the most important include the worst crash thus far in aviation history when two Boeing 747 jumbo jets collided on the runway of the island of Tenerife in 1977.
The speech by President FW de Klerk on February 2, 1990, in which he announced dramatic reforms that marked the beginning of the transition from apartheid to a constitutional democracy, including the release of political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela.
“The hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was set up by the Government of National Unity in 1995 to help deal with what had happened during apartheid.
“The coordinated terrorist attacks with four hijacked aircraft by al-Qaeda in the United States on September 11, 2001; and the massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami off the west coast of Indonesia on 26th December 2004, to name but a few.”
Looking back at how the landscape changed after 1994, he said: “From a journalistic point of view, news has become endlessly more immediate and directly accessible as it unfolds, and reporting much more comprehensive and unrestricted.
“Presentation is far more relaxed and informal than in the past – sometimes to the detriment of good language, regrettably.”
Although his journey on SABC has ended, he continued as a newsreader on kykNET’s “Verslag” until 2018.
The septuagenarian is still on the small screen, he is the host of kykNET’s “Met ‘n Huppel in die Stap”, which airs on DStv channel 144 on a Wednesday at 5.30pm.
These days, he prefers the more relaxed side of being in front of the camera!