Colleagues mourn death of ex-Big Issue man

By Time of article published Jan 11, 2007

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Members of South Africa's film and media industries as well as the ANC have expressed shock and sadness at the death of Richard Ismail who was attacked in his Woodstock home at the weekend.

Ismail, who was attacked on Sunday evening, had been on life support until Wednesday when his family arrived from Johannesburg and took a decision to switch the support off.

He had been stabbed in his left side, and his left kidney and spleen had had to be removed.

Ismail is the former managing director of The Big Issue magazine and both a founding member and former CEO of the annual Sithengi World Cinema Festival.

He is also a former Umkhonto we Sizwe soldier (MK), who worked in the Ashley Kriel Unit in Cape Town and was also among the founding members of the Film Resource Unit in the '80s.

Ismail's FRU colleague and good friend Michael Dearham described Ismail as a "soulmate".

He explained that they had served together as MK comrades.

"We were like brothers. I remember him to be a very focused, dedicated and selfless individual," he said.

"His sole focus was to do his best so that the struggle was forced and won."

He said that when they emerged from the underground, they had jointly shaped the Film Resource Unit to become one of the most solid and successful NGOs in Africa.

James Ngculu, ANC provincial chairperson and former leader of the Ashley Kriel Unit, said he had known Ismail for more than 11 years.

"This is a huge loss for the ANC. Richard Ismail was one of the outstanding members of Umkhonto we Sizwe and a lot of people don't know about that, he was a very humble and disciplined comrade - that is what drove him and made him a leader," said Ngculu.

He said the organisation would ensure that police did everything in their power to arrest "the angry criminals" who killed him.

Michael Auret, CEO and festival director of Sithengi, said Ismail had served the film industry in various capacities

As part of Sithengi's 10th anniversary celebrations in 2005, Ismail was honoured for his roles as former chairperson and CEO of Sithengi during which he contributed significantly to both the governance and development of the organisation.

Auret said they would remember Ismail for his entrepreneurship, leadership and social consciousness.

Joint acting managing director of The Big Issue, Trudy Vlok, said the board and staff at the magazine were all shocked by the attack.

"It is a senseless waste of life. Our thoughts go out to the family and we are hoping that the authorities track the perpetrator.

"It was so sudden for everyone. It is sad that it happened. He will be deeply missed," said Vlok.

Ismail's funeral will be in Johannesburg. Final arrangements are still being made.

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