Ferial Haffajee is a South African editor and journalist. She is currently editor-at-large, Huffington Post SA and also editor of the African National Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and is a researcher at the Public Affairs Research Institute.
Previously, Ferial was editor-in-chief at the Mail and Guardian and City Press. She is a regular analyst and commentator on radio, television and elsewhere.
Ferial is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and a member of the Africa Leadership Institute fellowship. She has won numerous awards for journalism and for her support of media freedom.
Born to clothing workers Ahmed and Ayesha Haffajee, she grew up in a disadvantaged area in Bosmont, Johannesburg. She grew up with two older brothers who she says were her “first political building blocks”. She matriculated from Bosmont High School and went on to study Law at Witwatersrand University as per her mother’s request.
However Ferial Haffajee ended up studying English and African Literature and graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During her tenure as Editor at the Mail and Guardian, she worked with her husband Paul Stober, who was her Deputy Editor. She lists reading, meditation and travelling as her most valued recreational activities.
After graduation she worked at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits but left to work for the Weekly Mail as a trainee journalist. Assistant editor Barbara Ludman was an important early mentor. Ludman remembers: “My first impression was Ferial’s intelligence – she was one of the brightest people ever to come through the training programme.
Ferial Haffajee was interested in everything and learned quickly.” After two years of working at the Weekly Mail, Ferial turned to broadcast journalism and ended up at the SABC in 1991. In 1994, she joined the Financial Mail of which she was eventually appointed the Managing Editor in 2002.
Then in 2003, Ferial Haffajee was appointed Associated Editor of the Mail and Guardian and eventually became Editor in 2004. As a result of this Ferial was the first female editor of a major newspaper in South Africa. After five successful years at the helm, she resigned in 2009 to become the editor of the City Press.
Recognitions and awards
Of the many accolades she has received, one of her first awards was the Sanlam Econ Reporting in 2001. Her biggest to date was the Top Woman in Media award from MTN & The Media Magazine in 2006 as well as being a Mondi Mag Award Finalist in 2001 and a Sanlam Econ Reporting Finalist in 2002. One of her notable achievements was that readership increased to 500 000, an astounding number by any covetable standards. Haffajee is also the co-author of Little Black Book of professionals 2001, 2002 and a contributor to the work Redefining Politics-South African women & democracy.
Other professional activities
Ferial Haffajee is a regular columnist for 7 Deadly Spins; E-everything which is a Business 2.0 – Magazine. She is the Chairperson of the South African National Editors Forum and is a member of the Media Institute of South Africa. Haffajee is also a member of Health-e and Inter Press Service-Africa and a freelancer for the New Internationalist & the ACP-EU Courier-International Mags. Amongst all of this, she is also a judge on the Mondi magazine awards panel. Ferial Haffajee was also a board member of World Editors Forum, Gender Links and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She was also appointed the Black Management Forum regional leader for 2004.