Mark van der Velden is a South African journalist with a long history in the South African media, covering many important South African citizens and momentous times in the history of the country. He is currently the editor of the South African Press Association (SAPA).
Mark van der Velden was born in Zimbabwe on the 24th of October 1958 to Dutch immigrant parents, and moved around a lot during his childhood. He was schooled in Lesotho, the Free State and the Western Cape. After finishing school, Van der Velden worked for a short period of time for a welding company, making burglar bars. In 1976, after getting rejected for a bursary, he found the money to study Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Van der Velden graduated after four years with a Bachelor of Journalism degree and moved to Somerset West to begin his media career. Currently, he is living in Johannesburg with his wife Jill van der Velden and four children. Van der Velden is currently the Editor of the South African Press Association (SAPA).
Career informationVan der Velden is involved in conferences and represents SAPA by speaking to various groups such as students studying journalism. Despite the fact that it has become popular for journalists and public figures to write books, Van der Velden comments that he is rather going to keep his book in his head (1).
After leaving Rhodes University in 1979, van der Velden went to work for the District Mail/Distrikspos, a bilingual community newspaper in Somerset West, as a reporter and photographer. In 1981, he left for Cape Town to work as a general news reporter for the Cape Times. He later started doing stories on hard news, crime and the Supreme Court, covering murder and terrorism trials. With these he also covered soft news stories, like the divorce of Barbara and Chris Barnard. Van der Velden joined SAPA in 1983 as a Junior Press Gallery reporter in Parliament. SAPA sent him to various locations such as Cape Town, Pretoria and Windhoek to follow stories. During these years of travelling he covered stories on politics, the government, the State of Emergency, township unrest, plane crashes, bomb blasts and the Namibia-Angola border war. In 1989 SAPA sent van der Velden overseas to London as a representative on Fleet Street. He covered events linked to South Africa, for example deliberations on sanctions to be placed on South Africa, as well as United Nations debates in New York. His most important work includes following F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela on their tours of Europe and the United States of America after Mandela was freed in 1990. Mandela was given the use of a plane by Donald Trump for his travels. Interestingly, van der Velden, in his position as a SAPA journalist, was never allowed on the plane, despite even offering to pay his own way . “Momentous times then; now dull history for South Africa” was Van der Velden’s reflection on these years (1). In 1991 he returned to South Africa to work as an Assistant Editor for SAPA in Johannesburg. A year later, Van der Velden was promoted to Editor and still occupies this position at present.
Recognitions and awards
Van der Velden has not received any significant awards. This is not important in his life as he says he is generally disinterested in the many awards that are available in the journalistic world today. (1).
Other professional activities
Page written by Rhodes University Journalism and Media Studies students
1. Interview with Mark van der Velden via email and telephone, 15 October 2009.