Sibonelo Radebe was a consummate professional who loved journalism with a deep passion. He gave his heart and soul to it – and to the colleagues with whom he worked. He died in a car accident on Wednesday morning.
He began his career in business and economic journalism in 1998 when he joined the Financial Mail. His career spanned senior positions at national titles in South Africa such as Business Day, the Financial Mail and The New Age. Prior to joining The Conversation Africa in 2016 as business and economy editor, he worked for the National Empowerment Fund.
Ten years ago he took a break from full time employment to return to academia. In 2009 he completed (cum laude) a Post Graduate Diploma in Media Management (Honours equivalent) at Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatjie Institute for Media Leadership. Two years later in 2011 he completed a Masters in Humanities at Wits University. His thesis was titled: “Presentations and Representations: Images of Newsroom Transformation in the post 1994 South Africa”.
His first degree – completed in 1997 – was a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Political Studies and Industrial Sociology, also at Wits University. While a student he worked as a journalist for the university’s student newspaper, subsequently becoming editor in chief. He also served in various leadership positions within the student movement.
Sibonelo continued to work as a freelance journalist while studying for his second degree. He served as a stringer focused on Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown) and surrounding areas for The Eastern Province Herald newspaper. He also worked for the State Information Technology Agency, Association of Black Property Professionals of South Africa, Consumer Goods Council of South Africa, Financial Mail’s Top Empowerment Companies and the Property Handbook.
In 2002 he was awarded the Property Journalist of the Year Award by the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA).
Sibonelo had a warm, easy manner which endeared him to his colleagues and the many academics he worked with at The Conversation Africa. He was an incisive, thoughtful editor who knew an enormous amount about the worlds of business and the economy. He brought this deep knowledge to his interactions with academic research.
He also laughed a lot, and put everyone at their ease.
We, his colleagues at The Conversation Africa, are trying to come to terms with what has happened. Our hearts are heavy and sore as we try to take in the fact that he will not be beside us again as we go about our days. He was a wonderful presence in our newsroom and our lives. We will miss him enormously.
Sibonelo is survived by his wife and children.