Haddon Sparks. A fifth-generation South Africa born on March 10, 1933, at Cathcart, a
farming village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. The son of a farmer, he was
brought up on a farm bordering the tribal reserve of Transkei and speaks the local
language, Xhosa. Educated at a farm school and later at Queen's College, Queenstown, in
Eastern Cape Province.
Played first-team cricket and tennis for his school, and was later selected to play
junior provincial cricket for the Border Colts (Under 23) team.
Began work as a reporter on the Queenstown Daily Representative in 1951. Went to
Britain in 1953 and worked on small provincial papers there until the end of 1954. Spent
1955 in what was then the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland working as a reporter for
the Bulawayo Chronicle. After contracting malaria in central Africa, Sparks returned to
South Africa in 1956 and spent two years as a sub-editor on the East London Daily
Dispatch, where he formed a lasting friendship with Donald Woods, later the paper's
editor, who was banned in 1976 and fled into exile.
Sparks returned to Britain in 1957 and worked for Reuters, the big international news
agency, until the end of 1958. Then he joined the Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg, where a
crusading Editor, Laurence Gandar, had just taken over. He became Political Correspondent
of the Rand Daily Mail in 1960, and was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University
in the United States, where he spent the 1962-63 academic year. Gandar was given the
American Newspaper Proprietors Association's World Press Achievement Award in 1966 for the
rand Daily Mail's vigorous campaigning against apartheid and its exposure of the
maltreatment of prisoners, especially blacks, in the country's prisons.
Sparks began writing a column on national and international affairs in the Rand Daily
Mail in 1964, and it has continued appearing in various newspapers for thirty years. The
column is currently published in The Star, the Natal Witness and the Daily Dispatch.
Sparks was given the Pringle Award for Feature Writing in Newspapers by the English
Academy of Southern Africa in 1965.
He was appointed an Assistant Editor of the Rand Daily Mail in 1967, Chief Assistant
Editor in 1969 and Deputy Editor in 1972.
In 1974 he became Editor of a sister paper, the Sunday Express.
In 1977 he returned to the rand Daily Mail as Editor.
While he was Chief Assistant Editor, Sparks wrote the script for a full-length
documentary film on the racial conflict in South Africa. Advance showings of the film,
`Land Apart', received favourable reviews, but it was banned by the Censorship Board on
political grounds before reaching the cinema circuit.
Under Sparks's editorship, the Rand Daily Mail exposed a major scandal in the
Government's information services - the 1979 `Muldergate Scandal' - which led to the fall
of President John Vorster and his heir apparent, Information Minister Connie Mulder. For
this Sparks was named joint International Editor of the Year by the authoritative New York
media magazine, World Press Review. He travelled to New York to receive the award and also
addressed the National Press Club in Washington D.C..
Dismissed as Editor of the Rand Daily Mail in 1981 following a decision by the
newspaper company's board of Directors to make the paper appeal more to the country's
affluent white community, less to the poorer blacks.
He became South Africa Correspondent for The Washington Post, The Observer, London, and
Holland's leading daily, the NRC Handelsblad, at the end of 1981.
Sparks also worked for 23 years as South Africa Correspondent for The Economist.
Given a British award for journalism, the `Viliant for Truth Media Award', by the
British Order of Christian Unity in 1982. The presentation was made by Lady Mary Soames,
Churchill's daughter, at the Press Club, London, in December 1982.
Received the 1985 Louis M Lyons Award for conscience and integrity in journalism,
awarded by the Nieman Fellows at Harvard University, for his Washington Post coverage of
the racial unrest in South Africa.
Also in 1985, Sparks was honoured with a special international award for outstanding
reporting on apartheid, presented by Inter-Press Service, a Third World news agency. The
award formed part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the United Nations and was made
at the U.N. headquarters in New York, where Sparks was presented to the Secretary-General,
Dr Xavier Perez de Cuellar.
Later that year Sparks was nominated by The Washington Post, jointly with staff writer
Glenn Frankel, for a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting of the racial unrest in South
Africa during 1985.
Sparks went to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, from September 1987 to
February 1989 on a Carnegie Corporation grant to teach a course in South African political
history and to write a book, `The Mind of South Africa', published by Alfred A. Knopf in
North America and by William Heinemann in Britain and the rest of the English-speaking
The book won South Africa's Sanlam Literary Award for 1990, and was short-listed for
Canada's $ 50,000 Lionel Gilder Award for promoting international understanding. It has
been widely acclaimed for its insights into South African politics, and is prescribed
reading in Political and African Studies Departments of more than a dozen American
universities, including Harvard.
In November 1990 Sparks was invited to present the Australian Journalist of the Year
Award and deliver the Graham Perkin Memorial Lecture in Melbourne, Australia.
Sparks received the 1992 David Blundy Award for foreign reporting - part of the
prestigious British Press Award - for his reporting from South Africa in The Observer. The
awards were made at a gala ceremony in the Dorchester Hotel in London.
in 1992 Sparks, single-handed, raised the funding to start a new Institute for the
Advancement of Journalism in South Africa, which he launched in association with the
University of the Witwatersrand in June of that year. The IAJ is a unique undertaking in
Africa: a training centre for practising journalists, run by professional journalists of
international standing and dedicated to raising the standards of their profession. Sparks
relinquished his positions with the Washington Post, The Observer and the NRC Handelsblad
to become the Institute's first Executive Director.
An independent panel of jurists selected Sparks to be a member of the new Board of
Directors of the South African Broadcasting Corporation in May 1993, but he was one of six
board members whose selection was vetoed in controversial circumstances by then
State-President F.W. de Klerk.
In April 1994 Sparks became only the second South African journalist to be published in
the prestigious American magazine, The New Yorker, (the first was the elate Anthony Delius
of The Cape Times) when it featured a 20000-word article by him on the behind-the-scenes
events leading to South Africa's transition to democracy.
An expanded version of the article, published as a book under the title `Tomorrow is
Another Country', was on the Sunday Times best-seller list for 10 months, selling more
than 25 000 copies. The book was a runner-up to Nelson Mandela's `Long Walk to Freedom' in
South Africa's two premier literary awards, the CNA Literary Award and the Alan Paton
Award. The book has also been published in Britain and the United States, and has been
translated into German, French and Swedish.
Television rights of `Tomorrow is Another Country' were acquired by Brian Lapping
Associates, one of the most reputable TV production companies in the world, and Sparks
worked with Lapping in making three 50-minutes documentaries, called `Death to Apartheid',
for BBC-2 and the Discovery Channel in the United States. Sparks's role included doing all
the major interviews for the series, assisting with scriptwriting and editing, and doing
the narrative. The series was launched at functions at South Africa House in London and
the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. It received high praise from reviewers in
both countries, and since then has been shown in many other countries around the world -
including South Africa where it was screened by the SABC on both NNTV and TV-1 in June,
Sparks was appointed to the Board of the SABC by President Mandela in July 1995. He has
served on the Board's Executive Committee, its Finance Committee, its Technical Committee,
its News and Information Committee and its Training and Staffing Committee. He has also
served on the Board of Sentech, together with the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of
the SABC Board.
In February 1996 Sparks was invited by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth to be
part of the Commonwealth Observer Group that scrutinised the Sierra Leone Parliamentary
and Presidential Elections.
Sparks has also lectured widely in South Africa, the United States, Britain, Canada,
Australia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and continental Europe, on South African Affairs and media