Subscribe to: Newsletter      Comments      News

New channel on Dstv

Posted by radio On July - 3 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS


DSTV LOGOA+E Networks is set to launch leading female entertainment channel Lifetime on MultiChoice’s DStv platform in South Africa at 19:00 on Tuesday, 22 July 2014. The channel will launch on DStv channel 131 and will be available to all DStv Premium customers.



The launch expands the A+E Networks portfolio in Africa, delivering a female-focused entertainment brand to sit alongside History and Crime+ Investigation.


Leading the launch, Tom Davidson, Managing Director of A+E Networks UK, said: “The launch of Lifetime in Africa is exciting for us and marks a key moment in our continuing investment in this market. With a schedule packed with powerful stories, passionate people and addictive entertainment, we are confident that Lifetime will appeal to African audiences.”

With an emphasis on fresh and uplifting content, Lifetime in Africa will engage and inspire viewers with a winning formula of quality scripted dramas, Lifetime Original Movies and factual entertainment shows.



An enviable array of Hollywood stars will also appear across the schedule, from Whoopi Goldberg and Harvey Keitel to Courteney Cox and Heather Graham. A+E Networks is also commissioning local content to broadcast on the channel from 2015.


Dean Possenniskie, Managing Director, EMEA at A+E Networks added: “In less than two years we have launched Lifetime into more than 60 countries outside the US, and during 2014, we will add over 50 more. Lifetime brings a unique offering to DStv viewers, and we believe our new channel will play a leading role in the current African female-skewing pay-TV space.”



Mark Rayner, Chief Operating Officer, MultiChoice South Africa commented: “We look forward to welcoming another channel from the A+E Networks stable to the DStv platform. We’re confident the powerful stories told on Lifetime will speak to our customers, uplifting them on a daily basis. We’re always looking for more ways to add even more value to our DStv service – Lifetime will help us to do just that for our Premium customers.”

The territory premiers planned for launch month will provide viewers with a taste of the channel’s original content.


A Day Late and a Dollar Short is a brand new and exclusive Lifetime Original Movie, premiering on Tuesday, 22 July at 20:00. Based on the bestseller by Terry McMillan, and starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ving Rhames, A Day Late and a Dollar Short tells the story of a feisty matriarch, Viola Price (Goldberg). When Viola learns that her next asthma attack will likely kill her, she is determined to fix her fractured family before she leaves this world. While on her quest, Viola must contend with sibling rivalry, teen pregnancy and drug addiction. Additionally, her jailbird son needs to learn how to be a better father, her granddaughter is in bigger trouble than her daughter is willing to admit and Viola’s estranged husband needs saving from his scheming younger girlfriend. It’s the kind of meddling that the Price family hasn’t experienced from Viola in decades and she won’t have an easy time bending them to her will. Mekhi Phifer, Kimberly Elise, Anika Noni Rose and Tichina Arnold also star.



Premiering on the Sunday, 27 July at 20:00, Flowers in the Attic is a Lifetime Original Movie based on V. C. Andrews‘ controversial, cult classic book. It is the twisted tale of four siblings who, after their father’s unexpected death, are convinced by their mother to hide in the attic of their grandparents’ mansion so she can reclaim the family fortune. But when her visits begin to wane, the children endure unimaginable treatment at the hands of their ruthless grandmother. Starring Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, Twin Peaks), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, The Exorcist), and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men).



Dance Moms is one of the key factual entertainment shows available on Lifetime Africa. Set in Pittsburgh’s renowned Abby Lee Dance Company, Dance Moms follows talented children’s early steps on the road to stardom, along with the determined mothers who will stop at nothing to help them reach the very top. Both mother and daughter are guided under the watchful gaze of company founder and general manager Abby Lee Miller, whose discerning eye and years of experience mean she will settle for no less than the absolute best from her protégés. The show immerses itself in the highs and lows surrounding the dance competition season and the cast’s intense pursuit of National Dance titles. Dance Moms premieres on Tuesday, 22 July at 19:10.


