Phindile Xaba women’s journalism champion passes on

Her legacy lies in raising visibility of women’s presence and amplifying their voices in the media

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

Journalist Phindile Xaba has passed after succumbing to cancer. She eventually lost  her long battle with the disease.

Xaba who paid her dues in journalism, particularly putting the women’s issues at the forefront of her practice for various publications over the years, was currently working in the public relations and events sector. She passed on, on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at her family home in Diepkloof, Soweto.

But before she took the public relations trajectory in her media career, she had had a successful career in journalism, particularly in raising the voices of women in the country in the media, making sure that women’s voices were not drowned out by the dominant male voices that continue to define national narratives.

I first met Phindi at Sowetan newspaper in the late 1990s where she worked on the women’s desk as Women’s editor.  I worked on the desk of the then influential Time Out entertainment supplement of the newspaper. Hers was a one woman team who worked hard to profile women in the newspaper, be it women in fashion, lifestyle and other sectors wherever women found themselves in.

That role was important because at the time, Sowetan was probably the only mainstream newspaper that had dedicated pages and an editor producing content focusing exclusively on women’s issues at a time when others did not see that as a priority. It was at a time when veteran journalist and intellectual Aggrey Klaaste was editor in chief of the newspaper, and Sowetan of the time was a go to newspaper to get an idea of the thinking of the majority in the country.

Then in the 2000s, Phindile left Sowetan and went into magazine journalism as an editor of a women’s magazine, called Real Magazine, which under her guidance  became an important voice for women in different sectors of the economy. The publication under her was a success, and by the time she left it was on solid ground. As to how she left and why, it is not for me to say as in our interactions over the years that issue never became part of our conversation.

However as she went into the events and public relations space in recent years, we interacted regularly as she regularly invited  CITYLIFE/ARTS to several events she worked on, including the relaunch of the Covid-19, decimated tourism sector by the CITY OF Johannesburg  in 2021, and at  several other music events she worked on. It is then that she told me she was a regular of CITYLIFE/ARTS and was impressed by the publication’s content mix. She however told me that she was putting journalism behind her for good, choosing to focus her energy on public relations and events.

And of course because she loved music, particularly jazz, we would bomb on each other now and again at Niki’s Oasis in Newtown, a venue that regularly features live jazz acts.

The last time I met Phindi at Niki’s was in February this year, and it became clear that Maphindis, as her friends liked to call her, had a failing health situation. She was frail, but still her jovial self even though she was in immense pain from the disease eating at her tiny body.  She admonished me for accepting an invitation last year to  an opera recitation she was working on and failed to turn up. With much shame, I apologized to her and we quickly moved on engaging in our normal conversation between people that have known each other for decades.

One think about Phindi is that she has always been friendly and always ever putting a smile on her face, irrespective of what she may have been grappling with personally. This time it was no different. In fact had it not been for the fact that she was frail, and somebody had told me about what had been eating at her tiny body that week, one would have thought everything was fine with her,  for that was Phindi who did not like I guess, burdening others with her problems.

CITYLIFE/ARTS would like to say, Rest in Peace Phindi.

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