How Derek Watts found his way onto our TV screens and into our hearts

Derek Watts. Picture: Supplied

Derek Watts. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 23, 2023


It’s a standing joke among millennials, the second you heard the opening music for ‘Carte Blanche,’ it meant the weekend was officially over.

Time to get your school uniform and homework in order.

Over the years, presenters Derek Watts and Ruda Landman became permanent features in our homes on a Sunday night.

As news trickled in on Tuesday about Watts’s untimely death, at the age of 75 after battling skin cancer which had reportedly spread to his lungs, industry colleagues and fans paid glowing tributes to the man they had called the “gentle giant”.

He had a calmness about him that immediately put the person he was interviewing at ease, sometimes leading to damning exposés.

Watts’ former co-worker on the show, Devi Sankaree Govender put it perfectly when she paid tribute to him on Facebook: “He has played an instrumental role in uncovering truth and justice for many.

“His unwavering commitment to the show and its mission of holding those in power accountable, is exemplary.”

And then there was his right-hand-man, Landman. She described Watts’ death as what felt like "a huge sinkhole" because she had known him half her life, she told News24.

After signing off from ‘Carte Blanche,’ following his cancer diagnosis, he had already helmed the investigative show for 35 years.

But who was Derek Watts before ‘Carte Blanche’? He certainly wasn’t a journalist who appeared from obscurity and into the limelight?

Born in 1948 in Johannesburg, Watts started his career as a radio reporter after studying journalism at the University of Witwatersrand.

In the 1970s, he transitioned into television and joined M-Net in 1988 on the ‘Carte Blanche’ team.

For Watts, it wasn’t just about uncovering corruption and crime.

He had a cheeky side as well when he teamed up with Castle Lite for their Lite'n Up ad, and busted a few moves. For fans, it showed he had a sense of humour and didn’t take life too seriously.

Watts leaves behind his wife Belinda and their two children, Kirsty and Tyrone.