Shahs of Sunset premiering on Monday, 28 July at 20:45, follows a group of young Persian-American friends in Los Angeles as they juggle their active social lives and up-and-coming careers, while balancing the demands of their families and traditions. These passionate socialites are big on the dating and party scene, but face the pressure from their family to settle down and marry within the community. From outings on Rodeo Drive to traditional Persian feasts at home, this series celebrates the unique lifestyle of a close knit group who value what they have and are not afraid to flaunt it.
Content also confirmed for Lifetime in Africa includes exclusive African premieres of the Lifetime Original Movies: Betty & Coretta, starring Mary J. Blige and Angela BassettSworn to Silence with Neve Campbell and Liz & Dick starring Lindsay Lohan. Gripping drama series include the hugely popular series: Suits and the exclusive territory premiere of Orphan Black. Talent led factual entertainment shows including; Kim of Queens and Bring It! join popular reality series including; 24 Hours in A&E and Preachers’ Daughters.


Lifetime is currently available in more than 65 countries, reaching more than 140 million subscribers



[Source: Dstv]

Did you like this? Share it:

Lupi Ngcayisa, the Baldwin of the airwaves

Posted by radio On June - 26 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Lupi Ngcayisa’s no hold barred attitude brings to mind maverick essayist James Baldwin. He has the ability to ram down any subject without being overtly aggressive. Measured and almost never deterred in putting forth his two cents worth of social commentary, Ngcayisa is an accomplished black man with ample gravitas. As a commentator on the government owned, Ubuntu Radio, he probes varying topics from international relations to economic capabilities within the mother continent.



Starting from the bottom

He humbly started started working in the retail industry to finance his Marketing and Business Management studies. A chance meeting with a customer that loved his service resulted in a job offer at Nedbank. He later landed the position of a personal banker whilst at the financial institution. After leaving Nedbank he joined PRESTASI Brokers in PE and later applied for a position in Johannesburg. Under the pretence of having landed a promotion to his family he stayed with friends in big bad Jozi. Ncayisa’s hunt in the city of glaring lights had Hot Dogz Incorporated -a below the line agency that managed the Sasko Milling & Baking account- snapping him up. It is through this agency that he got the Sasko PR & Marketing job.


Then came radio

In 2003 KC of Mhlobo Wenene roped Lupi to do entertainment reporting on his show. He later joined Sbu’s afternoon drive team at YFM. The experience had Ngcayisa going under the alias Uncle L. Ngcayisa quickly became a well known entity and forged forth to Metro FM as part of Thomas Msengana’s show. The personality heralds Msengana for teaching him everything he knows about radio. Uncle Lupi also had a stint at Radio 2000 before leaving for the online station, Ubuntu Radio, where currently hosts Ubuntu Talk between 9am-10 am.


Ngcayisa’s anecdotes on the state of black radio

Radibiz Video interview :

“Radio has huge role to play in terms of bridging the gap between South Africa and the rest of the continent when speaking of social cohesion. This medium also has part to play in terms of helping South Africa to heal. We are a wounded society. We’re coming from a system that has oppressed us for over 300 years and the other idea of saying all’s well after 20 years is a fallacy. The airwaves are in place to pacify and restore our dignity. I’m dissapointed with Black Radio in particular. The Metro FM’s of this world have dropped the ball, because it has become about the DJ shenanigans and celebrity culture. We should be focusing on pushing the Pan Africanist and social agenda.”

Did you like this? Share it:


[by Kagiso Mnisi]

As the nation finds itself in the throes of mourning one of its most loved sons, Eddie Zondi, the scribe is taken back to when he first met the Romantic Repertoire impresario. First year of high school it was circa 1997 when one as an unlikely listener of an adult contemporary station such as Metro FM would occasionally catch glimpses of Zondi at then Highgate Mall, Riverlea. Robed in a denim outfit most times, the maestro would make a return to a booth where he started off his DJing career. His formative years as a selector for mall rats, trendoids and retail feigns was not as glamorous as the coveted gig at SABC radio. His booth lied smack in the middle the food court area, where most eating haunts served Halaal eats, given the Muslim contingent of the Riverlea area. When not at Metro FM this is where he would be armed with only a microphone, modest operating desk and an abundant taste in music via tapes and CDs. It was here that the beady eyed teen scribe would marvel at Zondi’s grandiose licks , either with Tony Rich’s Like A woman or maybe Sabela from the Sarafina Soundtrack. It was here that many other youngans would aspire to be like the man. Yes he who had an impeccable talent of speaking through emotive song. Ever measured and never deterred. We thank Zondi for the travels he took us on through the gems given on any Sunday be it balmy or gloomy. RIP Eddie Makhosonke Zondi.



