IN the early hours of Saturday, 1 February, community icon Munadia Karaan passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was 47.
Former news editor, webmaster, presenter and programme manager at Voice of the Cape, she was a larger-than-life personality. She was always much more than the parts. Her bubbly personality – enhanced by her consummate skills in English and Afrikaans – made her a popular, well-rounded and versatile presenter.
Or as VOC station manager, Moegsin Khan, told the media: Munadia was cut out for radio.
Munadia joined Voice of the Cape in Ramadan 1995, and was a member of the first news team to broadcast from the Waterfront. A product of the Strand and the youngest of three children, she studied journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and did her internship at the SABC.
After a stint in the corporate world at Sanlam and doing freelance work at VOC, Munadia came on board as news editor in 2000.
Her work ethic, not only as a journalist – but as a financial consultant and community activist – was superhuman. Munadia worked long hours and set high standards, expecting others to follow. Her work was her passion, and her passion was her work.
This was strongly evident in the news department where journalists under her watch would be confronted if they didn’t meet her muster. She did not suffer mediocrity. At the same time, she passed on many diverse skills to those who were under her.
Working in the Islamic milieu, Munadia was trail-blazer. She had to meet all the challenges of being a woman in a typically patriarchal environment resentful of a female being in charge. But being optimistically assertive and a determined go-getter, she won the battles one-by-one.
Her baby, though, was the VOC website, a project which she started. Vocfm.co.za emerged to garner millions of page views around the globe every month, reflecting a combination of in-depth articles, blogs, podcasts and hard news stories. She worked on the website up until her passing.
But it was as a tenacious investigator that she garnered respect in media circles, tackling issues where many feared to tread such as homosexuality, abortion, music and marital violence.
She broke the ground many presenters take for granted today. She particularly enjoyed investigating the Hajj, and her work on Muslim marriages won her the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award in 2009.
When Munadia fell ill, her courage as a journalist – and a human being – shone through. Always honest, empathetic and uncompromising, she decided to face up to her cancer and write about it.
An intensely private person in spite of her public persona, Munadia really opened up on her blog, giving solace, hope and succour to thousands. Disease is a great equaliser she wrote, saying that she wouldn’t wish chemo on her worst enemy. Giving up was simply not an option; as long as Allah gave her air to breathe, she would carry on.
And carry on she did, right up until the end. Although wheelchair bound, she performed an ‘umrah with her family in December. But only when her phone fell silent at the end of January, did we realise that Munadia had lost her strength, and was finally slipping away.
After drifting into unconsciousness for a few days, she opened her eyes early Saturday, recited her kalimah shahadah, and quietly passed on to her Lord. To say that we will miss her enthusiasm, her drive and her infectious laughter is an understatement. We will miss her, and Cape Town will miss her.
May Allah Almighty grant Munadia Karaan peace, rest and Jannat ul-Firdous, ameen.