Television broadcaster and Radio Veritas Pioneer Pat Rogers, 87, has died.
He passed away early on the morning of Sunday, December 23 at the Helderberg Nursing Home in Somerset West after a short illness.
He was due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his marriage to Anne in two weeks time, and he is survived by Anne, his son Guy, step-children Nicholas and Jane, and three grandchildren
Pat Rogers was an incisive and charismatic interviewer and a natural communicator, with a passion for exposing injustice. He did much to expose apartheid through his award-winning current affairs programmes Midweek and Agenda, in the early years of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Later he fell foul of the corporation after objecting to his programmes being overseen by the then Nationalist Party government, and he was forced to resign.
Patrick Michael Rogers was born on March 29 1931 in Ladybrand in the Orange Free State. He was one of four children, the oldest of whom was Bob, who became South Africa’s most highly decorated wartime pilot and the head of the South African Airforce.
When the family moved to Johannesburg, Rogers went to school at Marist Brothers Observatory, where he flourished academically and at boxing, and after school he moved north to do a stint with the British South African Police, patrolling the Rhodesian bush on horseback.
From there he moved into journalism for the first time, working for Horizon magazine and the South African Press Association. He joined Rhodesia Television and was then transferred to Northern Rhodesia for the launch of television there in 1964. With outside broadcasting still in its infancy, he conceived and organised hugely popular boxing matches in the studio grounds and produced them live for television.
He resigned after being summoned by then Northern Rhodesian president Kenneth Kaunda who ordered him to scrap his story about violent clashes between government forces and Alice Lenshina’s Lumpa Church.
Rogers emigrated to Australia where he joined the Australia Broadcasting Corporation and co-hosted their highly rated This Day Tonight current affairs programme. His experience there made him a valued catch for the SABC when he returned to South Africa eight years later.
After the SABC, he did stints in high-pressure public relations posts with the Putco bus company and the Chamber of Mines and later joined Father Emil Blaser to help establish the Catholic radio station Radio Veritas.
On the back of the reputation, he had built as a broadcaster he was asked by Progressive Federal Party leader Tony Leon to stand for the Johannesburg city council in the May 1987 local election. He did and won the Parks seat for the PFP giving the party a first-ever though short-lived majority in Johannesburg over the Nationalists.
In 1994 he submitted a proposal to the parliamentary committee on justice to use electronic media to convey to the public democracy in action in the new South Africa, arguing that there should be live television and radio coverage of parliament, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the courts. The proposal was subsequently taken up by the SABC.
Rogers had a deep-seated dislike of bullies but he was as often charming and funny as he was angry. His ire at the injustices of apartheid was transferred to the incoming African National Congress as it slipped from one disgrace to another. But he was always happy to rein back his anger in the face of individual integrity and humanity.
Former senior newspaperman and friend Richard McNeil said Rogers’s sharp intellect had always made for interesting conversation at dinner parties.
“It made jawing with him over the dinner table such fun and so stimulating.
“Publicly Pat was fearless and uncompromising, not one to suffer fools gladly, which didn’t endear him to the powers-that-be in broadcasting or politics. I suppose you could describe him as an activist for common sense, fairness, justice and no bull.”