[By Kgomotso Moncho]
The voicemail message on Linda Sibiya’s phone goes like this,”Linda Sibiya, Mr Magic. It’s not over yet. You can make it in life if you believe in God. Anything is possible with God. Have a nice day. Cheers, bye.” And then there’s the beep to leave a message. Ukhozi FM’s top DJ, presenting the morning show, Vuka Mzansi (which won an MTN Radio Award for Best Breakfast show), is at heart a motivational speaker. This is something he does professionally and it comes naturally to him. The truth is that he has lived and practiced the motivation that he preaches. His journey into the radio industry is a humbling story and he tells it better himself.
On his background and radio career:
“I was born in Eshowe in KZN on July 17 1974. I come from the biggest family because my father had three wives. But we were 11 kids from my mother. We were very poor and my father worked as a security guard. At 11 years old I already knew that I want to be a radio DJ. At school my mates would put me in a cupboard and ask me to back announce.
During school holidays in 1983, 84 and 85, I’d come to Durban where my dad worked. When I wanted to come live permanently in 1986, my dad said I could not live with him, so I stayed with Umalume (my uncle) in Umlazi. I sold apples in trains until matric. My father would tell me, ‘when you finish matric you must come work as a security guard like me to take care of the family.’ I told him about college, but there was no money, so I joined Durban security and Combat force as a security guard from 1992 to 1993.
In 1994 when we were getting ready to vote, I went to Joburg, after seeing an advertisement with the picture of Nimrod Nkosi, asking for radio and TV presenters. I had no family or friends in Joburg. So I stayed at the Hillbrow hotel for R45 a night, until they chased me out because I had run out of money to pay. I hung around President and Simmonds streets in downtown Joburg and slept at Park Station. I’d motivate myself by walking to the SABC from Monday to Friday until the SABC in late 1994 made a call out for freelancers to enroll in a course, TV and Radio Technicalities for Performers, for two weeks. I took part in the course, but because I had no money, I told them to take my ID and keep it until I was able to pay. I started selling bed linen. In 1995 I went back to KZN. I was called by Radio Maritzburg to do a 12 – 1pm slot every Thursday. I applied to Ukhozi, but nothing came of it, so I got a job selling medical aid in KZN.
I had suicidal thoughts at the back of my mind during my struggle, but I was also determined to make it. In February 1996, the SABC told me they had been looking for me because they were offering training for Ukhozi. I started with the 12 – 5am in Ukhozi. In 1999 I was full time doing the 12 – 3pm slot. I was given the drive time slot from 2000 to 2008 and then from 2008 till now, I have been doing the morning show Vuka Mzanzi. I was given the nickname Mr Magic by people who mentored me and thought I had a lovely voice.
On his love and attraction to radio:
“Because of my poor background, my love for radio grew at a young age because I just wanted a platform to talk to people and tell them they can make it. I love people and I can talk all day. Radio is real and it’s not about fame or money. It’s about passion on an everyday level. It’s about working with time and painting pictures in people’s minds.
On Vuka Mzansi:
Our show speaks to a boy in the townships, a CEO, u’gogo at home, the youth, just to name a few. Our aim is to change people’s lives and especially changing negative to positive thinking. My father used to always tell me, ‘at the end of the day you must think, how many people smiled because of you today?’ And I live by that.
On memorable moments on radio:
This has to be doing a show with the legend, Cyril “Kansas City” Mchunu in 1996. There was this other time in 2003 when we were running a competition called Wise Up Waya Waya. We had a caller who was too poor, but we had made him wait for an hour. That was a humbling and eye opening experience.
On his first acting role:
I was given an opportunity to act in an independent film called Uhlanga The Mark, written and produced by Ndaba ka Ngwane, which showed at the Durban International Film Festival 2012. When the filmmakers approached me, I related to the character because his background was similar to mine. I could not refuse. I play the role of Mandla Thabethe, who sells bananas for a living and then gets a job at a sugar-cane factory. The experience made me see life differently.
On future goals:
I have the Magic Communications and Events company and the Magic Tour where I do motivational speaking at universities. I would love to have a TV show on SABC, with “Change Your Mind” as a name suggestion. This is at the top of my list. I would also love to build a school and leave a legacy.
Things you probably din’t know about Linda Sibiya:
He has a fear of snakes
He would love to go to Disneyland with his family
He enjoys reading books by TD Jakes and going to the movies with his family.