A Nose for News and a Love for Speed: A Look at Beloved Carte Blanche Presenter Derek Watts' Eventful Life

A Nose for News and a Love for Speed: A Look at Beloved Carte Blanche Presenter Derek Watts' Eventful Life

  • Derek Watts, the beloved presenter of Carte Blanche, has died after a battle with lung cancer
  • Watts was a household name in South Africa, and his death has been met with widespread sadness and grief
  • Watts who is survived by his wife Belinda and children, Tyrone and Kirstin, had an illustrious life in broadcast journalism
  • Briefly News takes a look at his early life, education, career highlights and fascination with motoring journalism

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Derek Watts, the beloved presenter of Carte Blanche, passed away on Tuesday, 22 August, after a battle with lung cancer. He was 74 years old.

Watts was a household name in South Africa, and his death has been met with widespread sadness and grief. He was a brilliant journalist, a gifted presenter, and a warm and funny man. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and the millions of South Africans who loved him.

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Derek Watts
Derek Watts was the beloved presenter of Carte Blanche and a keen car fanatic. Image: @DerekWatts/Twitter
Source: Twitter

Watts was known for his sharp wit, incisive interviews, and commitment to investigative journalism. He was a fearless reporter who never shied away from tough stories. He was also a gifted storyteller, and he brought a unique perspective to every story he covered.

According to News24, Watts' health journey took a severe turn in June when he decided to step away from his professional commitments to prioritise his well-being.

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Last year, he was diagnosed with skin cancer that had spread to his lungs.

Briefly News takes a deeper look into the life of Derek Watts and the things that made him tick.

Watts' early life

Derek Watts was born on 22 August 1948 in Hillbrow, in the heart of Johannesburg, Transvaal. He later moved to the second largest city in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo (then Southern Rhodesia), when he was five years old and grew up there.

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"I was not good at school" - Derek Watts

According to an interview on 702FM, Watts shared that he was not good at school and didn't like studying, adding that he was unsure about his future when he completed his schooling career.

Hopping around a few jobs in his early 20s, from the army to studying computer operations and working for a plastics company, Watts eventually landed on journalism after his former told him to re-direct his efforts and politely decided to let him go.

"I thought my boss was very unfair, and I came down in the morning, and he looked at me, and I was probably a bit red-eyed and not looking fully awake and he asked me at that time in the morning: 'Derek do you really enjoy this job?'
"He said: 'Have you ever thought of journalism?', which I suppose was his way of firing me, but it suddenly sparked something in me, and I went back to Zimbabwe and joined the Herald newspaper."

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A look at how Derek's career in broadcasting was destiny

Upon returning to South Africa, Watts debuted in journalism and television at the SABC, where he had to learn Afrikaans, too, The Citizen reports.

While initially employed as a news writer, he later, by chance, ended up in front of the camera in a sportscast.

“Those days you just went onto set without any makeup and was seated on set in whatever you were wearing at the time," Watts recalled in an interview.

Derek Watts's career in broadcasting was a case of fate. He started with small appearances on various shows but eventually landed an anchor job on the broadcaster's sports show, Topsport.

Watts eventually landed the TV role on Carte Blanche that scores of South Africans know him for today. He had been the presenter of the current affairs show since its inception when it aired its first episode on 21 August 1988.

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In a short statement, the show's executive producer, John Webb, said:

“We’re all deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague and patriarch. Having been with Carte Blanche from the beginning, Derek became synonymous with the show, and we acknowledge that it’s largely because of him that we have become who we are.
"Derek was a consummate professional and a dyed-in-the-wool television journalist. But, more importantly, he was a profoundly decent and kind man. We will miss him.”

Watts was known for his journalistic integrity and investigations of corruption.

Derek, a devoted husband and father of two

According to The South African, Watts is survived by his wife Belinda and children, Tyrone and Kirstin.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Derek shared how he had met his wife, Belinda in the pet food aisle of a local Pick n Pay store in Benmore. Belinda was picking up supplies for her cat while Derek was tending to a stray dog he had taken in.

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Derek and Belinda were immediately drawn to each other and began dating soon after.

The couple have been married for close to 35 years.

Derek's fascination with cars

Derek had a passion for motoring journalism and has been writing about and reviewing everything automotive for several years, The Citizen reports.

In an interview with the publication, he said:

“I have been writing about cars for about two decades. I love it; it is structured and makes me feel like I am in control.”

For Watts, motoring news added a measure of predictability to his diary.

Derek Watss' fascination with cars
Powerful cars were close to Derek Watts' heart as he enjoyed driving and reviewing them. Image: @DerekWatts/Twitter
Source: Twitter

Over and above his car reviews and exciting test drives, Watts enjoyed posting about his adventures in his small Fiat 500 on his social media. Watts shared that it was the first car I drove on dusty Bulawayo roads, and it was still the car he drove until the very end.

Derek Watts: Veteran journalist dies after battle with lung cancer

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In a related article, Briefly News reported that the South African media fraternity is mourning the death of renowned media personality Derek Watts, who died on Tuesday, 22 August 2023.

Seasoned South African broadcaster Derek Watts has died. According to reports on social media, the Carte Blanche host succumbed to lung cancer. The star was reportedly diagnosed with skin cancer, which spread to his lungs.

The news of Watts' death was reportedly confirmed by his Carte Blanche co-host Ruda Landman, who said he died in the early hours of 22 August. M-Net also shared a statement with Briefly News confirming the reports.

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Source: Briefly News

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