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Aggrey Klaaste, 64; Journalist Battled Apartheid

June 20, 2004|From Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Aggrey Klaaste, a veteran anti-apartheid journalist, died Saturday in Johannesburg. He was 64.

Klaaste, the editor of South Africa's leading black daily newspaper, the Sowetan, from 1988 to 2002, died of a lung infection, his family said.

President Thabo Mbeki said Klaaste's "brave stand against the tyranny of apartheid in the days of repression of blacks" was an inspiration.

Klaaste "represented the established reality of black intellectual achievement, many years before the arrival of the democracy for which he struggled," Mbeki said in a statement.

One of eight children of a clerk for a gold mining company, Klaaste grew up in a Johannesburg suburb that was declared "whites only" when South Africa's apartheid laws were enacted in 1960.

In 1958, he graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand. Two years later blacks were banned from most South African universities, an exclusion that was lifted with the end of apartheid in 1994.

After graduating, Klaaste went to work for Drum, a magazine that at the time was considered the voice of South Africa's oppressed black majority. He also wrote for the World newspaper, which was eventually banned, and he was jailed for nine months in 1977.

Klaaste settled at the Post, which later changed its name to the Sowetan. Named after Soweto, the country's largest black township, the newspaper focused on the lives and dreams of millions of disenfranchised blacks and called for political change.

After apartheid ended, Klaaste, a fierce believer in reconciliation between blacks and whites, used his columns in the Sowetan to call on everyone, from politicians to ordinary workers, to take responsibility for building a free South Africa.

Klaaste's work earned him many admirers, including former President Nelson Mandela, who visited the editor shortly after being released from prison in 1990.

Klaaste, who was also chairman of Johannesburg Tourism Co., is survived by his wife and son.

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