Promising life snuffed out

I FIRST met Shadi Rapitso at 61 Commando Road (the previous offices of Sowetan in Industria West) where we were both taking our baby steps in the profession we love - journalism.

Shadi, Tankiso Komane and I subsequently became firm friends and a "threesome". Though Komane worked in the paper's entertainment section, we always challenged each other to do better than our previous story and to try and excel in everything we did.

Our mentor was none other than Sowetan news editor Willie Bokala.

Rapitso's next step was Drum magazine, which she joined as a features writer. She was a different kind of features writer from the ones I knew because she actually preferred going through the experience of her subjects to enrich her writing.

She would go to the extent of sleeping with street kids to tell their story "through their eyes". Rapitso was not afraid to spend the night at the Lindela detention centre to experience "real over-crowding". She said she did this because she did not want to miss the minute details of life as experienced by her subjects.

She returned to newspaper journalism when she joined City Press, also as a features writer.

Rapitso branched out into the electronic media when she joined the SABC as a senior producer.

Four months ago Rapitso moved to, where she worked as a senior producer for the investigative programme 3rd Degree.

Rapitso was very happy working for because she said "for the first time I loved doing what I loved".

I told her I was very happy for her. That was when she told me her "biggest career break" was going to be on Friday October 23.

The "fateful" day began like any other. When I got to work I screened my calls and realised one of my missed calls was from our friend Tankiso.

On returning Tankiso's call, I got the shock of my life - Rapitso was no more. One of the "threesome" and a best friend, Tankiso, had to be the one to break the unbelievable and sad news to me.

Even more shocking was the manner in which one of my best friends was killed.

The threesome that we started in 2000 is now minus one soulmate who we will certainly miss.

Former City Press editor-in-chief Mathatha Tsedu, speaking at Rapitso's memorial service this week at's Hyde Park studios, said: "She lived her reporting. She wrote what she experienced in her life and it came through in her stories."

Like the legendary Henry Nxumalo before her, Rapitso also lived the life of her subjects before coming back to write her stories.

The legendary Nxumalo got himself hired as a farmhand and came back to report about the "slave-like" conditions there.

When Rapitso wanted to do a story about life in Diepkloof Hostel, she and colleague Lucky Nxumalo did not stand at the gates and ask questions.

They slept in that smelling hovel. Rapitso shared a bed and woke up with an aching body. When the host asked, in the middle of the night, if she was comfortable, Rapitso wrote that she replied "yes", because she "did not want to be a problem".

Shadi Rapitso will be buried tomorrow at the local cemetery after a service starting at 6.30am at Kgabalatsane Hall in Mabopane.