Veteran journalist and political commentator Karima Brown passed away due to COVID-19 complications on Thursday. Brown had been in hospital for several weeks and was on a ventilator. She was 53 years old. She was a seasoned journalist, broadcaster and media executive and had worked for SABC, Independent Group, Primedia and eMedia amongst others. Brown’s political roots stem from her activism in the ANC and her family. She is known for her hard-hitting, forthright and robust style of journalism in which she holds leaders to account. She has interviewed hundreds of ministers, politicians and leaders. Until recently, she was the host of ‘The Fix’ on eNCA.
Brown was a principled and courageous political activist along with her father Achmat Semaar, an ANC stalwart and community activist who died in 2019. As a student activist in the 1980s, she and many other pupils were arrested and held without charge.
In a statement, the Semaar family said Brown was not just a prolific and well-known South African journalist and commentator, with deep footprints in print and broadcast media, but also and more importantly “a well-loved friend, mentor, mother, colleague, daughter, and confidante to countless people throughout a life lived fully, and with deep commitment to her most cherished values and principles”.
“We are enormously proud of the fierce determination she had shown, since her early years, to get involved in bringing about a more just, inclusive, and anti-racist South Africa. This determination also shaped her fearless approach to journalism. She was driven by a conviction that journalism must be in service of justice,” said the family.
“We are massively grateful for and humbled by the countless messages of support, and prayers, during Karima’s recent hospitalisation. These comfort us as a family during this profoundly painful experience of loss.”
On social media, members of the media fraternity and political figures expressed their shock and sadness, describing her passing as a huge loss for media and democracy in South Africa.
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said she was battling to wrap her mind around the news of Brown’s passing.
“This shocked me to the core. Heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues. Thank you for your fearless commitment to necessary conversations,” she said.
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula called her death “sudden and heart-breaking”.
“She was a brilliant journalist and broadcaster. Sending my deepest condolences to her family, her friends and colleagues. South African media has lost one of its loudest voice – I’ll miss our robust engagements.”
Well-respected journalist Zubeida Jaffer said Karima “did not shy away from the challenges of our time” and was a social justice warrior from her youth to her demise.
Former colleague Gasant Abarder shared his feelings on Twitter.
“I’m gutted. We are poorer for losing Karima Brown and wish her family and friends my sincerest condolences. Disappointed but relieved face,” he wrote.
Seasoned broadcaster Ashraf Garda said Karima was a significant voice in South Africa’s political and media landscape.
“She was always willing to fight from the trenches. Her politics and her opinions were often controversial, but she always made you think beyond the obvious. A huge loss to South Africa. My dua prayers are for her and her family,” he said on Facebook.
Karima Brown will be laid to rest in a private burial ceremony in Johannesburg which will be held in accordance with Islamic rites and traditions.