death – Obituary News : South Africa Mourns the Loss of Iconic Journalist Derek Watts
Johannesburg – South Africa is grieving the loss of a legendary journalist, Derek Watts, who passed away at the age of 74. Watts, widely known as the long-time presenter of Carte Blanche, the nation’s leading investigative news program, had been battling lung cancer and had stepped back from the show earlier this year.
The news of Watts’ death on Tuesday sent shockwaves through the media community and beyond. As a principled broadcaster, he had informed and inspired South Africans for over three decades, leaving an indelible mark on the industry.
Born in 1948 in Johannesburg, Derek Watts developed an interest in journalism at an early age. After completing his studies at Rhodes University, he began his career at The Rand Daily Mail newspaper in the 1970s.
During a tumultuous period in South Africa’s history, Watts reported on significant events such as the Soweto Uprising and the death of anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko. His dedication to exposing injustice became evident during these early years as a journalist.
When independent television arrived in South Africa in the 1980s, Watts made a seamless transition to broadcasting. He played a vital role in the launch of the investigative show Carte Blanche in 1988 on M-Net and served as its anchor for an impressive 35 years.
Known for his calm demeanor and trademark clipped delivery, Watts fearlessly tackled scandals, corruption, and social issues throughout his illustrious career. He provided crucial context during South Africa’s transition to democracy in the 1990s.
What set Derek Watts apart was his courageous interview style. He never hesitated to confront the powerful, holding them accountable for their actions. One notable example was his 2007 interview with African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, in which Watts directly challenged Zuma on fraud and corruption charges related to a 1999 arms deal.
Watts also exposed numerous instances of public fund misuse over the years. His bold questioning and meticulous research made him an inspiration to colleagues and other journalists. Bongani Bingwa, a broadcaster at eNCA, described Watts’ humanity, professionalism, fight for press freedom, and anti-censorship stance as an inspiration.
In 2021, Watts received a diagnosis of skin cancer, which later spread to his lungs. Despite his characteristic privacy, he quietly battled the illness for over a year while undergoing treatment. It was during a family holiday in June when he was hospitalized for sepsis that he opened up about his cancer. Despite the grim diagnosis, Watts faced his illness with grace and courage.
After 35 years with Carte Blanche, Watts made the difficult decision to step away from the show to prioritize his health. However, he maintained hope that he still had much to accomplish in life.
While many regarded Derek Watts as a celebrity, he saw himself simply as a dedicated professional committed to quality journalism. Known for his meticulous preparation, Watts invested countless hours in researching stories and perfecting his narration. He understood the immense responsibility that journalists hold.
The official Carte Blanche Facebook page confirmed the news of Watts’ passing, expressing profound sadness and extending heartfelt condolences to his wife and children. The post emphasized that Derek Watts would forever hold a special place in the hearts and minds of his Carte Blanche family.
Derek Watts represented the possibility of reconciliation in divided societies. He fearlessly tackled sensitive topics related to race, inequality, and more, always approaching them with empathy. His departure leaves behind a void that will be challenging to fill.
Despite the numerous threats to press freedom worldwide, journalists can look to Derek Watts’ principled approach as a model. He never wavered in exposing abuses of power, regardless of the pressures he faced. His rich career spanning over five decades will continue to inspire and influence countless journalists.
As South Africa mourns the loss of a true media icon, it is evident that Derek Watts’ enduring legacy of resilience and integrity will live on. He paved the way for future generations of dedicated journalists who will carry on his important work.
Derek Watts dedicated his life to holding the powerful accountable, and may his unwavering courage continue to ignite others to stand for justice in the challenging times ahead. His spirit will endure, forever reminding us of the power of honest and fearless journalism..