Picture: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI
Picture: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI

Solly Maphumulo was a courageous crusader for truth

By Time of article published Jan 17, 2021

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By Jovial Rantao

Johannesburg - Solani Maphumulo arrived in the City of Gold as a rough diamond, seemingly unpolished at a cursory glance but nonetheless a priceless gem inside.

From the get go, Solly, as we fondly called her, exuded the humility of a lamb, the determination of a tiger and the bravery of a lion, all to fulfil her dream of becoming a journalist at one of the country’s leading newspapers, The Star.

And nothing was going to come between Solly and her dream.

Years later, as we now write her story, we know that nothing did.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Solly sat at a corner desk, hungry to learn at the feet of senior journalists. Later in her career, she returned the favour, ever ready to help interns and junior journalists take those first steps into the world of journalism.

Solly went to extraordinary lengths to make it in the big city and at the big paper.

As an intern she hitched lifts with strangers on trucks to travel over 500km from her home in KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg, to chase her dream.

She was the first to arrive and the last to leave the newsroom, doing whatever was required and staying for as long as needed for her work to be published.

A student of the school of hard-knocks journalism that separates the truly golden wheat from the chaff, Solly went on to break stories that would etch her name into the record books of SA journalism greats.

Solly was an editor’s dream. When she caught whiff of a story, there was no letting go until she got it. She’d be out the door, on the streets, chasing every lead.

No story was ever too big for Solly and no individual was too powerful for her. It did not matter whether you were the all-powerful president, a cabinet minister or the CEO of a major company, Solly stood tall. Solly owned her voice. Solly was a crusader for truth.

She brought down a provincial police commissioner taking kickbacks from a corrupt businessman. This provincial police commissioner ended up serving a jail term.

Solly went on to expose the then-national police commissioner, who, instead of acting against the said provincial police commissioner, tipped him off.

Solly’s bravery was tested as the mighty and powerful unleashed the power of the state against her, tapping Solly’s phone and even following her.

These unlawful activities were designed to intimidate and stop her from seeking the truth. But dig she did, bringing to light stories that earned her the respect of colleagues and the very same rogues who sought to silence her.

Solly rose to the top because she had varied talents and strengths. One of her greatest strengths was her ability to network and gain the confidence of sources, people trusted her with life-and-death secrets. Her sources were at the highest level in government and institutions across SA.

She was that kind of person, her good soul walked into the room a few seconds before she did.

Journalism was Solly’s life. Journalism was where Solly found satisfaction and happiness from exposing fraud, corruption and other wrongdoings

Journalism was where she found her home away from home. The newsroom was where she found a new family.

Journalism was also where Solly found love and marriage. A tall, dark colleague from Business Report stole her heart and they built a home together.

On the night of January 12, there was something surreal about the ticker-tape on our TV screens. The words read something like: “Another 416 South Africans have died from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours”.

It was, and remains, unbelievable that our Solly was one of the 416. But a statistic she was not. She was an incredible human being who left behind a special something in every life she touched and her amazing legacy will live on forever.

When future generations read the history of South Africa they will know that Solly Maphumulo was here. She has left indelible prints on hearts, minds … and so many newspapers.

Rest in peace, Sis.

Sunday Independent

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