Arthur Maimane

Trailblazing journalist and novelist
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South African political exiles in Britain in the early 1970s, after the government of Hendrik Verwoerd had smashed the internal liberation movements in the post-Sharpeville state of emergency, were cheered to see the name of Arthur Maimane on television screens as an ITN staffer. Here was a journalist who had made it in world media, from small beginnings in the newsroom at Drum magazine, which had opened up a new world of journalism in South Africa in the 1950s. Maimane worked also for Drum's sister daily, Golden City Post, and had somehow remained a "free spirit" too, having moved in 1958 to Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana.

This was an escape from the colour bar and oppression at home, but also from the attentions of the township gangsters who had murdered his fellow Drum news editor and role model, Henry Nxumalo, in 1957. Maimane's crime reports and his Hadley-Chasesque short stories, under the name "Arthur Mogale", had not gone down well in the Johannesburg underworld.

In Accra, he worked first for Drum's new West African edition and then for Ghana radio, but moved on to London in 1961 and a post with Reuters. He made his mark reporting uhuru in Tanganyika and Zanzibar (later Tanzania), Kenya and Uganda, but was deported from Tanganyika after refusing the founding editorship of Tanu's new daily and for reporting political events critically. He was offered a post with Reuters at the UN but chose instead to settle in London, with his English girlfriend, later wife, Jenny, whom he had met in Dar es Salaam.

From Reuters' "first black staffer" he became, after a short time in the African Service, still a trailblazer, BBC Television's first black journalist, on the current affairs programme 24 Hours. He later moved to ITN, starting work there on the same day in 1973 as Trevor Macdonald, who became the first black newsreader.

Journalism was more than a career to Maimane, it was a calling, one that his clergyman father had encouraged him to follow after his boyhood in Lady Selborne township, near Pretoria, and St Peter's, the Community of the Resurrection school in Rosettenville, Johannesburg. St Peter's was made famous by its association with such as Trevor Huddleston (who introduced Maimane to Drum in 1952), Oliver Tambo and Desmond Tutu.

Maimane's closest intimates were among the Drum writers, whose world is brought alive in his friend "Bloke" Modisane's Blame Me On History (1963). The photograph of Maimane in Anthony Sampson's book Drum: a venture into the new Africa (1956) - trilby on back of head, cigarette dangling - is an amusing take-off of the Hollywood "newshound" image, but conceals his innate seriousness as a reporter and analyst of the world around him.

He returned to the "new South Africa", first for a year with the liberal, fringe Weekly Mail in May 1990, during which he was again "the first black journalist", this time to report on the dismantling of apartheid legislation. From 1994 to 1997 he served as managing editor of the Johannesburg Star, and also became a columnist on the Sunday Independent.

The Maimanes came back to England in 2000, Arthur to work as a media consultant and to pursue his ambitions as a creative writer. His novel Victims (1976), well received in Britain, had been banned in South Africa, where it reappeared to critical acclaim in 2000 as Hate No More. His post-apartheid play, Hang On In There, Nelson, was performed in the State Theatre, Pretoria, in 1996. He was working on an account of his return to a changed South Africa after nearly half a century in exile.

Randolph Vigne

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