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Naspers and Media24 must face their apartheid legacy

The headquarters of Media 24, owned by Naspers. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

The headquarters of Media 24, owned by Naspers. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Published Jun 23, 2023


By Masibonge Sihlahla

NASPERS should face increased scrutiny over their role in supporting apartheid and start a process of paying reparations for the untold damage they have caused the people of South Africa.

Founded in 1915 as Nasionale Pers (National Press), Naspers was initially conceived as the print media division of the newly established National Party in South Africa. Its primary mission: to advance the Afrikaner nationalist cause and to rally support among the white population for the party's increasingly exclusionary politics.

Naspers publications actively advocated the apartheid state’s ideologies. They used their influence to shape public sentiment, foster white supremacy and dehumanise the majority Black population.

In so doing, they laid the groundwork for the implementation of apartheid, the brutal system of state-sanctioned racial segregation and discrimination that scarred South Africa for half a century.

Therefore, it is not surprising that critics argue that the considerable profits and market dominance they enjoy today were built on the back of this morally reprehensible system and the suffering of Black South Africans - it is not hyperbole - it is a fact.

The fact that Naspers' founding editor was Hendrik Verwoed - the architect of Apartheid tells you all you need to know about the DNA of the media group, which these days claim to be the torchbearers of liberty and morality.

Koos Bekker, himself a one time apartheid era state prosecutor and now CEO of Naspers should front up to his organisation's role during that dark period of South African history and take concrete actions towards reparations.

Attempts by Bekker and his team to distance their modern operations, now in the form of News24 etc from their past, are insufficient and superficial.

Even in post-democracy, Naspers ties to the apartheid regime have left a lasting legacy, as South Africans continue to grapple with the legacy of apartheid. The role they played in sustaining the regime casts a long shadow over its corporate reputation.

Today, as Naspers stands as a global media group, its past as an apartheid collaborator must not be erased. They should be held accountable for their part in propping up a regime deemed a crime against humanity.

Merely pledging corporate social responsibility efforts is nowhere near adequate to address the deep-seated damage caused by their apartheid-era actions.

Therefore, reparations aren't just a financial obligation—it's about facing the truth.