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The end of an era

Taken in 1994, matric pupils clamour through the gates outside the press offices to buy a copy of the newspaper. Independent Media Archives/Rajesh Jantilal

Taken in 1994, matric pupils clamour through the gates outside the press offices to buy a copy of the newspaper. Independent Media Archives/Rajesh Jantilal

Published Jan 15, 2022


“It’s the end of an era.”

That was the sentiment from Livingstone Pillay, Independent Group Subscriptions Manager who has overseen the circulation of the “matric results” newspapers for many years.

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The government announced this week it was banning publication of matric results in the media.

Matric students and their parents anxiously wait for matric results outside the offices of Independent Newspapers in 1994. Independent Media Archives/Rajesh Jantilal

While there were many arguments made for and against publishing results, it has also brought to an abrupt halt the traditional rush by matric pupils to go out and buy a newspaper to see their results and share that excitement with family and friends at the local garage or corner store.

Pillay, who started with the group some 40 years ago, said there was a time when hopeful pupils would gather in crowds outside the offices from as early as 6pm on the day before results were released.

“We used to position vendors around the building to sell newspapers.

Taken in 1989 outside the old home of the Independent on Saturday, Daily News, Sunday Tribune and Post at 88 Field Street (Joe Slovo), the caption reads ‘finally the long wait for matric results is over’. Independent Media Archives

The results would arrive at the newspaper offices and work would start getting all the names, numbers and results onto the pages ‒ and of course, they had to be correct.

“You would walk into the machine room, the presses running, it would give me goosebumps.

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“When all the presses were going, the building would almost rumble and shake and you could smell the ink. It was amazing to see.

“Then we’d go to the loading docks where all the trucks would be loading newspapers and rolling out,” he said.

Pillay said that the biggest sale was more than 550 000 copies for a matric results paper one year.

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Matric pupils scan for their results in 1992. Independent Media Archives

“The kids used to come to the gates and party outside. We would have to be here all night,” he said.

When the 6am embargo was put in place by the Department of Education, the newspaper offices had to tighten up on security, with police sealing off entrances and exits to the property. Hopeful pupils would still stand outside, as close as they could get, to the newspaper offices.

Taken in 1992, the caption reads ‘hundreds of eager matriculants stormed the Natal Mercury headquarters in Durban last night for their results’. Independent Media Archives

The first trucks would leave at about 4pm for the long-haul deliveries in places like Zululand, Newcastle and down the South Coast.

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“The trucks would roll out and all the newspapers were sealed. When they got to their destination, someone responsible had to cut the seal. They were instructed no papers could be sold before 6am.

“The kids would be waiting at garages and corner stores. When they got their results, there would be screaming and lots of throwing newspapers into the air,” said Pillay.

As with most staff at Independent, there were also lots of calls from friends and not-so-close acquaintances, wanting to get their results.

“I’ve even had people phone me and say, my dad got matric results from you, can you help me with my kid’s results,” said Pillay, adding his son did get a touch of special treatment.

“On the night his matric results were due, I took him through to the machine room while the presses were running and took one of the first papers and gave it to him,” said Pillay.

“There was always a lot of hype around the matric results edition. This is surely an end of an era, it’s just very, very sad that it’s been stopped this year,” he said.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Tuesday that no matric results would be published in the newspapers or on any other media platforms, with the country’s media houses reacting with outrage over the ban.

The Independent on Saturday

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