Eddie Zondi 1

Eddie Zondi 2

Did you like this? Share it:


[ by Farai Diza]

Let’s face it, good music is everyone’s pre-requisite. It soothes the soul and keeps the passion flowing like a crushing waterfall. But the voice that dishes out that music is just as important as the music that filtrates its way past the airwaves.


Meet veteran Gagasi 99.2 FM’s Mzokoloko Gumede.

Many will not argue that DJ Mzokoloko is one of the best things that have ever happened to Gagasi FM. His energetic, crisp, and passionate voice has won him hearts all over the country and beyond.

Yes, his that man behind that popular I Love Mornings that airs between 6 and 9am on weekdays.

Born and raised at Gingindlovu in northern KwaZulu Natal over 30 years back, it has always been his dream to walk into a radio station and make things happen behind the mic. His aspirations of becoming a DJ were revealed during class in grade three but he turned into a laughing mimic because of the revelation.


I knew that i would end up on radio from a very young age, as this was and is still my passion. I have always known deep inside that i wanted to be a radio DJ. As a kid, when i was asked in grade three what i wanted to be when i grew up, i confidently said a DJ. Everyone laughed because it was out of the ordinary,” he testified.

After being laughed at, i had to change my dream to being a lawyer, which at that time, was all that one could aspire to be due to the country’s situation,” he added.

But DJing is not for everyone and Mzokoloko managed to ensure that he fit the industry before casting his nets out wide. Now he is part of KZN’s vibrant music radio station.

DJ’s need decks to practice and in the DJ profession it is all about practising and perfecting your skills,” he stated.

DJ Mzokoloko’s Facebook page, with a following of over 32 000, is constantly bombarded with encouraging words from fans who listen to his show proving just why he is causing waves and taking Mzansi by storm.

One of his greatest inspirations is Hotstix Mabuse, who made headlines when he recently went back to school after having dropped out in grade 11.

He has been in the entertainment game for decades but he remains relevant to this time. One special thing about him is that he went back to school in 2012 after having dropped out in grade 11. This was truly inspiring because it simply means fame and wealth doesn’t change you. If things are not completed, life gives you a chance to change things and do what you previously couldn’t,” stated Mzokolo.

DJ Mzokoloko is killing it. His just proving just how radio would have lost its vibe had he not followed his heart and treaded on the law shores.


Did you like this? Share it:

Bongeziwe Stripped down

Posted by radio On June - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

[by Hellen Phushela]

Hearing Bongeziwa Mabandla for the first time drowns out any other imposing sound. The African cloth garb that he is known to wear gives anyone not in the know a sense of who he is. As I amp up the volume, I’m taken to a world of peace and powerful spirituality through his music. The singer/song writer was born in a small rural town of Tsolo, in Transkei. His childhood like that of most was care free and only when he got older did he become conscous the kind of environment he was growing up in. Growing up free spirited as he is, Mabandla was attached to his mother. “Every time I would see her come down the road from work, I would run to her as fast as I can. It was good times, free times,” he recalls.

Mabandla Bongeziwe


Mabandla received guitar lessons in high school even if he didn’t think much of his talent. He later became a student AFDA doing an acting course, which he changed later to study music. When asked what he would be doing had he not pursued his music, he says, “I think I would become a painter, I’m into fine art. I did painting as a subject in high school and I did really well in Art history. So I sometimes think about what kind of art I would be doing if I didn’t drop it” .

The soulful calm sounds of his debut album Umlilo, have a unique flavour. The album was released in 2012 under producer Paulo Chibanga of 340ML fame. On the album he collaborated with the likes of Zuluboy and former Kwani Experience vocalist Nosisi. Bongeziwe has since received instant publicity, having performed on Morning Live weekend edition and Afro Café. He has also received two nominations in the South African Music Awards in 2013. Bongeziwe was nominated for Best Newcomer and Best Adult African album; he also delivered a heart warming performance of ‘Ngawe Mama’ at the awards. The Album has twelve tracks that will have any jazz, soul, afro music or country music lover happy.

Though he is still an up and coming musician in the country he is already booked for a tour in Japan this August, he explains that this is the highlight of his career. As well as performing with Joss Stone as he grew up listening to her music and being on stage with her was amazing. Bongeziwe Mabandla is also back in studio to record his second album, which will tell a story of his heartache in the music industry. “A lot of those situations have made me wonder why I am here, so a lot of it is about the connection with God and also the understanding of God in an African existence.”




