Solly was a great newshound with a heart of gold

Solly Maphumulo, late news editor of the Sunday Independent. Picture: Thobeka Zazi Ndabula.

Solly Maphumulo, late news editor of the Sunday Independent. Picture: Thobeka Zazi Ndabula.

Published Jan 17, 2021


Johannesburg - We recently lost Solly Maphumulo. The late news editor of the Sunday Independent died last week due to complications related to her contraction of Covid-19.

My heart bleeds for Solly’s family, her mom, sister, brothers, and her friends.

I know it takes effort, love, faith, hope, prayers, tears, strength and many sacrifices for a mother to raise an African child and to nurture her into what Solly finally became – a great newshound with a big heart of gold.

Solly, like many children from poor black families, represented the hope and aspiration of her parents, siblings and her community.

It is the norm in many of our African families, once a child has overcome all the ills and misfortunes that dog those from marginalised and rural sections of society – the child becomes a role model and a celebrated figure, in their own right, within their family, and wider community.

Solly was that child. The one who managed to triumph over historical hurdles, attain a tertiary qualification, and also turned out to be one of the finest journalists this country has ever produced.

And just recently, she said she went to college only when her uncle decided to pay for her fees because she got good matric results.

Practising as a journalist proved to her family that their investment in her education, despite of the endless punishing challenges the family had to overcome, was the right thing to do, because it enabled her to make a continually meaningful contribution to society in her dedicated practice of journalism.

In her achievements, the hopes of a better quality of life within her family had become a palpably lived reality. Her death has sadly put paid to all those hopes and aspirations, of not only her family but her community back in rural kwaMaphumulo, as well as the media fraternity as a whole.

She still had a lot to give: she had the skill, the contacts, the ability, the integrity and a nose for news.

It was baffling that someone who was such a remarkable journalistic talent, found herself unemployed in a country where there is a dearth of employment and growth opportunities, due to the sluggishness of transformation, especially for credible African female investigative journalists.

It confirms, therefore, that there is simply no real commitment to transformation in many of our newsrooms, especially for those who don’t quite fit into the mainstream liberal narrative and agenda.

If you worked with Solly in the newsroom, you soon got to understand that she could never accept information at face value. She interrogated every angle. And, as to be expected, she was a sceptic of note. Her scepticism often bordered on plain stubbornness. Inevitably, we crossed swords from time to time.

But, this proved she was a seasoned journalist, who treated information as questionable until proven true by further digging into the facts, and sieving such facts to get to the heart of the truth, in the public interest. It means, I must reiterate, Solly could not easily be duped into peddling fake news. She was firmly focused on the public interest.

Solly also brought ubuntu into the craft of journalism. She was neither aloof, nor was she blind and deaf to the struggles of the downtrodden class, who are still mostly black people in our country.

She wanted to give voice to the voiceless. She was very sensitive to the socio-economic problems of the underclass and those less privileged. She never forgot where she came from: how her family and community had contributed to her rise in the journalism milieu.

Like many black professionals, who have to contend with the realities of the “black tax”, Solly knew she had a responsibility towards the well-being of her parents and siblings. She helped support her family.

A short spell before she was to receive her first salary, in December last year, she kept asking: “We mhleli, uqinisile ukuthi bazongikhokhela ngo December? Phela ngiya ekhaya, umama ulindile’ (My dear boss, are you certain the admin people have all my information on the system? My mom is waiting for me back home, and she is happy that I am working again, so I need to take her out for lunch, and help out the family.) That was Solly.

She was, ironically, given a man’s name at birth by her dad, she told me. But that was not a mistake because I believe the universe realised then that it was about to give us a woman who had balls – a woman of courage.

As editor, I was glad to have her back in the newsroom. Although she was reluctant to be news editor, I thought, with time, I would mentor and probably influence her – to one day become an editor or a media manager.

But it was not to be. Fate would have none of it. I am still wondering if this is a bad dream from which I will soon awake.

My dedication to Solomon – a young, beautiful soul – gone too soon. She was the epitome of the famous poem – – by Maya Angelou.

Sunday Independent

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