national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, December 7, 2020


(Graham Greer)

The KwaZulu-Natal creative community is mourning the death of much-loved journalist and critic Graham Greer who passed away suddenly in Durban on November 29, 2020, at the age of 67. He had suffered Parkinson’s Disease for 18 years.

With a Masters in Education from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Greer owned a publishing company and was a senior lecturer in Journalism at ML Sultan Technikon/Durban University of Technology. He was director of the School of Journalism at Leeds Trinity University in the UK for five years. He was also a theatre critic for the Sunday Tribune

He was also very sporty, being a Comrades Marathon silver medal winner and is recognised in the Guinness Book of Records for playing 50 hours of squash non-stop at University.

Dean Naidoo, former student and now Deputy Head of the Department of Media Arts & Communication at Sheffield Hallam University, pays this tribute:

“In recent years, Greer struggled with ill health yet still involved himself in all that eThekwini had to offer, and remained a raconteur to the very end.

In early 1994, my first year studying journalism in Durban, Greer lectured news writing at the then ML Sultan Technikon. One morning, a student had clearly been out on the tiles the night before, a bit worse for wear, and was snoring gently when “Mr Greer” entered the class. He quietly climbed onto the desk and stood a few centimetres from the young person’s head and started to teach us. Needless to say, a few minutes later Sleepy woke up and got the shock of their life to see Greer’s leather shoes (he did not wear socks) just inches from their head. They probably never snoozed through a class again.

Greer climbed down from the desk and continued teaching like it was the most natural thing. I thought he was quite mad. And I loved him for it.

Over the next 27 or so years, I would learn that this was how he operated. Very little flummoxed him. People who did not know him well may have misinterpreted his gentleness for weakness. He was not weak. Just incredibly kind. And funny. And bright.

Following his departure from Durban, he enjoyed a successful career as head of the department of journalism at Leeds Trinity University in England, where, as fate would have it, he ended up managing me while I was on the teaching staff.

Durban is poorer for the loss of this larger than life personality.”

A further tribute comes from another former student, Salma Patel, who is SABC News Editor and Executive Producer of Newsbreak on Lotus FM:

"Picture it, M L Sultan Technikon, Practice of Journalism Class, 1996… a balding, blonde man dressed in faded jeans and a T-shirt – curls flying dramatically at the back of his head - stomps into the auditorium and hoists himself up on one of the lecture tables in the middle of the class. Stunned – us, the motley crew of newbies fresh with the dreams of Mandela’s rainbow nation – stunned in silence.

This man then proceeds to do something, either with his zipper or with the whiteboard marker he was holding. A classmate breaks out in laughter as her face turns as red as a beet. The boys at the back of the class murmur and smile as they are faced with him directly, while us young ones at the front conclude that this man is a pervert. Then, he jumps down and goes around the class asking each one of us what we saw. Of course, we each had drawn our own conclusions.

“And that, folks! Is how we cover angles in journalism! You HAVE to look at a story from all sides,” Mr Graham Greer said, finally.

It was obscene, to say the least, but it stuck. To this day, I sometimes use the “Greer” in me to teach young journalists how to cover all angles of a story. That’s the impact that Mr Greer made on all his students. We were putty in his hands and he made us thinkers, encouraged us to ask the question and deliver fair, balanced and factual journalism.

I recall many days of fun and laughter, the serious talks, the guidance and advice as I entered the REAL world of journalism after a sheltered campus life. He would often greet me in the mornings with, “Aah! Ms. Patel!” in a way that said, I’m glad you’ve made it this far. You’re not a “Miss” or a “Mrs”. And, for a shy student raised by a single-mother it was just the boost of confidence I needed from someone senior who made me feel like I AM somebody. It’s actually the reason I kept my maiden name even after I married. I didn’t have to change my name to be somebody. It was that boost of confidence I needed.

That’s what was so fascinating about Mr Greer: the fact that he somehow knew what each student needed. In his later years, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I met him once or twice when he wanted to write a second textbook on journalism. I last saw him at a book fair at Mitchell’s Park and he was a shadow of his former self. Mr Greer was a quiet, observant, whacky, wild-haired soul who told me that by the end of the course I would be smoking, swearing, drinking and the scarf on my head would be long gone. He wasn’t wrong.

He taught me that its ok to be a little weird – the world will adjust. The best journalists talk to everybody and that’s how you get the award-winning stories. He watched all of us from the sidelines – making contact with some and just letting others be. I guess he knew our strengths and he knew we would make it. My only hope is that we, the class of 1996, have made him proud. Fare thee well, Mr Graham Greer. Allah (God) grant you Jannat (the highest stages of heaven).”

Greer leaves his partner of 25 years, Haj Vahed-Greer, as well as children Sean and Lyle from his first wife and two stepchildren, Bhaskar & Ishtar Lakhani.