A life lived to the fullest for the giant of South African journalism

Derek Watts, who lost a battle to cancer on Tuesday, has had countless victories as an investigative journalist.

Watts became a household name as the first presenter of Carte Blanche in 1988 alongside Ruda Landman. In his spare time, he was also an MC, guest speaker, and media trainer.

Born in Hillbrow in Johannesburg, he relocated with his family to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, when he was five years old. 

During a recent interview on 702 shortly before he became ill, he said he was not fond of school, saying he was not certain what the future held in store when he graduated.

In his early 20s, Watts tried out a few jobs, at some point serving in the army as an adjutant and company commander.

He also studied computer operations and even worked for a plastic company.

Later in life in 1974, Watts worked as a cub reporter for Rhodesia Herald before he joined television news at the SABC, where he worked as a sub editor and sports anchor.

In 1988, two years after the launch of M-Net, a new show Carte Blanche, was introduced and he received an invite to be its presenter alongside Landman. 

He was handpicked by the producer, Bill Faure to anchor the show that would change the course of his life. 

Carte Blanche became a multiple award-winning show with local and international recognition, bringing with it a new face to investigative journalism in South Africa.

One of his very last adventures was when he featured in a Castle Lite beer advert, where he let go of his serious persona and showed off some silly dance moves to the delight of the nation.


MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment Nomsa Philiso extended her condolences.

“MultiChoice extends its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and loved ones of the late Derek Watts,” said Philiso.

“We remember him as a dedicated investigative journalist and a longstanding presenter of Carte Blanche.

“His unwavering commitment to his work and his determination in the face of challenges were truly remarkable.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. May they find solace in the cherished memories they shared, and may Derek’s legacy continue to inspire us all.”

Derek Watts


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