08 May
Happy days with Charmian and son Richard

After an illustrious and colourful media career spanning 50 years, influential South African editor David Wightman is finally embracing retirement

story debbie reynolds

Having worked on newspapers in London, Kimberley, Joburg and Cape Town, David brought his considerable skills to KwaZulu-Natal, editing The Daily News, The Mercury and Sunday Tribune, before becoming editorial director of Independent Newspapers KZN.

After leaving the newspaper world, but not ready to go quietly into retirement, he helped launch a series of local glossy magazines under the Famous Publishing banner, including The Ridge, The Crest and Business in Durban. The company is now part of SA publishing giant Media 24.

In a tribute to the man who has played such a large part in telling the country’s often tempestuous, but always fascinating story, we asked his friends and colleagues to share their memories of David.


David is a gentleman, leader and mentor. My colleagues admire David as an accomplished editor and true citizen of Durban, committed to its development.

I was fortunate to meet David when we discussed a publication for the Ridge area. This creative enterprise granted me the privilege of becoming David’s friend. Over the years, I have enjoyed countless social encounters with David and his gracious wife Charmian. I know the gap David leaves at Famous Publishing will be filled by the many people he has developed and grown around him.


Dave is a proper gentleman with respect for everyone’s views, able to sell a story better than most. With his skills and contacts, he was a major contributor to the success of Famous Publishing. He also has a nose for a good party!


David taught me about humility and respect, meaningful relationships and how to disagree without being patronising or argumentative. Above all else, he taught me that you only have one life. If I could live a life like David, then I will die a happy man. Thank you, David, for everything.


David embodies integrity. He takes it to extra lengths – when I asked him to employ me as a journalist he said no because I was too controversial and would cost him too much money! When David speaks to you, you feel like you are the only person in
the room.


I owe (just about) everything to David. He was mad enough to allow me, an English teacher with zero experience, to work on The Cape Herald. We lived in the same street and when I confided my newly unemployed status to him, he said he needed an Agony Aunt and someone to compile the women’s pages. So began the career I had always dreamed about. In teaching me the ropes, never once did David belittle my inexperience or gender. All the papers, magazines and books I have since worked on, all the brilliant editors I have known … David remains the best of all.


David has always been the man of many solutions. Having worked with him for more than 35 years, in as many newspapers as I can remember, practicality, good sense and a wicked sense of humour were difficult acts for anyone to follow.

He gave me the chance to go to London for two years as Independent’s representative with the proviso, “Clarkie, you better behave yourself – or else”, and later, after my one of many retirements, gave me the opportunity of launching The Crest.

Both experiences were turning points in my life, so, a big thank you!


I was news editor on The Mercury when David was editor. One of the things we had in common was an eye for a good-looking woman! The story I share now is about the support we got from David when going to him with crazy feature ideas, like two women driving from Durban to Nairobi.

It was 2005, and Africa had opened up to us, but two women travelling alone through the Dark Continent – that was still considered too risqué! I briefed an enthusiastic David, who didn’t seem confident about getting approval. In less than an hour, he swaggered back from Mahogany Row with a thumbs-up and said: “It’s a go!” Wightman had waxed lyrical about the trip and won the suits over.


I’m here today because of David and his family. I will be forever grateful to him for giving me an opportunity to work at Famous Publishing when I had very little experience. Thank you for the years you have invested in the company, Dr Mlungu. Unwele olude!


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