Journalist recounts career in apartheid controlled South Africa

South African-born Israeli journalist and author Benjamin Pogrund spoke to a lecture hall full of students tonight in Pearce Hall.

“If you take anything from this it is that I want people to ask questions (and) to not accept anything. Don’t even believe me," Pogrund said. "That’s your job as students: to ask questions and demand answers.”

Outside the lecture hall were print-offs of maps of the Middle East for listeners to use as a visual aid during the lecture.

Pogrund spoke of growing up in South Africa and how there was very clearly a difference between the good and the bad.

He shared what it was like to live in South Africa during the apartheid that divided South Africans. The apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa, enforced through legislation by the National Party which governed South Africa from 1948 to 1994.

Ann Arbor junior Hayden Kass said he enjoyed hearing Pogrund speak on his history as a journalist in apartheid South Africa.

“I thought it was very important to have him share his perspective on things especially with him being from South Africa,” Kass said. “I am Jewish and I feel there are many more different perspectives of people from Israeli that need to be shared.”

As a young man, Pogrund was a journalist for The Rand Daily Mail. He spoke of how strict government regulations were on what was put into print at the newspaper.

This did not stop Pogrund and his paper from printing the truth. Pogrund would often go to the papers team of lawyers and inquire how far the paper could go in speaking out against apartheid practices without facing prosecution.

Pogrund recalled fondly of how the journalists he knew wrote apolitically or without any political leaning and just simply tried to do their jobs. Through his time at The Daily Rand Mail, Pogrund developed friendships with many of South Africa’s political figures. He even befriended Nelson Mandela, a prominent member of the African National Congress, who would later go on to become the president of South Africa in 1994.

Pogrund then talked of how a deal was made with the South African government and the paper was shutdown causing him to have to flee to London. He found work at a newspaper once in London but recalled that it was boring which caused him to move to Israel.

Today, Pogrund said, he hears people compare religious unrest in Israel to the apartheid in South Africa, which deeply angers him.

“There is nothing that could compare to the injustice of the apartheid in South Africa,” Pogrund said.