He wrote without fear or favour, and he was unbiased in his approach
WIDELY known and respected across the country for his extensive knowledge and his quick and dry wit, veteran Times Media political journalist Patrick Cull died in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
Cull, who was 70, died peacefully at his home after a short illness.
He is survived by his wife, Tanya, and children Patrick, Dominic, Tristan and Teaghan.
Condolences and tributes poured in from around the country yesterday to both the Cull home and The Herald, which Cull joined in 1977 and served until he retired from the company in 2011.
He carried on as a columnist and commentator until he became ill.
Tanya Cull said she and the family were still in shock and that her husband, who was “loved by many”, would be sorely missed by all.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.
The Herald editor-in-chief Heather Robertson described Cull as “a legend in the newspaper world. He lived life large and was respected by all for his coverage of the big political stories from parliament, in the provincial legislature and in the municipality.
“All at The Herald express our deepest condolences to his wife Tanya and his children.”
ANC Eastern Cape provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said: “We are saddened and shocked by the passing of Patrick, the old journalist of The Herald. The country has lost a principled journalist, rational and always objective in his assessment and analysis.
“A rare breed who never disempowered the community and impoverished society because of selfish inclinations and his beliefs.”
Chief whip of the DA in the Eastern Cape legislature and the party’s deputy provincial leader, Bobby Stevenson, said: “I have known Patrick well as a journalist since 1983. Since then we have had weekly contact.
“He was the last surviving correspondent of his kind. He was the last to have served under the old regime and the new regime. This is truly the passing of a legend,” Stevenson said.
“He was very professional and he had both a sharp mind and a sharp pen. He wrote without fear or favour, and he was unbiased in his approach. He wrote it as he saw it.
“And these were the things which gave him the ability to interact with politicians from across the entire spectrum.”
Cull, who held a BA Honours from Rhodes University, started his career as a teacher in East London, where he taught for six years. He began his long career with Times Media as a sports writer and later became a political correspondent, and then political editor.
He was later appointed head of the political, municipal and business hub at the Eastern Province Herald, which was later known as The Herald.
His work, including his columns, was widely published. Cull also wrote for a number of other publications during his long and successful career.
Former Herald journalist and close friend of the family Samantha Venter said: “As a parliamentary correspondent in Cape Town, Patrick was known by politicians and journalists in South Africa and abroad. He travelled the globe and even undertook a journey to Russia with former president FW de Klerk.”
On behalf of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, chief executive Kevin Hustler said: “An exceptional voice has been silenced in the Eastern Cape’s socio-economic dialogue and political landscape. As the business chamber we will always remember Cull for his sharp mind, deep insight and broad knowledge of governance, business and political issues affecting the Eastern Cape.”
Looking back at her interactions with Cull, The Herald leader page editor Susan Stead recalled that he had also worked on Times Media publications such as the Weekend Post and the Evening Post.
During this time he had witnessed all the “huge changes in the national, provincial and local government political landscape”.
“He covered parliament for The Herald for many years, spending half the year in Cape Town and half in Port Elizabeth.
“He had many, often-hilarious stories to tell of the goings-on in the old ‘white’ parliament.
“One was of the National Party MP who, in the days before cellphones, would phone him from public call boxes, to avoid detection, with tip-offs about what had transpired at caucus meetings,” Stead recalled.
Long-time journalist and sub-editor Bob Kernohan, who had known Cull for 42 years, described his former colleague as being among the last of a breed of liberal journalists.
“He was a confidant of several politicians, in the National Party, the Progressive Federal Party, later the DA, and the ANC as well as being on extremely positive terms with Labour Party leader the Rev Allan Hendrickse, of Uitenhage,” Kernohan said.
He said Cull was present when Hendrickse broke the law by taking his famous swim at Kings Beach.