8000 DAYS

Lifting the veil on working inside democratic governance after a lifetime in journalism … a firsthand account of how a newspaper editor from apartheid days ends up advising in the highest office in the land. 

Tony Heard, former Editor of the Cape Times, spent a decade in the Presidency as a special adviser (2000-2010), and also 12 years elsewhere in government.  

He interacts with the South African democracy’s first two presidents, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, seeing them on numbers of occasions in action in Parliament, in private and in the country at large. In the UK, he joins the Mandela and Mbeki entourages on unforgettable State Visits. He sees at close quarters how these Principals deal with issues that arise.  He gets insights into how ex-prisoner Mandela manages to be conciliatory yet principled, forgiving yet never forgetting.

He gives an eye-witness account of major issues that pressurized particularly the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki, including his perplexing stance in the HIV/Aids crisis, how South Africa had to grapple with obdurate Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and sensitive global matters such as having to cope with domineering world powers.  

He tells of personal experiences as an adviser, such as an extraordinary ambush in his own Presidency office by an eccentric ex-Minister of Health. He describes views expressed and messages exchanged during unfolding critical events, such as the ousting of Thabo Mbeki.

Heard is happy not to be part of the punditocracy.  His book is neither academic treatise nor second or third hand history – nor does it lean over-heavily on media clippings and others’ views.

It gives his own view of the human face of government –what it was like being there. 



Tony Heard, a former editor of the Cape Times, was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom by the World Association of Newspapers and the Pringle Medal after his full-page interview with then banned ANC leader in exile Oliver Tambo in November 1985. For his open defiance of censorship laws, Heard was arrested in his office under apartheid security laws and later dismissed as editor of the broadsheet.

Heard would go on to cross the line from journalism to special adviser in the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki. Decades later, he has penned a highly personal account of working in the government from 1994, first as adviser to Minister Kader Asmal, then spending a decade in the Presidency, and a dozen years elsewhere in government advising and speech-writing up to 2016.