A heartfelt thanks to our loyal readers as the weekly DM168 newspaper heads into its fourth year

A heartfelt thanks to our loyal readers as the weekly DM168 newspaper heads into its fourth year
DM168 staff and the first three editions of the newspaper. At the bottom right is Heather Robertson’s son about to head off to his matric dance. (Photos: Supplied)

As the DM168 editor ushers one child into its fourth year, she celebrates another's participation in a rite of passage – the matric dance.

Dear DM168 reader,

Today is quite an emotional day for me. For starters, it’s my 17-year-old son’s matric dance. Like so many parents, I have been through the ritual of finding the right attire – suits, shirts, shoes, squares, ties. My son chose a Pakistani tailor to make him a pink suit and he is proudly wearing my late father’s maroon dress shirt with a maroon tie. I had no say; I just had to pay with a smile and a heart bursting with love and pride at his ability to be his authentic self and stand up to me when he disagrees with my opinion. 

This is the baby I held tightly in my arms while he wiggled his toes to the sounds of Santana, Manu Dibango, Sting, Vivaldi, Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim. He has grown into a beautiful, kind-hearted, dreadlocked young man who loves gazing at sunsets and clouds, losing himself in the world of manga, learning how to speak Kiswahili on Duolingo, watching sci-fi and anime, playing the Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and NieR: Automata and the most soul-searing piano pieces till late at night. 

Now he is about to write his matric finals, hoping to get into university to do a Bachelor of Music. The matric dance is a big day, a rite of passage, the start of the end of the 12-year school journey. The end of 12 years of dropping and fetching, school concerts, parent-teacher meetings, school reports, nagging over homework and studying, and the beginning of a new journey of his own choosing. 

The second part of my emotional day has to do with my other baby, which is about to enter its fourth year: this newspaper that I was asked to edit by my editor-in-chief, Branko Brkic, in the early part of 2020. I cannot believe it, but today I edit the first edition of Volume 4 of DM168

Just before Covid changed our lives, Branko invited me to my very first Gathering at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, where I got to see many of my Daily Maverick colleagues in action. There was Fran Beighton, our Irish chief cook and bottle washer, aka general manager of reader revenue and much, much more, running up and down making this humongous event Come Together like the Beatles song. (Fran is responsible for suggesting that I start a Kids’ section in DM168 and, hey presto, a beautiful idea was born.) 

There was Scorpio investigative writer Pauli van Wyk hosting a panel of whistle-blowers. There was Jillian Green, our deputy editor-in-chief, and Janet Heard, our day editor, sitting, editing and writing at a long table with many of the writers whose faces I did not recognise then but whom I have come to know and respect. 

Later, I was invited by Branko to attend a weird meeting at Workshop 17 in Long Street, Cape Town; I say weird because I was not hired yet, but here I was sitting in a room with Jillian and Janet, and Daily Maverick stars such as Marianne Thamm and Marianne Merten, who I am sure all wondered, like me, what the hell I was doing there listening to CEO Styli Charalambous talk about serving our audience and the BBC’s “six reader needs”. 

That was how I was introduced to this crazy tribe, who all believe in defending truth. Next thing, Covid crashes on us and I have to sit at home and put together a team to make a brand-new newspaper. I would not have been able to do this without the passion, skill and effort of Branko, Styli and Susie White, our commercial manager and DM168 publisher who is in charge of Daily Maverick’s advertising sales; and the creativity of all the writers and the commercial team members who contribute to the paper; our art director, Kassie Naidoo, who started conceiving this paper with me and still keeps our design on its toes; senior designer Jocelyn Adamson, who started off helping me source pictures until I discovered she was also quite nifty on Photoshop and InDesign; designers Bogosi Motau, Marushka Stipinovich, Karmen van Rensburg and Mpho Mogofe, who added their unique spice to our dynamic design team; and production editor Sukasha Singh, whom I stole from Jillian Green’s online team because I needed someone to help me keep headlines punchy and stories accurate, grammatically correct and edited to fit the finite pages of a newspaper, and to gather a team of super subeditors, which she very ably did. 

Now we have Helena Nell, Lorraine Kearney, Don Bayley, Mike Moon, Paula McAravey, Robyn Bloch, Maureen Brady and Ricky Woods all wordsmithing and ensuring brevity remains the soul of wit. And we have Felix Dlangamandla and Shelley Christians providing us with the photography that tells our stories visually. 

All this effort and creative mingling and listening to the views of you, dear reader, has seen this scrappy new newspaper breaking the doom-and-gloom trend of newspaper decline. According to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, DM168 has grown 3.6% quarter on quarter this year and has increased 24.4% year on year. 

This achievement would not have been possible without our partnership with Pick n Pay, which enabled us initially to deliver our paper free in stores to their Smart Shoppers; our steadfast printers Novus; Charles Parrington, who enabled us to work remotely with the incredible WoodWing content management system; and our distributors iSizwe, who have recently been replaced by On the Dot. 

I know many of you have had problems with non-delivery. I can assure you that we are working closely with On the Dot to address these issues. Readers in the Western Cape, I am really sorry, but our distributors will not be able to deliver to some of you who have been cut off by the recent storms and floods. 

Finally, take a bow, all of you loyal readers; it is because of you that we are still here, starting Volume 4.

Below are my top five favourite reads in this week’s newspaper. There’s scores more – art, travel, opinion, fashion – but here are five snippets of what you can expect:

1. All roads lead to China

Our business editor, Tim Cohen, and writer Ray Mahlaka bring you an investigation into Sanral – the same state-owned agency that has been ripping off us Gautengers with its flashy drive-through e-tolls without our consent. Today’s story reveals how two of South Africa’s largest road and bridge construction projects were ultimately granted to Chinese companies despite the bidders being disqualified early in the bidding process, as tender documents show.

2. Serving and protecting one child at a time

Every week at DM168, we scour the country looking for stories of hope. Our Eastern Cape representative, Estelle Ellis, has taken this quest to heart and, this week, she has found a gem of a story that fills my heart. Estelle found Colonel Pam Mdluli and her officers at the Maluti Police Station working every day to make the life of a destitute teenager better. There are definitely good cops out there, despite the many crooked ones who have infested the SA Police Service.

3. Local heroes clean up flooded Western Cape towns

And while we are on stories of hope, we have to give a round of applause to everyone in the Western Cape who lent a hand to stranded, lost or nearly drowned victims of the floods this week. Liz Clarke writes about the ordinary Stanford residents who came out to help neighbours whose homes and cars were washed away when their river flooded, and our art director Kassie Naidoo writes about the good people of Robertson who gave shelter to her and her family when they were stranded by the deluge.

4. The Mandela dynasty

This week’s Rolling in the Deep column by Marianne Thamm really got me thinking about how, as a nation and actually the world, we have put Nelson and Winnie Mandela on a pedestal and yet had no idea about the torment and tragedy their commitment to the Struggle against apartheid caused to both of them, their children, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

5. Lessons from Jordan

Our regular education correspondent Mark Potterton, the director of Sacred Heart School’s Three2Six Refugee Children’s Education Project, brings us some heart-warming tales from Jordan, where he found learning does not only happen in a classroom.

That’s it from an emotional mama. Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected]

Yours in defence of truth and newspapering,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front oage


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