'She was the real deal': Late journalist Solly Maphumulo remembered

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Solly Maphumulo was described as old-school journalist who was indefatigable and brave.
Solly Maphumulo was described as old-school journalist who was indefatigable and brave.
  • Celebrated journalist Solly Maphumulo died on Tuesday. 
  • Former colleagues and friends paid tribute to her on social media on Wednesday. 
  • The former editor of The Star, Kevin Ritchie, described Maphumulo as indefatigable and brave. 

Tributes and praise for celebrated, award-winning journalist Solly Maphumulo poured in on Wednesday as colleagues and friends learnt of her death on Tuesday. 

Maphumulo's death was met with disbelief and shock by those who knew her on Twitter, where she herself kept a low profile. 

According to the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef), Maphumulo died of Covid-19-related complications. 

Kevin Ritchie, the former editor of The Star, where Maphumulo worked for many years, described her as an old-school journalist who was indefatigable and brave. 

"She was also a very honest and sweet person, despite working in a cold and crucible environment. She never lost her incredible kindness," Ritchie told News24. 

"She was always willing to collaborate with other reporters - especially younger reporters."

He said part of Maphumulo's magic was that she was a great foot-in-the-door specialist.

"You'd give her the brief and she'd get out there and get the story. She was the definitive 'pre-celebrity-era' journalist - she was the real thing.

"When you look at the responses on social media, they attest to both her professional acumen and her incredibly warm personality. With the so-called 'celebrity journalist' there is, sadly, often a sense of selfishness and narcissism - she was none of that."

Ritchie related how Maphumulo would never hesitate to help colleagues out who got stuck chasing leads by helping them to get hold of an elusive source. 

'She was brilliant'

Japhet Ncube, also a former editor at the newspaper, told News24 Maphumulo was one of the most dedicated and hard-working journalists he had ever worked with. 

"She was the kind of person who chased a story to the end. We broke so many stories from the crime and justice cluster, all through her list of contacts. She was the kind of newsroom leader that you needed. In most cases, her work spoke for her - she was brilliant and I am very sorry to hear that she has passed away, it's very sad."

Heartfelt tributes for Maphumulo kept pouring in on Twitter on Wednesday, as those who knew her and worked with her started to come to terms with her sudden death. 

Tragic loss for her family and the journalism fraternity

Zingisa Mkhuma, Sunday Independent editor - in a Sanef statement on Wednesday - said Maphumulo had fallen ill as soon as she returned from leave last week and had complained about a tight chest.

"She was admitted to hospital last Tuesday, 5 January, and she told me they had placed her on oxygen and had given her a drip. I thought she would be out in a few days and I was shocked to be told she passed away," Mkhuma added.

Former colleague and friend Baldwin Ndaba said Maphumulo arrived at the Star when there was an exodus of black women journalists in newsrooms and her rise in journalism was like lightning.

"She exposed shenanigans at the Hawks during the tenure of General Berning Ntlemeza. She broke the story on some law enforcement authorities and criminals using 'grabbers' to intercept conversations of private individuals," Ndaba added.

Former colleague Cecilia Russell described her as a "brilliant and determined journalist who was brave, a top-class journalist and investigative reporter".

- Additional reporting by Canny Maphanga

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