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30 November 2020 | Story Nonsidiso Qwabe | Photo Supplied

Acclaimed South African writer, author, and UFS research fellow Zubeida Jaffer was honoured with a lifetime achievement award for her career in journalism during the Standard Bank Sivukile Awards ceremony. 

Passion for journalism spans decades
During the award ceremony on 15 October 2020, Jaffer received the prestigious Allan Kirkland Soga Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises a sustained and extraordinary contribution to journalism. Jaffer said she never chose journalism, but journalism chose her. She said when she first stepped into a newsroom looking for a holiday job in the 1970s, she did not know she had stepped into her future in news reporting. Since then, Jaffer has earned many accolades in the journalism industry as well as in academia. She also became an acclaimed author, and wrote her third book, Beauty of the Heart: The Life and Times of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, during her time as a writer-in-residence at the UFS. While at the UFS, she founded the online media platform, The Journalist, a platform that provides history and context for key issues facing South African journalists. This portal also links students with academics across the country and will soon be extended to the African continent and the diaspora.

Jaffer said she felt blessed to be recognised among the many journalism pioneers in South Africa. 

“It’s extremely wonderful because it came so out of the blue. This year, with COVID-19, I was digging deep, and trying my best to keep focus. I’m very thankful. It’s made me pause, reflect, and realise that a lot of things I’ve done have been of value. When living your life, it’s not that you’re aware of that all the time. There are many people doing great things who don’t always get this kind of recognition,” Jaffer said.

Still a great need for journalists in South Africa 

Talking about journalism today, Jaffer said: “I am often overwhelmed to witness the enthusiasm and determination of young journalists across the country who come from humble backgrounds and inspire those around them. Our country is gripped in a bipolar condition. It is not clear how the healing will come, but it will. The challenge is to keep our minds in balance so that we can be strong enough to root out corruption and gender-based violence, while at the same time fully understanding our blessings as a people.”

UFS alumna Rising Star in Journalism 

In another accolade for the UFS, the Upcoming/Rising Star of the Year award went to former UFS Journalism student Brümilda Swartbooi for her article titled ‘Sy het hard vir ons gewerk’. The article highlighted the senseless killing of a woman outside her workplace, minutes after her husband dropped her off.

Brümilda Swartbooi. Photo: Supplied

News Archive

Extending new discoveries in the deep subsurface – UFS paper published in Nature Communications
2015-11-30



Scanning electron microscopy of some of the Eukarya recovered from two different mines. (a) Dochmiotrema sp. (Plathyelminthes), (b) A. hemprichi (Annelida), (c) Mylonchulus brachyurus (Nematoda), (d) Amphiascoides (Arthropoda). Scale bar, 50 µm (a,b), 100 µm (c), 20 µm (d).

Following the discovery of the first Eukarya in the deep subsurface (Nature, 2010) by a research group from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical, and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State (UFS) and their international collaborators, intense interest has developed in understanding the diversity of more complex organisms living in these extreme environments.

Prof Gaetan Borgonie from Extreme Life Isyensya, together with a group of UFS researchers, took this research further, resulting in a paper on this research released in Nature Communications – impact factor 11.47.  This paper is an extension of the first reports of more complex life at great depths, and their abilities to survive these harsh conditions.

Ten authors from the UFS contributed with the array of expertise needed to define this discovery. The group was supported by staff from the different mining groups, long-term leading collaborators from the USA and Canada, and the idea specialist driver of the paper, Prof Borganie.

“After a sampling campaign that lasted more than two years, we identified that Platyhelminthes, Rotifera, Annelida and Arthropoda are thriving at 1.4 km depths in fissure water up to 12,000-years old in the South African mines of Driefontein and Kopanang,” said Prof Borgonie, who was appointed as associated researcher in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical, and Food Biotechnology.

This paper really opens a “can of worms” so to speak. According to Prof Esta van Heerden from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the UFS they extended to define protozoa and fungi. “However, they are present in low numbers,” she said.

Characterisation of the different species reveals that many are opportunistic organisms. In house-adapted video equipment was used to film inside the fissure for the home of the organisms.

This is the first-known study to demonstrate the in situ distribution of biofilms on fissure rock faces using video documentation. Calculations suggest that food, not dissolved oxygen, is the limiting factor for population growth. The discovery of a group of complex multicellular organisms in the underground has important implications for the search for life on other planets in our solar system.

More articles

The strange beasts that live in solid rock deep underground
A microscopic ‘zoo’ is found deep, deep underground

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