Did you like this? Share it:

One On One with flambouyant Mafani

Posted by radio On June - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS


[by Farai Diza]

The lights and camera can turn anyone into a super star. Errr provided there is lots of publicity attached to it. While the camera’s are always ready to capture amazing soccer moments, one star who has taken advantage of that and taken it to radio is former Kaizer Chiefs Public Relations spin doctor Putco Mafani.

To be a good radio presenter, one has to always be tuned into your senses. You have to be creative, innovative, and respectful of listeners,” he divulged.If that tuning is an art that is perfected over the edge, then Mafani has undoubtedly mirrored that perception in a positive way.



Mafani recently made headlines when he won the Best Breakfast Show Presenter Award in the public broadcasting station category in a glittering function that was held at the Sandton Convention Center. The event brought together over 1000 radio lovers. On a night that was full of rewarding great work, Mafani also went home with the Hall of Fame award for Umhlobo Wenene FM and the Best Breakfast Show (overall).


He has teamed up with the likes of Pastor Phiwe Nozewu, Mluleki “Coach” Ntsabo and Mafa Bavuma to build a formidable team on radio through their popular breakfast show.

Radio Biz recently went out to find out more about the golden voice that has been behind the radio mic for the past 16 years. The results were astounding.

Over the 16 years of absolute radio pleasure, I am humbled by the amount of faith and support given to me by my listeners,” said Mafani.

Mafani is simply a larger than life personality who has made a remarkable difference with his contribution to marketing communication in the sports and entertainment fields.

He has worked at a number of radio stations having started it all off at Radio Ciskei before leaping over to Radio Xhosa. Stints at Channel Africa and Kaya FM followed. That opened doors for him as evidenced in 2010 when he was approached by then station manager Nada Wotshela to present Umhlobo Wenene’s breakfast show.

Born in 1966 in Fort Beaufort, Kwadubu, Mafani who presents Breakfast Eyondlayo Ekuseni, said that being inducted in the radio MTN Hall of Fame was a dream come true. But it took some bit of pinching for him to actually believe that it wasn’t just a day time dream.

It did not sound real at all. It only sank in when my name was called out. What i can say is that it is a very humbling experience. Today my name is on the same list as radio legends like Alex Jay, Given Ntlebi and Peter Bacela, he smiled.

Growing up in Fort Beaufort, Mafani always dreamt of riding the radio rollercoaster. His unbelievable passion for radio was further influenced by the well spoken radio personalities that he used to listen to on the wireless.

I was 10 in 1974 when we went on tour with my school. We visited Radio Xhosa in King Williams Town. I had the privilege of seeing Ntlebi recording his Sunday slot. I watched this man in the studio and i was blown away by his voice and gestures,” said Mafani as he spoke about how his interest in radio grew.

Besides making waves on radio, Mafani is also a successful businessman who specialises in marketing communications.


Did you like this? Share it:

[Farai Diza]

Some things were simply meant to make our lives a whole lot easier!

It has been 20 years since South Africa attained its democracy and the nation has strongly developed with the help of science and technology. 2014 has made it even easier for people to communicate information through various mediums that suit one’s pocket.

These include books, newspapers, magazines, the internet and television to name a few. But the most popular medium is radio.

SA RADIO_NO 1 MEDIUMRadio is a kind of electronic wave technology which is very affordable for almost everyone in addition to its availability. Cellphones have made it even more accessible as all listeners need is a pair of earphones and the rest is history.


Radio streams are easily accessible for anyone with a cellphone that has inbuilt radio. Most of these cellphones are cheap to buy. It has become far much easier, for example, for an illiterate granny in the rural areas to catch up with the news happening in her community. I think it’s because radio is extensive at events coverage,” said an avid radio listener Thabo Moeti.


One of the key issues facing radio today is how the fast changing technology affects the medium and how each player has to find ways of keeping up and making it work for them.


36 year old Gareth Cliff made headlines when he re-invented radio in South Africa through his Cliff Central platform that broadcasts shows on the internet via the popular social networking We Chat. Deals like MTN’s uncapped access to Cliff Central have made it easier for listeners to tune in without cutting off a leg and arm on data costs.


With initiatives like the Cliff Central, it is only a matter of time before more innovative ways transform the way we listen to our radio with the pending introduction of digital audio broadcasting (DAB). DAB is a digital radio technology for broadcasting radio stations used in several countries.


