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Indomitable Gwangwa, 702 Station Manager

Posted by radio On May - 17 - 2012

By Mpho Smart









Photo:  Pheladi Gwangwa, versatile 702 station manager with an impish charm


She is that most unusual of creatures – a female media manager who has risen smoothly to the top. Thrust into the deep end as station manager of Primedia’s 702 with no background in journalism, Pheladi Gwangwa rose to the challenge.

Her quick-wittedness and thorough nature, which borders on the pedantic, ensured she learned the ropes quickly. She turned the station around from a loss-making venture. When she took the post the station’s listenership was dwindling to such an extent that the company’s board were considering closing it down. But Gwangwa came through for them. She tripled the audience over the next eight years.

Gwangwa did her junior law degree at the then University of the North in Limpopo and her LLB at the University of Witwatersrand. Looking to equip herself with a communications law qualification, she went back to Wits to study for her LLM part time.

“I would come back from work totally knackered and snooze for a bit in the evening, then get up around nine and study,” she says. “It was hectic but I loved the adrenaline. That’s what defines me: I am an adrenaline junkie.”

Her legal background came in handy, steering her in the right direction as she took 702 forward, and bagging the ‘Station of the Year’ award in the ‘BBC Africa Radio Awards’ in the process.  Gwangwa (38) joined Primedia in late 2002. She had cut her teeth in the media sector at the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) . She left ICASA and joined Primedia Broadcasting as a regulatory affairs manager before being promoted to the top job.

At 150cm tall, her stature and young visage give her an impish charm which belies a steely character. Calm, self-possessed and competent , she has steered 702 onto an FM frequency, instigated big changes to the station’s content and kept a solid line-up. Her calm demeanour lends an air of authority as well as approachability and is an important aspect of her management style, particularly when dealing with temperamental on-air talent.

Yusuf Abramjee, Primedia’s head of news and current affairs, says Gwangwa is an incredibly capable manager with a no nonsense attitude. He says Gwangwa is feisty, balanced and a good listener.

Asked to describe her management style, Gwangwa says: “Listening to all sides, being a straight, honest communicator, and having the ability to balance lots of balls in the air.”

702’s station manager grew up in Mankweng, a township near the University of Limpopo. She attended a school where her mom was a teacher. She was a bright pupil who was promoted a year and was the youngest in her matric class. At school she was a lively, hard-working pupil. “I was a livewire; always had too much to say and always wanted to be the teacher’s pet.”

She sets herself high standards and expects people around her to do the same. Matjie Chuene, a former colleague and close friend, says: “Pheladi is charming, a go-getter and a more rounded human being than most people I know. She loves her friends. Her house is usually a bustling place, and there she’ll be, the calm centre of it.”

When she is not working, Gwangwa enjoys spending time with her eleven-year-old daughter Ntsimedi, takes part in marathons and plays golf.

Gwangwa’s future plans for 702 include growing the audience further: “The aim is to keep the revenue growing through constant innovation,” she says. She uses the audience’s response to help shape the station’s offerings. As well as the use of focus groups, Gwangwa studies listeners’ communication with the radio station on its telephone and email feedback lines and the text messages received during programmes.

Driven as she is, Gwangwa also sets her personal priorities. “On a personal level, I want to be a good mother to my daughter,” she says. “I don’t want to miss any moment in her life – significant or not. I want to be able to spend both quality time and quantity time with her. They grow so quickly!”






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