Award-winning journalist Zubeida Jaffer launches publishing company with her daughter
“We were so acutely aware last year that life was short. Ruschka pointed out to me that if I were to drop dead, she would not know where to start to access my body of work.”
This is the conversation between a mother and her daughter which led to award-winning journalist Zubeida Jaffer launching her own publishing company called Number10Publishers and she has taken back all three of her best-selling titles from established publishing houses.
Jaffer has created her own publishing imprint and partnered with her daughter, Ruschka Jaffer, who is a high-school teacher in Gauteng.
Number10Publishers is now issuing her three titles, Our Generation, Love in the Time of Treason and Beauty of the Heart (The Life and Times of Charlotte MannyaMaxeke) in print, electronic and audio versions.
“I have been wanting to do this for a long time. The pandemic forced me to move faster,” she said.
Jaffer said the three books provide an interesting insight into South Africa’s national story, stretching from 1871 to 2001. She also decided to introduce the books in a trio because she believes it will hugely benefit the next generation to be exposed to the range of experience captured in the intensely personal stories.
Starting her own publishing company was not just about the books but also Jaffer’s way to codify 40 years of journalism experience in a form that could be of benefit to others instead of gathering dust in her study. As a teacher, her daughter Ruschka provided invaluable insights into possible ways in which to share her story-telling expertise.
She added that she has for a long time been concerned that writers are not central to the publishing industry and she will seek to develop a model that favours the writer.
“The time has come that we, as storytellers, have to claim our centrality in the business model. We stand outside the process and have had to make do with the crumbs pushed our way,” she said.
Jaffer is a journalist, author and activist, and graduated from UCT and Rhodes University. Jaffer also holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York where she won the best foreign student award in 1996. Her journalism career spans over 40 years beginning when she walked into the Cape Argus newsroom seeking a holiday job. Little did she know that she was stepping into her future role as a news reporter and an inadvertent anti-apartheid activist.
“I did not choose journalism. Journalism chose me,” she said.
Her memoir, Our Generation, eloquently tells the story of her emotional journey through the years of South Africa’s turbulence into a new democracy. It has been translated into Arabic.
Her second book, Love in the Time of Treason, is the story of Ayesha Dawood of Worcester who was charged with treason alongside Nelson Mandela in the 1950s. It is published internationally under the title, On Trial with Mandela.
Her third book, Beauty of the Heart, the Life and Times of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, tells the story of a formidable South African woman leader who also became South Africa’s first black female graduate.
Her work has earned her numerous local and international awards. These include the Muslim Views Achiever Award as well as the Honour Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the University of Missouri in the USA.
In 1994, she was selected as one of seven media professionals in the country to help oversee the relationship between political parties and the media during this country’s first democratic elections. Also In 1994, she became the first woman on the African continent to receive the Percy Qoboza Award from the National Association of Black Journalists in the USA.
In 2020 she won the prestigious Allan Kirkland Soga Lifetime Achievement Award which recognises a sustained and extraordinary contribution to journalism.
Jaffer lives in Wynberg, Cape Town where her family has resided for close to 60 years.
“Maxeke rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She made up her own mind about where to focus her energies. She chased her dreams and came into her own – defying the architects of both colonisation and apartheid. Hers was a triumphant spirit that powered on in spite of the multitude of odds stacked against her. It is the courage and strength of the women of the time, Maxeke and many others, which is the focal point, as well as the history of resistance by black women.”