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Karima Brown: Courageous and fearless

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Karima Brown: Courageous and fearless

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Dr Blade Nzimande is a politician, sociologist, university lecturer and Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

This tribute by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology and General Secretary of the SA Communist Party, to journalist Karima Brown, who died of Covid-19-related complications, could not be read at her memorial owing to time constraints.

I speak with great sadness over the unimaginable loss of a close friend, a writer and a media compatriot whose writing and narration resonated with many South Africans across racial lines. 

A journalist par excellence, fiercely independent, courageous, fearless and uncompromising in her pursuit of the truth. 

Karima will be remembered by South Africans, politicians and her colleagues as a courageous journalist and political analyst who was never scared to venture into unknown territory in pursuit of the truth and justice. 

The democratic principle of “freedom of speech” – meaning people have the right to freely express their views and opinions, and to question or criticise the government – is enabled by a free, independent media, she strongly believed. 

Her investigative journalism and reporting also raised debates and well-informed and sometimes provocative discussion. She was the type of journalist who paid lots of attention to detail and researched her stories, using her well-acquired tools of analysis to direct her news stories and commentary. She was indeed a public “watchdog” who always monitored political developments and dynamics with acute intellect. 

Karima pursued and practised a very unique kind of journalism – that of being open about her political and ideological inclinations towards the working class and the poor – and wanted her journalism to be openly evaluated and judged from that angle. This is a far cry from those who seek to shield their often blatant biases (pretending to be neutral arbiters) by trying to hide behind the badge of journalism. She hated this hypocritical journalism! 

One of her strong characteristics was to be able to hold the authorities to carry out their elective mandates to voters, particularly to the destitute, the workers and the downtrodden members of our society. She had an eye to spot abuse of power. 

She was a firm believer in a free press because if the media were not able to report truthfully on events, important information might be hidden and voters would remain in the dark. Equally, if the media were not allowed to facilitate open and free discussion, the views and concerns of ordinary people might not be heard. 

However, Karima also understood the very close relationship between capitalist ownership of the media and its impact on the type of journalism practised by many. She stood for the transformation of ownership patterns in the media as the true foundation of media freedom. In her later life she joined the New Age and Independent Group of newspapers because she saw an opportunity for alternative and potentially progressive forms of media ownership. But [as soon as] she realised these media houses were not what they claimed or appeared to be, she even sacrificed a better salary to leave because her beliefs and principles were violated. I will forever honour her memory for such a principled stance! 

Indeed, I agree with many who have characterised her as “just a prolific journalist and commentator who loved her people and dedicated her own career and life to tell the truth regardless of whether it would jeopardise her own career”.

She was a mentor, mother, colleague, daughter and confidante to countless people throughout a life lived fully, and with deep commitment to her most cherished values and principles. Karima and her journalism were deeply rooted in her activism as part of the student and democratic movement, especially in the 1980s. 

Karima was one of a kind and I dare say she will be difficult to replace – though her example must be emulated by many in the media space! 

Her beautiful spirit will live on through her dear son, who she loved so dearly, and we wish him strength during this difficult moment.

I know that there were two things that kept her going – her son and hope for a better South Africa – otherwise to face another day would have been tough, and I know how many days she must have had like that. 

Now my hope is that she will rest in peace knowing she did all that she could for the liberation and transformation of South Africa through her understanding of the media as an important site of struggle.

I personally will certainly miss the fierce and robust debates we often had, including her very incisive analysis, often rooted in the class realities and struggles in our country. And even her stubbornness around things she believed strongly in will be missed! She was deeply sympathetic and associated herself with the SACP and the working class. Precisely because of that she never treated us with kid gloves, but held us, in the SACP and within the ranks of the working-class formations, to the highest ethical and political standards. She often gave us a very hard time, no matter how much we complained. 

Hamba kahle, Karima, sohlala sikukhumbula! DM/MC

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  • Her time at Independent Media as Surve’s point Person, at some stage needs to be evaluated. Its not surprising this tribute from an ANC bigwig as she showed her true colours in toy toying in ANC regalia -whilst being an ‘independent’ journalist.

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