Max Du Preez is a notable South African author, filmmaker, blogger, columnist and award winning journalist.
Some of Max Du Preez’s notable works include:
Oranje, Blanje, Blues: ‘n Nostalgiese Trip. Cape Town: Zebra Press. (2005).
Pale native: memories of a renegade reporter. Cape Town: Zebra press, (2008).
Of Tricksters, Tyrants and Turncoats. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, (2008).
In 2008, Max won the Nat Nakasa Award for fearless reporting. However, this is not where his award winning journey began.
In 1991, he was awarded the Louis M. Lyons Award for conscience and integrity in Journalism.
In 1996, the Foreign correspondents Association of Southern Africa presented him with the Excellence in Journalism award.
He was awarded the Yale Globalist International Journalist of the year in 2006.
These are only a few of his accomplishments.
All this is not entirely surprising when you consider that he was also the founding editor of Vrye Weekblad.
Vrye Weekblad was a progressive Afrikaans Newspaper that garnered a lot of attention during its run.
Max Du Preez was born on the 3rd of March 1951 in Kroonstad.
He is of Dutch decent, and unlike many Dutch descendants in South Africa at the time, his parents were opposed to apartheid and were supportive of integration of blacks, coloreds and whites.
He has described his family as ‘good, conservative, middle class, Afrikaner family’.
He has four brothers and three sisters.
He is also currently divorced with two adult children.
While most of his family went to Bloemfontein for university, Max attended Stellenbosch University instead.
It was at Stellenbosch that Max Du Preez’s career as an Afrikaans journalist began.
Thanks to his open minded upbringing, he became vocal about the media’s bias advocation for apartheid and quit his work for mainstream media as a result.
He became heavily involved with various anti-apartheid movements such as the United Democratic Front.
In 1988, he founded Vrye Weekblad – the first Afrikaans, anti-apartheid newspaper. The newspaper was applauded for its critiques of the government and its alternative perspective on policies.
As expected the paper met a lot of pushback from the government and pro-apartheid organizations.
The government attempted to cripple the paper by various means including legal and financial tactics such as charging the paper exorbitant fees for registration and levies.
In 1990, Vrye Weekblad was bombed by a member of a pro-aparthied group – Civil cooperation Bureau.
Eventually, amidst all these hindrances, Vrye Weekblad closed down 1994 due to financial pressure from the government.
Ironically, the collapse of apartheid came a few months after.
As mentioned earlier, Max Du Preez founded Vrye Weekblad in 1988.
Also mentioned earlier was the tumultuous time Vrye Weekblad faced during its run.
Max Du Preez received numerous death threats and was also sentenced to six months imprisonment for a quoting the leader of the South African Communist Party at the time – Joe Slovo.
A major moment in the newspaper’s history was when Vrye Weekblad broke the news of the Vlakplaas Death Squads and Dirk Coetzee’s role in it.
Other breaking news they are responsible for include:
Announcing Eugene De Kock as the new commanding officer in charge of the Vlakplaas unit in 1988.
The torture and imprisonment of Siphiwe Mthimkulu by the Eastern Cape Security Police in December 1989.
In 1990, Vrye Weekblad reported the murder of anti apartheid activist – David Mazwai. The paper also covered the torture of prisoners by police officers.
They also revealed a professor who an agent of the National Intelligence Service.
Still, in 1990, the Vrye Weekblad exposed the fact that the Civil Cooperation Bureau was run by the South African Defence Force.
Civil Cooperation Bureau Member, Pieter Botes narrated how he bombed Albie Sachs in Maputo and how the Civil Cooperation Bureau assassinated Anton Lubowski.
In 1991, the newspaper broke the news hat Larry Barnett was supplying the Inkatha Freedom Party with weapons and funds.
After his run with Vrye Weekblad, he began working at the South African Broadcasting Corporation as the executive editor of ‘Special Assignment’ – an investigative television show.
However, in 1999, he was dismissed by the SABC after he objected to the barring of a documentary from being aired.
SABC released a statement saying Max Du Preez was let go due to gross insubordination.
The public reacted negatively to Du Preez’s dismissal and there was a public campaign was to reinstate him.
An example of what his brave journalism had come to mean to the South African people.