City Press editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya has described the death of City Press senior political journalist Ngwako Modjadji as “a sad loss for journalism”.
Modjadji’s brother, States, confirmed that the star reporter was killed in Soweto on Sunday morning in a hit-and-run. Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian that a case had been opened at the Protea Glen police station. “We have not arrested anyone yet, but we are following some leads.”
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe had been friends with Modjadji for over twenty years.
The two had met in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday, where Modjadji had been up until Saturday to join former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule on a door-to-door campaign in KwaZulu-Natal. “When we had our last dinner on Friday, I had no idea that it would be our last,” said Mabe. “On Saturday afternoon, he sent me an SMS to check how I was. We were friends. He would ask me about the kids, the family. And he minded his own business. He knew there was a line between being a journalist, and us on the other side. He never took advantage of the relationships we had – he was always very professional.”
Mabe said that he and Modjadji had studied journalism together at the Tshwane University of Technology and were good friends. Mabe was part of the M&G’s internship programme in 2000, and Modjadji was part of the internship a year later. “It is important to remember that he cut his teeth at the Mail & Guardian. And it made him the person he became,” said Mabe, who helped Modjadji find a place to stay when he moved to Johannesburg.
“He was a very humane individual; quiet, focused, and loved his job. He preserved what you would call principles of journalism — he was always making sure that he would write fairly, objectively and honestly.”
Modjadji was previously a political reporter at The Citizen, and had also had stints at Sowetan newspaper and Drum magazine. He joined City Press in 2018. “He was a sharp journalist who spared nothing in getting a good story,” said that publication’s editor-in-chief, Mondli Makhanya. “Above all, he was just a magnificent human being. A truly wonderful soul.”
The M&G’s Bongekile Ncupe, who previously worked with Modjadji at Sowetan, says that he was a “lovely person to work with.”
“He was such a gentleman. He had such a warm smile. I remember him as this busy guy, always going in and out, and always working hard. He would make jokes whenever he was in the office.”
A moment of silence was observed at the ANC’s Siyanqoba rally on Sunday, with the party’s head of elections asking the crowd to remember the dead journalist. South African Communist Party (SACP) spokesperson Alex Mashilo also paid tribute to Modjadji, expressing “sincerest, heartfelt condolences to the Modjadji family, Ngwako’s colleagues and the media fraternity for this great loss”.
“Ngwako distinguished himself and was fearless in his reportage, working without favour or prejudice,” Mashilo said, adding that South Africa has been robbed of a great professional and humble gentleman through reckless driving.