Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, says as a journalist Karima Brown exemplified courage and truth-telling.
Gordhan was paying tribute to the veteran journalist and broadcaster at a memorial service at Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg.
He says Brown was not scared to even call out her own colleagues who wittingly or unwittingly defended corruption or advanced State Capture.
“She teaches us and hopes we will continue to do this. That we do not continue to fall for the echo chamber, be satisfied with soundbites but look at the trends and currents unfolding both in the world and our own country and continent and understand them better. And understand their impact on elites and how they manipulate societies. But more importantly, society ends,” says the Minister.
Friend and comrade of Brown, Tyrone Parks, says the veteran journalist was politically conscious and very disciplined. Parks met Brown 36 years ago while they were both studying politics at the University of the Western Cape.
Parks and Brown honed their political activism in the United Democratic Front (UDM) and worked together in the release of Nelson Mandela campaigns.
“She was disciplined in all aspects of her duty. She was part of the military underground and disciplined cadre of Umkhonto We Sizwe. She suffered 6-month detention under the notorious Section 29 of the Security Act. In 1988 she had the attention of the national leadership and her discipline and leadership was recognition. She was afforded to represent South Africa at the United Nations conference and youth calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and political prisoners,” says Parks.
Journalist and author, Rehanna Rossouw, was detained with Brown in 1987. The two had first met six year earlier. Their journalism careers started at community newspapers where they would meet at civic meetings to discuss high electricity tariffs. Rossouw says her and Brown went on to work for The Weekender newspaper.
“I have never had so many scoops in my career as I had working with Karima. We knew the president was recalled before he had the news. That’s a once in lifetime scoop. Karima had many other blistering and billion stories she unearthed in the ANC that died a humiliating death when minister of intelligence strutted into our newsroom threatening interdicts or holding them. Karima blazed through life like a petrol bomb hurled at a Casspir. Freedom in my lifetime was not just a slogan it was her life’s work. I am privileged that worked alongside her,” Rossouw says.
Karima’s son, Mikhail, says his mom had an intense love for food and what he will miss most about her will be the weekends they spent cooking and having lunch together. Fighting back tears, Mikhail described his mom as his best friend, confidant and advisor.
“And when she got sick and it finally dawned on me this might be our last rodeo, the overwhelming emotion that has been constant in me is that of honour. Mom I feel honoured to be your son, to be a part of you. I am so proud of you. I miss you. I am so grateful. I could not have asked for a better mom.”
Karima’s brother, Zain Semaar, says his sister was committed to a world that is free of injustice. He recalled an incident from their childhood when the money of a truck driver who was delivering cool drinks at a local shop accidentally fell onto the group and Semaar spotted it and picked it up.
“Excitedly I ran to this money and declared to my sisters what we could do. Bicycle for me, bicycle for you…the rest to mommy. And Karima, being 11 years old said Zain, it’s not your money. And she went inside the shop and gave the man his money. This story is what came to define the essence of who Karima was to me and to us all – principled, committed to doing the right thing. And her world ideology that always privileged the poor and the marginalised,” he says.
Poet Lebo Mashile rendered a poem to her best friend, which in Islam she says means the embodiment of all things godly, precious, magnificent and generous.
“You challenged authority in all forms with meticulousness and honesty. You analysed power, its machinations, its shifting nature its strengths; its weaknesses and showed how power both internal personal power and external authority are creative forces. That’s what made you fearless. You knew that authentic power lies in all of us. The power to use the priviledge of your platforms to speak against injustice,” Mashile said.
Brown was working for television news channel eNCA at the time of her death. She succumbed to COVID-19-related complications last week Thursday and was buried the same day at the Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.