It is more robust with regard to noise and multi path fading for mobile listening since DAB reception quality first degrades rapidly when the signal strength falls below a critical threshold, whereas FM reception quality degrades slowly with the decreasing signal.


A number of commercial South African radio stations are already testing DAB, which will mean more regulated stations will become available via the digital spectrum.


We have got to figure out how to take advantage of it and commercialize it. It could be a drain, as it has been for UK radio, where there are 10 streams of frequency. We have been moaning about how limited radio is for years. From that point of view, this could be the game changer. Enabling many radio stations,” said United Stations managing director, Rivak Bunce during a radio roundtable discussion held recently.


Besides being a source of employment, the radio has continued playing so many roles in South Africa and it will continue ushering us into the future as the number one preferred medium.


19 SABC radio stations will broadcast the 2014 FIFA World Cup and no one is going to be left out of the Brazilian excitement wave.


Did you like this? Share it:


A recent rant aimed at Radio Station Managers recently did the rounds. The thought leader with insightful, albeit not so new nuggets, waxed lyrical about how DJs are building personal brands on the back of any given station’s reach.



“It doesn’t matter if every word is an over annunciated, mispronounced song title or time check. In fact, they’ve become that way because they aren’t really being paid enough to generate great radio. They’re being paid just enough to pitch up and build their own personal kingdom on the back of your station’s reach.



This evident in that they get paid more gigging, appearing and MC’ing. They get those gigs because they’re building their following on the back of your station’s reach.”


Our cherished opinion also states the following


Social media audience

I know, that’s how it is. There’s an understanding: you pay them less and they get benefits from the megaphone that is radio. They build enormous social media followings on Facebook and Twitter too don’t they? And when they walk out the door at the end of a show those followings go with them, to their appearances, to their dinners and to their bedside table when they go to sleep at night. 

So what happens when they walk out that door for good? Those social media audiences go with them. But it’s only digital audiences. It’s not like they’re taking your FM audiences with them, so there’s nothing to worry about because the next DJ that comes along to fill the slot will begin to cultivate and build a mass following anew on the back of building their own brand on the back of your station’s reach on the back of radio being a megaphone.

And then, one day, like property in America, the megaphone bubble that is radio will burst. Don’t get me wrong, people will always be listening – they’ll just be doing it on something other than FM and suddenly the megaphone’s batteries will lose power. When that day comes, your station’s back may break and so may its traditional FM reach and if you’ve done nothing to plug the digital dam wall holes through which your digital audiences are currently leaking like water, well then you’ll be holding onto those last few DJ’s with white knuckles won’t you? 

The bubble will burst

Don’t be surprised if the DJs that leave are one day sitting in the corporate journalism rooms of self-publishing brands, who have paid them executive communications salaries for them to continue broadcasting to the swathes of social media audiences they once built on the back of your radio station’s reach.

Forewarned is forearmed. The bubble will burst. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But it will one day and if you have not prepared you will be left wondering, like the newspaper industry what you could have done to make it different.

If I were you I’d start with an audit of your total digital reach and then decide from there how to future proof this part of your business.

Did you like this? Share it:

From Tapped Ankles To DJ Ankle Tap

Posted by radio On May - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

[by Farai Diza]


YFM has moved from strength to strength with an amazing plethora of DJ’s living up to listeners expectations.

One of these is Bryce Clark, who is popularly known in the entertainment circles as DJ Ankle Tap. His radio tale streams back to the age of 17 when he started spinning discs at high school events. And the rest is history.



I think I first fell in love listening to the Rude Awakening with Jeremy Mansfield every morning as i drove with my father to school. There was just something about what he was doing that totally captured my imagination. I have always been a very talkative person and in 2009 my 3rd year of University a friend convinced me to go and audition for the campus radio station and so I did,” he said.


While pursing his Psychology and Communication degree at the University of Johannesburg, DJ Ankle Tap joined UJFM, starting as a DJ on the graveyard slot before moving onto midday, then finally the breakfast show.





He then got a slot on YFM’s graveyard slot before securing a midday slot presenting The Top Mansion. That was history in the making, as he became the first white dude to single handedly man a prime time slot at what is generally known as Gauteng’s leading “urban black youth” radio station.


