DFA editor Johan du Plessis (left) and Rudi Ferreira, the manager.
DFA editor Johan du Plessis (left) and Rudi Ferreira, the manager.

140-year history of Diamond Fields Advertiser

By Kevin Ritchie Time of article published Oct 26, 2018

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THE Diamond Fields Advertiser celebrates its 140th anniversary this year.

Kimberley’s daily newspaper is 20 years older than its sibling title the Pretoria News, but the ties run far deeper.

Vere Stent, the Pretoria News’ legendary editor (1906-1930), worked at the DFA, as it is best known, twice on either side of being a war correspondent during the South African War before going to Pretoria to take over the editorship of the News. He introduced another Kimberley-based journalist - Sol Plaatje - to the newspaper-reading public after getting to know him when they were both besieged by the Boers in Mahikeng.

Two years after Stent relinquished the editorship of the News, Rex Hall became editor and gave it up nine years later to go to Kimberley to edit the DFA between 1942 and 1949.

One of his cub reporters was none other than Harvey Tyson who would become the second-longest serving editor of The Star and editor-in-chief of The Star, Saturday Star and Sunday Star, before his retirement in 1990.

Many other South African journalists would cut their teeth on the DFA.

The DFA survived the siege of Kimberley, only suspending publication for the last week of the 123-day ordeal and then just because the bombardment from the Boer Long Toms was making it perilous for the staff to print the paper, which had long run out of anything worthwhile to print, being forced to go the library and reprint articles from Britain’s other wars to motivate the townsfolk to hold out.

That, and destroying Cecil Rhodes’ contraband Cape Times, which had been smuggled in at huge expense to reprint it in the DFA, were some of the lengths editor George Green had to go to, to keep the paper in print.

South Africa suffered an economic slump after the Boer War and the DFA was forced to retrench staff, while the manager and editor took pay cuts. The paper came up with a number of different marketing initiatives and business ventures.

Green would relinquish the editor’s chair in 1910 to go to the Cape for what he thought was a hopeless job - editing “the moribund Cape Argus”. He would end up saving the paper, retiring 36 years later.

Tomorrow, the current editor, Johan du Plessis, and manager Rudi Ferreira will host a function in Kimberley to celebrate the milestone with staff, readers and advertisers.

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