Karima Brown was loved by many but was personally close to a small inner circle of friends and family members, says the writer. Picture: Sharon Seretlo
Karima Brown was loved by many but was personally close to a small inner circle of friends and family members, says the writer. Picture: Sharon Seretlo

Karima Brown, the doyenne of SA journalism

By Shannon Ebrahim Time of article published Mar 5, 2021

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Karima Brown can only be described as someone larger than life, a fiercely independent journalist who was always ready to take on the world at all costs. I have yet to come across someone as brave and relentless in their pursuit of truth and justice. When others shied away from speaking truth to power as they were worried about losing their jobs or their privilege, she would always say she was prepared to face down starvation for what was right.

I first became close to Karima when she was Group Politics Editor at Independent Media, and she was effectively my immediate boss. From day one she filled me with awe, inspiration, and a bit of trepidation. Everyone who has ever worked with Karima knew that she was a hard task master and expected as much from you as she expected from herself, which usually meant perfection, or at least a brilliant analysis of the situation at hand.

Karima never suffered fools, and if you were to make it under her mentorship you had to have read all the day’s news by 7am. I was always relieved that my specialisation was foreign affairs and not the entire expanse of local politics.

I remember in the pre-Covid days Karima would regularly ask me to come on The Fix to analyse the week’s newspapers, but it was a daunting task, as no matter how many newspapers I had managed to read in one week, Karima would always know more that her guest expert, and have the real back story associated with any unfolding drama.

She had her secret network of contacts that stretched far and wide into every sector of the country, and I most admired her for her loyal following among those on the left who were equally as committed to social justice and human rights as she was.

Whatever a person’s level in society, Karima held everyone to the same standard, and had zero tolerance for corruption, backroom deals, dishonesty, and greed. As a result, she had her detractors, but there is no denying that she was widely respected as a member of the fourth estate across the country.

Her sudden passing after a relatively short battle against Covid-19 has literally shocked and stunned the country, as her familiar face and lively analysis on eNCA has made her a household name, and a trusted source of information.

Karima was loved by many but was personally close to a small inner circle of friends and family members.

The irony of this last year in lockdown was that in her copious Facebook posts, Karima was continuously expressing concern for those who had contracted Covid-19, she was always asking people to light a candle in solidarity with their families in what became a monumental national struggle for survival. She would regularly report on the latest number of infections and deaths, and encouraged people to play their part by masking up and social distancing.

Life has a very strange way of throwing the worst curve balls. For someone who struggled with asthma, Karima was always extra careful in terms of taking preventive measures, and spent most of the past year at home, but somehow, somewhere, the virus got her.

It breaks my heart to think that she had interviewed Ambassador Barry Gilder and I on her second to last The Fix show on January 31st. Ambassador Gilder had always wanted Karima and I to go to Damascus and report on the realities on the ground there, and we almost went just before the pandemic set in, but as it turns out, it was the trip that was never to be.

Even though Karima was best known for her analysis on local South African politics, she was well versed in international affairs, and the Middle East was of great interest to her. She would have covered the realities on the ground in Syria just as she saw them, pulling no punches and giving voice to the voiceless. When it came to the rights of the Palestinians and the Sahrawis, Karima was equally as vocal in her support of their struggles for self-determination.

Karima never hid her light under a bushel, she shone so brightly and fought so bravely. The girl who came from Mitchell’s Plain on the Cape Flats, and who rose to great heights in the new democratic South Africa, she will be remembered by many as the doyen of South African journalism.

* Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media Group Foreign Editor.

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