For The People

Remembering the Nation builder

Aggrey Zola Klaaste was born in Kimberley, Greenpoint but spent most of his years in Johannesburg after his family moved to Sophia Town when he was about 3 years old. He later matriculated at the Madibane High School, South West of Johannesburg and became one of the most influential voices in the Journalism arena.

Solomon Star pays tribute to a futurist and an activist of a unified South Africa.

In 1958 he began his studies towards a degree in Bachelor of Arts at the University of Witswateraand. Aggrey Zola Klaaste came to be known as one the last black South Africans who were able to complete their degrees at the University before the apartheid government passed the Extension of Universities law which prohibited black people from studying at some universities.

His work spans from working for Drum Magazine, The World, and The Past (which came to be known at the time as Sowetan). He was voted 58th in the 100 top Great South Africans. In 1977 he was arrested along with the editor of The World, Percy Qoboza for a period of 9 months. This was an attempt by the apartheid police to shut down the popular black publication. This all happened after Steve Biko died at the hands of the security police. Many other journalists were arrested such as Joe Tlhaloe and Mathaha Tsedu.

Aggrey is best known for his promotion of building a unified nation, a notion he pushed as editor of the Sowetan by firing up conversations. He wrote about a non-racial South Africa and often presented his readers with real-world measures trying to aid black people regarding the situation they found themselves in because of apartheid. This did not make popular with some people and was often faced with a lot of criticism from the country. His editing role lasted from 1988 until 2002, right through democracy in 1994.

Under his management further established the Sowetan Awards projects for people who had risen above the oppressive regime in the country, this was his effort in repairing the damage that apartheid had caused. A great example of his wish and hope for a unified country, he did not excluded white people from the campaign.

The intellectual was also involved in community work and became a committee member of 10. Klaaste will be remembered for his role in the pioneering of nation building, a free and democratic South Africa for all. He died in 2004 at the age of 64, at the Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg due to reported lung complications. In his last years he was the executive of the Black Empowerment Company, and a chairperson of the Johannesburg Tourism Company.

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