CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUIS­MAN bi­enne.huis­man@city­press.co.za

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

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