South African Communist Party
SACP deeply sad to announce its stalwart for liberation, social emancipation and media transformation, David Niddrie, passed away
Wednesday, 10 May 2023
The South African Communist Party (SACP) is deeply sad to announce that a stalwart of our struggle for liberation, democracy and socialism, David Niddrie (69) passed away on Tuesday evening, 9 May 2023, at his home in Johannesburg.
“This came as a shock to us. He had just finished editing the SACP publication, Umsebenzi, for April 2023. The Party published this latest issue of Umsebenzi on its website on Monday, 8 May 2023. This was a day before he passed away”, said SACP General Secretary Solly Mapaila.
Mapaila conveyed the SACP’s message of heartfelt condolences on Wednesday, 10 May 2023, to Niddrie’s family. The SACP will announce the details of the memorial and funeral services publicly after consultation with the family.
David Niddrie was a recipient of one of the SACP’s highest awards, the Moses Kotane Award, conferred on him by the 14th National Congress of the Party in July 2017. The Moses Kotane Award recognises stalwarts who had shown loyalty and commitment in working-class struggles for socialism and had given their all, in pursuit of the just cause.
The Moses Kotane Award is reserved for SACP members, especially distinguished veterans. Typically, David, he said that he was uncomfortable with receiving the award because there were others more deserving, and if the SACP changed its mind about the award to him, he would be fine with that. Of course, the SACP 14th National Congress conferred on him the award, anyway.
David Niddrie also served on the SACP 14th National Congress Central Committee, co-opted under the category of veterans.
Niddrie has, for about 23 years until he passed away, served as the editor of the Party’s journal, the African Communist, and publication, Umsebenzi. For much of this period, he performed his work diligently on a voluntary basis, even when he had a very limited income. In numerous ways, Niddrie carried the values of the liberation struggle era into the present, and, in that way, he was somewhat rare.
For a man of words, he was not one for speeches and meetings. However, in meetings where he spoke, he certainly had his voice heard. While modest about his role, Niddrie could be quite temperamental—but we all loved him for that. His considerable contribution outweighed his harmless idiosyncrasies.
“Beyond his contribution, his unique personality will leave a big hole in the SACP. We will sorely miss him”, said Yunus Carrim, SACP Central Committee member who worked with David Niddrie for a long time as co-editors of the African Communist and Umsebenzi.
From 2013 to 2014, Niddrie served as the special advisor to Carrim as the Minister of Communications. During the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Niddrie helped co-ordinate evidence for testimony on regulatory capture, a key component of state capture. In particular, he fought against the capture of the SABC by private wealth accumulation interests.
He was involved in assembling materials for training SACP communicators and in delivering the training for over two decades.
In memory of David Niddrie, the SACP will strengthen its efforts to achieve media transformation and build working-class media.
Hamba Kahle Mkhonto
Niddrie used his profession as a journalist and media transformation activist in pursuit of the liberation struggle under the repressive conditions imposed by the apartheid regime, especially in the 1970s until our democratic breakthrough in April 1994.
“If we talk about communists who could carry out their activism under low profile or in clandestine ways successfully, we are referring to the likes of Comrade David Niddrie”, said Mapaila.
Born on 3 July 1953, when he was 19, in 1972, David Niddrie worked for the Benoni City Times as a trainee journalist. After completing his training, he worked for the Rand Daily Mail as a journalist, starting in 1973 until 1976.
From 1976 to 1977, Niddrie worked as a sub-editor of IPC Publications, London and in 1977 the Rand Daily Mail. During this period, he worked as the Chief sub-editor of the Sunday Post, up to 1979.
From 1979 to 1982, Niddrie worked as the political reporter for the Sunday Tribune, after which he worked as the chief sub-editor of the City Press, from 1982 to 1996. During this period, from 1986 to 1992, he also worked as a freelance journalist, a South African correspondent for the SouthScan (London-based publication, United Kingdom, and analytical journal on Southern Africa), Politiken (Copenhagen-based publication, Denmark), Globe & Mail (Toronto-based publication, Canada), Pacifica Radio News (United States-based publication), and Handelsblad (Amsterdam-based publication, the Netherlands).
David Niddrie was an occasional contributor to the South, Cosatu News, United Democratic Front News, Vrye Weekblad, and Umsebenzi (both underground and following its re-launch after un-banning of the Communist Party), Agenda Press Services (Harare-based publication, Zimbabwe), Straits Times (Singapore).
During the period 1987 to 1989, Niddrie served as the editor of the Work in Progress, a South African-based political monthly, after which he served as the editor of the ANC Weekly News Briefing, from 1990 to 1991.
David Niddrie was a founder member of the Campaign for Open Media and the Campaign for Independent Broadcasting and served on the executive structures between 1989 and 1993. These were among the broad-based organisations campaigning for media freedom and the transformation of the SABC from an apartheid state broadcaster to a public broadcaster. In this capacity, he jointly drafted criteria for membership of the first independently appointed SABC board, and appointment process.
Between 1992-1994 he served as the executive director of the Public Broadcasting Initiative, established to facilitate training for prospective SABC broadcast managers and to co-ordinate external assistance for the SABC in covering the first democratic general election held in South Africa in 1994.
In 1994, he served as the director of broadcasting, Independent Media Commission (subsequently integrated into the Independent Electoral Commission).
From 1994 to 1996, Niddrie served as the head of strategic planning at the SABC. His responsibilities included developing the strategic plan to reposition the SABC as a sustainable public broadcaster and de-racialising its broadcasting, budgeting, and operational procedures. The plans were set out in a submission to the broadcast regulator, the IBA (now ICASA), under the title Delivering Value, and formed the basis of the IBA’s conclusions in its Triple Inquiry Report.
Between 1996 and 1999 Niddrie served as the executive director of the Mopani Media, which was established by former members of the SABC strategic planning unit as a greenfield commercial media house: it conceptualised, secured the licences for and operationalised the Yfm and eTV, and assisted with a similar process for Yarona FM (Botswana). In this capacity, developed formats, content strategies and content schedules for all three services and contributed to business plan development.
From 1996 to 1997, he served as the director of the Yfm. In 1997, he was the project manager at for licence application, Yarona FM (Botswana). Afterwards, until 1998, he served as the director for the Midi Television (then licence holder for e.TV). During this period, from 1997 to 1998, he served as the head of news for eTV.
Niddrie made contributions to various documents and presentations to various conferences regarding media transformation and political economy. These included the following.
In 1986, The South African mass media in a post-apartheid society (working jointly with Howard Barrell) University of York: Conference on the South African economy after apartheid.
In 1986, Restrictions on journalism – Culture in Another South Africa Conference, Amsterdam Colloquium on South Africa and Journalism (working jointly with Mono Badela).
In 1991, Towards a democratic media dispensation – Keynote address: ANC media policy workshop.
In 1991–1992, the ANC Media Charter and media provisions of the draft Reconstruction and Development Programme (working jointly with Joel Ntshitenzhe).
In 1994–1955 Delivering Value, SABC submission to the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA, now Icasa) as part of the IBA’s Triple Inquiry. Delivering Value informed much of the Triple Inquiry findings on public broadcasting.