Serfontein and the IKON years

In 1977, as the apartheid regime banned anti-apartheid organisations, the paths of an award-winning Dutch broadcaster and an investigative South African journalist crossed for the first time. Thus started one of the most productive cooperation’s in the history of Dutch television. Hennie Serfontein’s coverage from South Africa to a great extent determined the image of South Africa in The Netherlands, in those crucial years as the apartheid regime crumbled.

In the mid-seventies South Africa was a place of uprisings by the black youth in the townships, which was time and again met by iron-fisted oppression. Hennie Serfontein was at that stage one of South Africa’s most well known journalists, known for his exposés in the Sunday Times of the Broederbond, the secret Afrikaner organisation with its octopus like presence in the Government.

The Dutch television broadcaster IKON was known beyond its borders for its socio-critical television documentaries and current affairs programmes, shot in the political hot spots of the world where dictators ruled and the rule of law did not exist.

In 1977 the anti-apartheid theologian Beyers Naudé set up the contact between the church broadcaster IKON looking for coverage from South Africa and Serfontein about to leave the world of print. Most Dutch TV stations at that stage no longer got working visas for South Africa and it was a match that suited both. On October 19, 1977, the day Serfontein and IKON met for the first time in Hilversum, Naudé was slammed with a banning order and Serfontein went on air immediately chillingly predicting what was in store in the years to come.

For IKON he went on to record living history in southern Africa with his unique access to people like Winnie Mandela, Alan Boesak and Desmond Tutu, with whom he filmed some of the most memorable documentaries from those years.