Johannesburg - Senior SABC radio producer Suna Venter’s body was discovered in her Fairlands flat on Thursday, her family confirmed.
The family of the 32-year-old said in a statement that she was recently diagnosed with a cardiac condition known as stress cardiomyopathy, or “Broken Heart Syndrome", believed to be caused by trauma and prolonged periods of unnatural stress.
"Over the course of the past year, she received various threatening SMS messages. Her flat was broken into on numerous occasions, the brake cables of her car were cut and her car’s tyres were slashed. She was shot at and abducted - tied to a tree at Melville Koppies, while the grass around her was set alight," her family said in a statement.
"On a separate occasion earlier this year, she was shot in the face with an unknown weapon and received surgery to remove the metal pellets from her face. During the past year, she was assaulted on three various occasions. Those closest to her believe that her condition was exacerbated, if not caused, by the events of the past year. "
Venter was part of the SABC 8 - a group who were suspended from the public broadcaster after they voiced their concern about unlawful interference in the newsroom and editorial policies that were implemented.
The eight journalists were fired and seven of them were later reinstated after also objecting to former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s policy on not airing footage of violent community protests.
In a statement on behalf of the Venter family, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) current affairs executive producer, Foeta Krige, confirmed her death.
He said that Venter was passionate about international news and current affairs and said she was part of various humanitarian missions in war-torn Libya, Gaza, Egypt and Syria.
“She cared so much about the situation in Syria that she took leave right after the war began to report for RSG from the frontlines,” he said.
“She remained passionate about the welfare of the children she encountered on these assignments up until her death.”
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) interim board expressed its shock at Venter's death.
"Ms Suna Venter was a principled journalist who brought pride to journalism for standing up for ethical journalistic principles in the face of attempts to subvert these principles. Her life and her stand should bring pride to all her colleagues inside and outside the SABC," the board said in a statement.
"On behalf of the staff and management of the SABC, the Interim Board would like to send their sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues."
Venter joined the SABC eight years ago as a producer at RSG current affairs. Krige said that for the past year, as part of the SABC 8, her main aim was to establish an independent newsroom free from editorial interference within the embattled public broadcaster.
He said that Venter was one of the "most dedicated and passionate journalists that he ever had the pleasure of working with".
"Even when doctors advised her to walk away from the stressful working environment at the SABC, she replied that she cannot go before the battle is won."
Venter is survived by her father and mother, Phillip and Christa Venter, and brother and sister Wilhelm and Tessa.
Democratic Alliance spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said the DA learned with great sadness of Venter's passing.
"We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues at RSG. Venter was one of the brave SABC 8 journalists who spoke out against the unlawful interferences and editorial policy changes at the public broadcaster. Suna fought for the freedom, transparency and independence of the media," Van Damme said.
"She was fearless in her fight, despite suffering undue threats, trauma and victimisation. In the past year, Suna was shot in the face with a pellet gun, received threatening messages and was assaulted on three different occasions... Rest in peace Suna, you have indeed fought the good fight."
Van Damme said that the party would follow up with the police.
Trade union Solidarity also expressed shock at Venter's death.
“Suna was a fighter and lived for what she believed in,” Solidarity’s chief executive Dirk Hermann said.
"Solidarity honours her legacy and our thoughts are with her family in this trying time. We hope they will find comfort and peace in the fact that she lived by the courage of her conviction. For that she will be honoured."