ast night, bosses and staff from Media24 and its holding company Naspers partied up a storm at a function to mark the multinational company’s 100th birthday.
The birthday bash for the company, which was born in Cape Town with the launch of daily Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger, was held inside marquee tents next the newly renovated Naspers building in Cape Town’s foreshore.
Guests sat around white linen draped tables decorated with king proteas. On the menu was potato and watercress soup, chicken phyllo pot pie and sticky malva pudding with crème anglaise.
Among the first to arrive were Henry Jeffreys, Die Burger’s first black editor, who served from 2006 to 2010, and his wife Brenda.
“It’s very cold! I’m happy to be here. A hundred years is a long time. There’s been plenty of drama in our country and in our company,” he said.
Singer Emo Adams was also at the bash and arrived in a white bathrobe.
Fairy lights winked and a brass band provided the accompaniment as former Naspers CEO Koos Bekker and councillor Johannes van der Merwe cut a red ribbon to open the building.
Described by Forbes magazine as a “South African media tycoon and self-made billionaire”, Bekker mostly shuns the limelight – hence his infamous love of blend-in beige attire.
Last night, he paired the beige trousers with a dark jacket and orange tie.
The party became quiet, however, when Media 24’s CEO Esmare Weideman’s speech took an emotional turn.
Weideman apologised for the part Naspers had played in apartheid.
To underscore the moment, jazz musician Vusi Mahlasela and Afrikaans folk singer Laurika Rauch serenaded 800 guests with the anti-apartheid protest song Weeping written by South African band Bright Blue.
Weideman, who wore towering violet stilettos, said in her speech: “Tonight, we celebrate our successes with pride, and acknowledge our failures with humility.
“We acknowledge complicity in a morally indefensible political regime and the hurtful way in which this played out in our newsrooms and boardrooms.”
She went on to speak of Conrad Sidego, Die Burger’s first coloured reporter who had to walk to the parade to urinate as he was not allowed to use the office bathrooms.
“In that story lies decades of pain and humiliation and for that we apologise officially tonight.”
Weideman also reimagined the adrenaline as the journalists at die Die Burger chased their first deadline at a tiny office in Keerom Street in central Cape Town 100 years ago.
“Tonight, exactly 100 years ago, to the day, in fact to the minute, the newsroom of Die Burger must have been a frenzy of activity as a small band of brothers – I assume they were all brothers, no sisters – put their very first issue to bed.”
Today, Naspers has 52 offices in South Africa and operates in 130 countries.
“We were there when the new South Africa was born. We experienced the euphoria when Madiba was released in 1990 and we meticulously covered our first democratic election in 1994.
“We were there when 34 miners were gunned down in Marikana and broke the news that Oscar Pistorius had shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.”
Thulisile Phongolo (left) and the Shoowop girls