Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

"My passion is for the empowerment and development of young and talented journalists especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. SANEF believes in media freedom and transformation. I also believe in the empowerment of women in our newsrooms and have made certain that the gender agenda is key to SANEF's plan of action. There are many challenges facing our media industry both internally and externally and my hope is to work towards alleviating that pressure for the promotion of good story telling, uncovering the truth and sustaining balanced news reporting in our media" - Mary Papayya, August 2008.


Mary Bernadette Papayya (Born 12 September 1966), based in Durban, South Africa, is a well-respected journalist, former editor, news editor and executive producer. Her illustrious career began in 1988 on graduation from Durban University of Technology. Papayya is currently running as the Bureau Chief of The Sowetan and has also been appointed as Secretary-General of SANEF (South African National Editors Forum), after serving as the Regional Convener for three terms since 1996. As a nationally respected media leader, Papayya is renowned for her commitment and is the driving force behind protecting the rights of the news media and developing working journalists. Further, during her career Papayya has served as the senior judge of SABC News & Current Affairs Awards and was appointed the Regional/National Judge for the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards.

Personal and Career information:

Papayya, born to Peter Francis and Elizabeth Papayya from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. She was a resident of Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal and attended the Durban University of Technology where she graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Journalism and consequently Post-Graduate degrees in Management at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, she has continued to further her education up until now whereby she is currently completing a Masters Degree.

Since 1988, after graduation, Papayya has become one of the most highly regarded South African journalist through her involvement in her community and serving in high positions of numerous organisations, being appointed judging positions in committees concerned with journalism and media. Papayya's career comprises of many accomplishments ranging from citizen journalism to broad-scale, national journalism which acted as her springboard into the media forum. During this time, she has participated in and achieved the following.

In the early 1990's, Mary Papayya worked as a crime reporter for The Witness, a local Durban Newspaper in Kwa-Zulu Natal. During this period the Apartheid regime had not yet been abolished and unrest was rife within the country of South Africa. Papayya reported on the resistance movement and the reaction of the supremacist government. Later she became the Durban Bureau Chief of The Witness.

After working for the Kwa-Zulu Natal SABC as a senior reporter, producer and news editor Papayya moved to ECR (East Coast Radio), a local Durban radio station, where she pioneered the news product Newswatch. The product acted as a live "watchdog" facility to keep the public immediately updated. She was also a board member of the Midlands publication Edendale eYethu. In 2002, Papayya left ECR and became an independent media, broadcast and corporate communication consultant, which she is still currently involved in.

She is currently employed as the Bureau Chief of The Sowetan, a daily newspaper based in Johannesburg, South Africa whilst continuing her other projects and commitments concurrently.

Recognitions and Awards:

Mary Papayya was the first black female news editor of the SABC from 1993 before Apartheid was officially abolished.

To commemorate Women's Month in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Papayya was recognised and honoured for her vast contribution, involvement and influence in journalism and the local media industry when she was awarded the Women of the Brand. The Gala event was held on the 16th of August 2009, where women from fields varying from sport to politics were honoured for their outstanding accomplishments.

Due to her prolific experience, intellectual understanding of her field and high regarded opinion, Papayya was selected amongst nine other renowned South African professionals to judge the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards.

Further, Papayya has been awarded and received recognition from SANEF for her contribution and dedication to the Forum.

Other professional activities:
Mary Papayya - SANEF Women's Day BanquetIn 1996, Papayya was elected as the Regional Convener of SANEF (South African National Editors Forum) where she served for three consecutive terms before she was honoured to be elected as the Secretary General of the forum. Her role within the media industry and in particular SANEF has allowed her a successful and involved career. A sense of high-regard and great respect precedes and follows Papayya due to her commitment, dedication and community involvement.

"consummate professional who inspires and leads Sanef with distinction"
- colleague Judy Sandison, about Mary Pappaya and her role within SANEF.
Since the turn of the decade, Papayya has become immensely involved in the newsroom as not only a journalist in her own right but also a media trainer throughout the continent particularly during her sabbatical over April 2002 and March 2004. She is also a registered News/Media Trainer within the South African organisation SamTran (Southern African Training Trust).

As a member of MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa), Papayya recently warned the public against encroaching political control over the media during a discussion forum held at the MISA annual general meeting on the 25th of July 2008 in Johannesburg.

In February 2009 Papayya contributed to The Extraordinary Editor, a handbook and guide for South African media leaders. She wrote a personal reflection titled "My Experience: Doing Things Through Others" in Chapter 2: Managing yourself, Page 22 of The Extraordinary Editor.



Primary Sources:
Personal phone interview and information verification with Ms Mary Papayya on the 19th of October 2009.
Contact number:
082 379 4957

Secondary Sources:
1. Vodacom Company Website.
2009. Vodacom Staff. Retrieved 8 October 2009 from 2. Commemoration Booklet for SANEF “Celebrate! Ten Years of Media Freedom”. SANEF. 18 October 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2009 from 3. DUT “Alumnus and senior journalist re-elected General Secretary of SANEF”. Durban University of Technology. 29 July 2009. Retrieved on 10 October 2009 from 4. SABCnews website homepage. South African Broadcasting Corporation 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2009 from 5. Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards 2009. Vodacom 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2009 from 6. Zulu Kingdom Homepage. Retrieved 15 October 2009 from 7. South Africa: South African Tourism 2009. Retrieved 18 October 200 from 8. Durban: Zulu Kingdom, KZN. 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2009 from 9. DUT: Homepage 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2009 from 10. The Witness Homepage 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2009 from 11. The Sowetan Homepage 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2009 from 12. Johanesburg: The City of Johannesburg. 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2009 from 13. Senderayi, N.“The Media in Democratic South Africa”. 11 August 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2009 from 14. East Coast Radio: Newswatch. ECR 2009. Retrieved on 13 October 2009 from

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