The Patron of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, President Thabo Mbeki, members of the Foundation’s Board and the staff are deeply saddened by the passing of veteran journalist, Allister Sparks.
Sparks served our country with great distinction as one of South Africa’s rapporteurs of what the American newspaper publisher, Phil Graham, referred to as “the first rough draft of history,” the profession of journalism.
He will be remembered as an outstanding social and political commentator during the dark period of apartheid and after the onset of the democratic dispensation. While we did not always agree with Sparks’ analysis and conclusions, we nevertheless respected the fact that he remained conscious of the constraints that his own socialisation brought to bear on his vocation.
He was also always conscious of the moral, political and intellectual imperatives placed at his feet as a journalist by the vital process of the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.
Until his great and eloquent pen ran out of ink yesterday, Allister Sparks remained one of our country’s eminent journalists, having begun his illustrious career in 1951. Such was the commitment of this great chronicler to his profession that he invested his energies reproducing other drafters of history. He thus founded the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism of which he was Executive Director from 1992 to 1997.
Sparks was therefore a towering example of a model journalist, one who told it like it was but also sought to bring to the fore the factors which informed the daily events.
Today’s cohort of journalists may learn some lessons from Allister Sparks’ professional biography in the vital process of accurately informing their audiences, advancing the journalism profession and restoring its dented image where it doubtlessly needs repairing.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and to his colleagues in journalism, a profession which he served with great distinction.
Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation
September 20, 2016