The reporter who held the underworld to account
Crime-reporting legend Yusuf Abramjee has seen the worst of South Africa’s streets. His work held the underworld to account throughout an award-winning career dedicated to creating a safer society. On the ground Abramjee was the ultimate investigative journalist, often arriving at the scene of a crime before the police or emergency services. Like the comic book combo of Ben Urich and Daredevil, he worked alongside law enforcement to clean up South Africa’s streets.
Among his impressive list of personal headlines is a post-arrest interview with the then most-wanted cash-heist crook Colin Chauke. The piece played a role in Abramjee being named Journalist of the Year, an accolade that he claimed for three consecutive years from 1998 to 2000. He has received many other awards for his contributions in both written and radio reporting, as well as for his efforts as a social activist. For a number of years he has been a key figure for Crime Line, a crime tip-off service responsible for thousands of arrests and the recovery of millions in stolen property, counterfeit goods and drugs in South Africa. In 2015 Abramjee became the Global Communications Director and later a Social Cohesion Activist for Crime Stoppers International, a global criminal activity hotline credited with helping to solve one crime every 14 minutes.
Abramjee has proven that violence need not be met with force. In a time when the role of the media is constantly questioned and fake news piles on the damage, his example of journalistic determination can inspire the next generation of reporters to act with integrity. As much as we need more doctors and engineers to build South Africa’s future, we need intelligent, talented people to breathe life into a media that is wrestling with its identity. As a country, we need to give such people the opportunity to emerge into a space that recognises their value, so that they can build on the legacy of journalists like Abramjee.