Today he cooks and serves sumptuous YFM radio breakfast meals on his Rise N Tap show during weekdays from 6 – 9am. He also hosts the Players Club every Saturday from 9pm – 12am


But who is DJ Ankle Tap?

With a following of over 13 000 on his Facebook page, he got the DJ Ankle Tap nickname while he was still in high school.


I was born with Club Feet and have had many operations over the years on my feet, so at school whenever i played sport the other kids used to joke that they would Ankle Tap me. So when i started to DJ at age 17, the name DJ Ankle Tap came about and just stuck,” he professed.


DJ Ankle Tap was born in Carletonville and stayed there until his family moved to Potchefstroom in 1997.


He speaks fluent Tswana among several other African languages.


On the serious stuff, DJ Ankle Tap joined YFM in 2010. The station took him on board because of his personality and skills. He still avidly remembers the joy that gripped him when he was hired.


I feel that as a DJ my style was always suited for YFM and could only ever see myself being part of this particular station. I have always been a huge YFM fan and was overjoyed when given a chance to become one of the presenters. I have been seen by many as the Black White Boy,” stated Ankle Tap.


Well they say a good breakfast energises the soul and carries the spirit throughout the day. So if you are looking for something savvier, 99.2MHz is the port of call as you Rise N Tap your way to success


Did you like this? Share it:
Speech to the MDDA/Sanlam Awards by Mandla Langa
First of all thanks to the Master of Ceremonies and thereafter, plaudits to the MDDA, and to Sanlam, for coming up with the awards, which, hopefully, will give encouragement to the young practitioners in media. And everyone knows, it has been said repeatedly, that media stands between chaos and us.

I am somewhat familiar with chaos, having had a ringside seat in places where it has unleashed itself and, if truth be told, caused a little bit of it in my days of youth.

A friend of mine, Jim Kelman, is a Scottish writer; his novel, How Late it was, How Late, was a joint winner of the Booker Prize in 1994. It’s a bleak story whose genesis I witnessed, of Sammy, an incoherent Glaswegian drunk who gets beaten by cops and goes blind. The novel is about his efforts to come to terms with his disability, in an unforgiving world full of judgmental people.

I was thinking about Sammy’s predicament, his blindness and struggle to navigate the world as I started writing this speech, realising that the question of blindness in a seeing world, of illiteracy in a land where the directions are in hieroglyphics, is what exercises a huge section of our population.

I was in exile in Botswana in the late 1970s, following the exodus of young people after the widespread uprisings whose epicentre was Soweto in 1976. Apart from the students whose education had been uprooted was a motley crew of refugees, some of whom had left the country for all sorts of reasons. We had established a succession of cultural formations and I had already made a kind of a name – or acquired some notoriety – as a poet and had an old Corona typewriter in the backroom where I stayed in the suburb of Broadhurst.

One of the South Africans was Bra David, whom we called Bra Deyi, who was wanted by the police and who lived with his girlfriend, Sis’ Maisie, who also ran a shebeen in the area. Bra Deyi was the quiet, ageless type who didn’t encourage intimacy, who doted on Sis’ Maisie, who was pretty in that dangerous way and was much younger and seemed wise in the ways of the street.

One day, Sis Maisie disappeared and we learnt from Bra Deyi that she had gone back home. Her absence had a devastating effect on Bra Deyi; he hit the bottle hard and started fraternising with us, something he hadn’t done before. Then, one evening, a few months since Sis Maisie’s departure, Bra Deyi dropped in unannounced and sat down on the only chair in the room. He had been drinking.

“Ek hoor jy’s a poet,” he said. I must have murmured something to the effect that I had written a few poems and some of them had actually been used as an indictment in the trial of the black consciousness activists.

Then he told me that he had been writing to Sis Maisie, who was now in Botshabelo in Bloemfontein, and she hadn’t responded to any of his messages. They had a child together back home and he was worried about them, wanting to know if they’d been arrested. And then, with tears streaming down his face, Bra Deyi told me that he hadn’t treated Sis Maisie very well. Now he wanted to make amends. “So, my laaitjie, I want you to write to her, en jy moet daardie ding gebruik,” he said, pointing at my typewriter. He exhorted me to reach deep down into my soul and bring out evocative language that would melt her heart. “Ek soek haar terug.” I had a feeling that if this little exercise failed to produce positive results I’d be held responsible. And Bra Deyi wasn’t the kind of guy you wanted to disappoint, even if the matter were out of your hands.

