About Us

About Us

The Weekly Mail was started in mid-1985 by a group of journalists who had been recently retrenched from the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Express, which had both closed down. The paper was run on a shoestring, but made possible by the revolution in “desktop publishing” of the 1980s. 

The space for contestation of the apartheid regime was closing down, and these journalists felt there should be a publication that kept that space open. It would report news that the South African public was technically not allowed to know, particularly the news of township “unrest” and police repression that was restricted under the State of Emergency laws promulgated by then-president PW Botha in 1985. 

The Weekly Mail often sailed close to the legal wind, trying to dodge these emergency laws and inform the public about what was really going on in South Africa. The country was in a state of barely suppressed civil war as more and more people challenged the authority of the apartheid government. The paper revealed the white rulers’ support for Renamo in Mozambique and kept a tally of activists in detention. Eventually, in 1988, the state succeeded in shutting down The Weekly Mail for three months, but support for the paper was rallied and it reopened in late 1988 and kept going. 

“The paper for a changing South Africa” was the motto given with the paper’s masthead, and in the years from the unbanning of the liberation movements to the first fully democratic election in 1994 it detailed a fast-changing South Africa for its readers. One explosive exposé was the paper’s revelation of the apartheid state’s funding and training of Inkatha death squads. But the paper also covered less explosive issues, such as a developing multiracial culture and the vibrant music and art of the time. It introduced many vital new voices to readers and set up a training programme for a new generation of South African journalists. 

In the mid-1990s, a deal with the British paper The Guardian integrated that publication’s international content with the Mail’s South African coverage, beginning the process that would see The Weekly Mail become the Mail & Guardian. It would keep that name, now a well-established brand in the Southern African media landscape, after 2002, when Zimbabwean media entrepreneur Trevor Ncube took over ownership of the company. In that time, the paper had launched South Africa’s first internet news site, as well as uncovering major scandals in the oil industry (“Oilgate”) and exposing commissioner of police Jackie Selebi’s corrupt relationship with a gangster. 

Today, the Mail & Guardian is still South Africa’s leading investigative publication, a forum for debate about the country and its politics, and a provider of the top arts and culture coverage. It operates across several websites, including M&G OnlineThought Leader and M&G Africa.

The M&G has received numerous accolades and awards for its online work, often scooping the inaugural digital awards in various competitions. It was the first to win the multi-platform award at the 2013 Sikuvile awards. The M&G scooped the CNN Multichoice Africa Journalism Award for digital journalism in 2012 and the online multimedia award at the 2012 Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards

The M&G's website won three Bookmarks awards in 2010 and 2011, one of which was a gold award for its Nelson Mandela tribute site. It received three Webby Honourable Mentions in 2008 for its Thought Leader blogging platform and in 2001, the site was voted one of the world's top 175 websites by Forbes.com


The publication belongs to M&G Media Limited which is 77.69% owned by Zimbabwean publisher and entrepreneur Trevor Ncube. A 10% share each is held by the M&G Staff Share Trust and Media Development Investment Fund and the remaining 2.31% in shares is attributed to other minorities.

More about the Mail & Guardian

A 30-second guide

The Mail & Guardian
Previously known as The Weekly Mail. Some of its critics and fans still know it for short as The Wail. A South African newspaper, published nationwide each Friday, aimed at serious readers.

The Mail & Guardian Online
Previously known as eM&G and the Daily Mail & Guardian. First cousin, once removed, to the Mail & Guardian. A pan-African daily online newspaper, published all day, all week, aimed at serious and not-so-serious readers.

Mail & Guardian focus
Political analysis, investigative reporting, Southern African news, comprehensive coverage of local arts, music and popular culture, and more ...

Mail & Guardian Online focus
Local, international and African hard news, sport and business; publishing analytical, in-depth reports from its print edition, and more ...

History of the Mail & Guardian
Founded 1985 by a group of retrenched journalists from the deceased Rand Daily Mail. Built up a reputation for nose-thumbing attitude to the establishment and for uncovering Inkathagate scandal. Favourite prison reading of Nelson Mandela; banned for a while by PW Botha. In recent years, continues to be a thorn in the side of gravy-train politicians with reports on Oilgate, the police chief and more. In 2005, the M&G newspaper turned 20. Find out more

History of the Mail & Guardian Online
First online newspaper in Africa, founded 1994 as a service to readers outside South Africa. Evolved into a separate product run by a separate company, but now enjoys a closer relationship as a division of the newspaper. Today, it continues to be one of the top news destinations on the African continent.

Mail & Guardian readers
Niche market, interested in a critical approach to politics, arts and current affairs. Large numbers of readers among professionals, academics, diplomats, lobbyists, non-governmental groups.

Mail & Guardian Online readers
Broad-based readership of South Africans and Africans who prefer their daily news to be indepth and insightful. Plus a large readership abroad of expats, would-be tourists, foreigners with a special interest in Africa and more. A generally argumentative bunch: see for yourself on Thought Leader.

Mail & Guardian owners
Originally owned by hundreds of small shareholders who bought small blocks of shares at R1 000 each, as part of a surge of 'reader power' to respond to the death of the Rand Daily Mail. In the early 1990s, the Guardian newspaper group in London became the largest shareholder when it came to the rescue of the then-ailing company. In 2002, the Guardian reduced its shareholding to 10% and sold the majority share at 87,5% to Zimbabwean media owner and entrepreneur Trevor Ncube. Having relocated to South Africa, Ncube also took over as CEO of the company.

Mail & Guardian Online owners
Originally a separate division of the Mail & Guardian. In 1997 a 65% share was sold to internet service provider MWeb, but then bought back in 2008 by Trevor Ncube's M&G Media, the company that publishes the M&G newspaper.

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