THE JOURNALIST WHO BEAT THE DRUM OF A NATION

When he came to Johannesburg in 1951 at the invitation of Drum owner Jim Bailey to come and edit the magazine, Anthony Sampson had very little knowledge of the craft or the African continent.

When he came to Johannesburg in 1951 at the invitation of Drum owner Jim Bailey to come and edit the magazine, Anthony Sampson had very little knowledge of the craft or the African continent.

Sampson says: "In fact, I was restless, rebellious and unqualified for any structured career (at the time)." But he had the aptitude, a realisation which prompted him to observe: "I did not realise those were in fact ideal qualifications for journalism."

He says he suffered from something called the insanabile cacoethes scribendi, the incurable mania for writing - and between the time he entered the Drum newsroom to his death at 78, he'd authored 20 bestselling books.

Sampson is best remembered for his seminal works in his country of birth, Anatomy of Britain,which gave rise to the title of this autobiography.

To South Africans, it is his authorised biography of Nelson Mandela more than his work at Drum in the 1950s that had endeared him to the hearts of many.

Through his pen and incisive mind, he mixed with the high and mighty wherever he went, be it in his native Britain, US or South Africa.

He was held in awe by the very captains of industry whose corruption he exposed in his articles about the arms and oil scandals. Through his connections, he was always privy to damning evidence related to the subjects of his articles. As an investigative reporter, he had the unparalleled luck of being at the right place at the right time.

Luckily for those wishing to follow in his footsteps, proceeds from the book will go towards funding study programmes for investigative journalists.

Any journalist reading this will be left green with envy at the vast network of contacts Sampson had a direct line to, in whatever story he did. He was on first-name terms with the bosses of the oil companies he investigated. Even in the arms trade, he was wined and dined by the top brass of the business, like the filthy-rich Adnan Kashoggi.

Africa became his playground as he sourced his information from the very top, like Julius Nyerere. The book is dedicated to Nadine Gordimer, an old friend he knew in the early days of the struggle against apartheid.

It is not only an ode to South Africa but it is also a celebration of a life well lived.

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