The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is mourning the deaths of four journalists who died in the past week from Covid-19 complications.
SANEF has learnt with great sadness of the passing of Sunday Independent news editor and investigative journalist Solly Maphumulo; Former Cape Argus photographer Enver Essop; resource coordinator in the SABC newsroom in KZN, Ismail Jinnah, and senior political journalist Knowledge Simelane of Ilanga Newspaper in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), which tracks the deaths of journalists around the world, said that of the 602 media workers known to have died from the new coronavirus, more than half were from Latin America, with 303 fatalities.
PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen said journalists “should have priority access to immunisation upon request.”
“Because of their profession, journalists who go into the field to testify are particularly exposed to the virus. Some of them, especially freelancers and photographers, can’t just work from home.”
Solly Maphumulo – ‘The Soldier‘
Sunday Independent news editor Maphumulo died Tuesday from Covid-19 related complications.
Zingisa Mkhuma, Sunday Independent editor, said Solly’s death was a tragic loss both for her family and the journalism fraternity.
“I called her soldier because of her ability to investigate and get to the bottom of things.”
“She fell ill as soon as she came back from leave last week. She had complained about a tight chest even before we broke off for the festive season. She was admitted to hospital last Tuesday 5th January and she told me they had placed her on oxygen and had given her a drip. I thought she would be out in a few days and I was shocked to be told she passed away.”
“I was very fond of her and she was one of the young ladies I had hoped would be the leaders in our newsroom in the near future,” Mkhuma said.
Former colleague and friend Baldwin Ndaba said Solly came to The Star during an exodus of black women journalists in the newsroom mostly to join private companies while others took jobs in government.
He said the rural girl from KwaMaphumulo in KwaZulu-Natal did not disappoint; her rise in journalism was like lightning. She exposed the shenanigans at the Hawks during the tenure of General Berning Ntlemeza. She broke the story on some law enforcement authorities and criminals using “grabbers,” to intercept conversations of private individuals.
Her former colleague Cecilia Russell described her as a “brilliant and determined journalist.”
Enver Essop – ‘The Gentle Giant’
Former Cape Argus photographer Enver Essop died at the age of 54 on Tuesday after contracting Covid-19, SANEF said.
Essop worked for several news publications, including Die Burger, the Cape Argus and the Cape Times.
He was described by colleagues as a “gentle giant.”
Independent Media editor-in-chief Aneez Salie said: “I am saddened by the news. It was a pleasure working with Enver, nothing was too far for him.”
“It is a reminder to our colleagues to be cautious and to take this virus seriously.”
Photographer Ian Landsberg said: “Very few of the Argus photographers had the ability to capture the nuances of township life. He was a passionate photographer and he captured stories that you could really feel. He took his time when he went out on jobs to really capture an image and tell a beautiful story.”
Ismail Jinnah – ‘The Digital Fundi’
Veteran SABC television and radio producer, Ismail Jinnah, passed away last week following Covid-19 complications at the age of 65. He retired in 2019.
Former colleague Izak Minnaar described Jinnah, who was resource coordinator in the SABC newsroom in KZN when he retired, as an outstanding researcher and trainer.
“He was passionate about training young journalist on how to use technology to advance their careers. He came up with lots of tricks and digital techniques that enabled journalists to excel in researching content for their stories and also to grow their digital skills in studio production.”
Minnaar said Jinnah spent the last years of his career involved the planning and deployment of teams for major projects such as elections.
Former Durban colleague and SANEF KZN convenor Judy Sandison said: “Ismail was a very dedicated and hardworking person whose commitment to excellence shone through in every project he undertook at SABC news – during his time both in Johannesburg and in Durban. He was also a digital fundi who trained news staff to expand their work across digital platforms.”
Knowledge Simelane – ‘A Fountain of Political Knowledge’
Veteran political writer Knowledge Simelane died from a suspected Covid-19 related illness Tuesday.
Editor Philani Mgwaba described Simelane as a man with a fountain of political knowledge and a thorough understanding of government political dynamics, especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“His death has come as a great shock to us.”
“To die alone as he did is incredibly sad. Knowledge was a great and unique human being with an infectious laughter and a great sense of humour, which was a tonic to all of us in the newsroom.”
Mgwaba said the veteran newsman will leave a great void at Ilanga and passed the paper’s condolences to the Simelane family.