Allister Sparks

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Allister Sparks
Allister Sparks.jpg
Born(1933-03-10)10 March 1933
Died19 September 2016(2016-09-19) (aged 83)
Johannesburg, South Africa
NationalitySouth African
OccupationJournalist and editor
Years active1951–2016
EmployerRand Daily Mail
Known forhis editorship Rand Daily Mail during the 1970s

Allister Haddon Sparks (10 March 1933 – 19 September 2016) was a South African writer, journalist, and political commentator. He was the editor of The Rand Daily Mail when it broke Muldergate, the story of how the apartheid government secretly funded information projects.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Cathcart, Eastern Cape, to father Harold Sparks, a farmer and mother Bernice Stephen.[4] The Sparks family were descendants of the English 1820 Settlers that settled that area of the Cape.[4] He was educated at Queen's College in Queenstown.[4]


Allister Sparks began his journalism career at the Queenstown Daily Representative in 1951.[1][5] In 1955, he reported for the Bulawayo Chronicle in Rhodesia.[6] He worked as an editor under Donald Woods, who was editor-in-chief at the East London Daily Dispatch from 1956-1957.[5][6] Afterwards, he worked for the Reuters news agency in Britain.[6] He was a journalist for The Rand Daily Mail and then a columnist in the 1960s. Sparks was later the editor of the Sunday Express.[5] The highlight of his career was his editor position at the The Rand Daily Mail.[6] He worked for the Mail since 1967 as an editor and was let go when the board decided to target a white audience.[1][5] He followed his position as an editor by working as a correspondent with top-level newspapers, including The Washington Post', The Observer (UK), and NRC Handelsblad in the Netherlands.

In 1994, he wrote an extensive piece in The New Yorker, about Nelson Mandela.[4]

In 1995, he researched and narrated the documentary series Death of Apartheid. He died in Johannesburg on 19 September 2016 due to a heart attack following an infection.[7]

Publishing highlights[edit]

Sparks later wrote a number of critically acclaimed books on South Africa's transition from apartheid, including The Mind of South Africa (1991), Tomorrow Is Another Country (1996), and more recently Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa (University of Chicago Press 2006). Sparks also wrote the book First Drafts (2008), as well as Tutu: The Authorised Portrait of Desmond Tutu, with a Foreword by His Holiness The Dalai Lama written with Tutu's daughter, and published in 2011 for Tutu's 80th birthday.

Developing African journalism[edit]

Sparks founded the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in South Africa and was its executive director from 1992 to 1997. The IAJ has focused on the education of African journalists and fostering better communication between professionals across the continent.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sparks was a Nieman Fellow from 1962-1963.[9]

He won the Louis M. Lyons Award while with The Observer[10]

In 1996: The Media Institute of Southern Africa presented Allister Sparks with its Press Freedom Award. According to MISA,

It was during his tenure at the Rand Daily Mail in the late 1970s that Allister distinguished himself as a journalist of great valour and strength, willing to stick his neck out for a story even though it might have reached into the deep echelons of government.

He was the first South African journalist to receive the award.[5]


  • The Mind of South Africa, 1990; Random House, 2011, ISBN 9781448134557
  • Tomorrow Is Another Country, 1995
  • Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN 9780226768588
  • The Sword and the Pen, 2016


  1. ^ a b c "Allister Sparks: Journalist and lecturer". theglobalist. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  2. ^ "Veteran journalist Allister Sparks dies". News24. 19 September 2016. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  3. ^ van Niekerk, Phillip (24 September 2016). "Allister Sparks: passionate crusader against apartheid". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Roberts, Sam (20 September 2016). "Allister Sparks, South African Journalist Who Challenged Apartheid, Dies at 83". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e "MISA Press Freedom Award: Previous winners". Media Institute of Southern Africa. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d "Speakers on the conference The Power of Culture". Power of Culture. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Veteran journalist Allister Sparks dies". News24. 19 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  8. ^ "About". Institute for the Advancement of Journalism. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  9. ^ Friedman, Saul (7 January 2007). "Commentary". Nieman Watchdog. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Max du Preez and Gitobu Imanyara". Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2012.

External links[edit]