So I wrote the letter, now and then using lines from my friend Keorapetse Kgositsile, borrowing allusions from Aime Cesaire, for instance:

    And in this inert town, this squalling throng so astonishingly detoured from its movement, from its meaning, not even worried, detoured from its true cry, the only cry you would have wanted to hear because you feel it alone belongs to this town; because you feel it lives in it in some deep refuge and pride in this inert town, this throng detoured from its cry of hunger, of poverty, of revolt, of hatred, this throng so strangely chattering and mute.

I pored over the love poems of Pablo Neruda:

      Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
      To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her….
      Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
    When I am sad and feel you are far away?

And then there was Keorapetse Kgositsile:

      There are memories between us
      Deeper than grief. There are feelings
      Between us much stronger than the cold
      Enemy machine that breaks the back
      Sister, there are places between us
      Deeper than the ocean, no distances
      Pry your heart open, brother, mine too
      Learn to love the clear voice
      The music in the memory pried
    Open to the bone of feeling, no distances

I wrote Bra Deyi’s letter that was shot through with stolen poetry, hoping against hope that Sis Maisie would respond and give this poor man a sign. I then had to leave Botswana for Lesotho in 1979 and thence to Mozambique, Angola and, much later Lusaka. Eleven years later, in December 1990, I stumbled into Bra Deyi, at Nasrec, during the Consultative Conference of the ANC, which was the period of the return of Oliver Tambo and hundreds of exiles. Bra Deyi was much older and heavier and somewhat more jovial. This surprised me, for I had thought he would be his lugubrious self. After the chitchat of catching up, I asked him if Sis Maisie ever replied. For a moment he was disoriented and then he started laughing, almost breaking into hysterics. What’s wrong, I asked. “She didn’t reply because she couldn’t read,” he said. “She did get the letters but was too ashamed to get anyone to read them for her.” As I parted with him I thought of all that wasted poetry.

Much later, I think it was 1981, in Angola, I encountered another form of blindness in a seeing world. There was a ritual every Monday night in the camps, which was called the Jazz Hour, which was a period of affirmation and regeneration by the community of trainees and officers. Here, I met an old friend from Lesotho, who confided that he was embarrassed by the fact that he couldn’t read and write. I asked the Company Commissar for permission to teach him; once that was accepted, the comrade and I got down to work. Today he has built on that foundation and is a functional member of society.

This reality of this blindness was impressed on me when I was in Tianamen Square in 1998, with Neil Harvey and Zwelakhe Sisulu the late CEO of the SABC. Suddenly, I found that my companions had disappeared and I was alone, without our minders and translators. Tiananmen Square is a vast stammering acreage of concrete and wall-to-wall humanity. I scanned the directional signs, perhaps to find my way back to the hotel. They were in Chinese characters, blank and unresponsive to my enquiry. No one spoke English and, to my horror, I found that I had become a curio, a prop for the millions of Chinese tourists that had never been within touching distance of a black person. A few posed beside me while their pictures were taken. Mercifully, just as I was about to collapse from claustrophobia, Zwelakhe and Neil and our Chinese hosts reappeared and disrupted the queue of people that had formed lining up to have their picture taken with me. I was thus delivered from a possible panic attack.

In today’s South Africa, this blindness and the inability to access the amenities still exist. In many instances the survival of these hobbling conditions is more sophisticated and hides under the guise of openness. Many of us believe that the wretched of the earth have struck a better bargain now that there is a proliferation of communication platforms. For instance, we cite the growth of the print and electronic media, radio, television, on-line blogs, cellular telephones, and information at our fingertips. Granted, these are measures of progress and success of the democratic dispensation ushered in two decades ago. They are part of the good story of twenty years of media freedom and diversity and couldn’t have happened in this accelerated form outside of a democratic process.

A niggling question is one of how the successes towards the creation of diversity in the media have permeated those corners of society where they are most needed. I cannot claim to have monitored the media comprehensively in the period leading to the recent elections. But I was always appalled by the level of desperation in the utterances of those manning the barricades. There was a refrain, people vowing to withhold their vote to punish whosoever they regarded as culpable for lack of delivery. It seems to me that there is blindness when it comes to reading the constitution and the history of blood that forms its prologue. What I saw and read and heard was more about reporting the spectacle of revolt, bringing out the images of fire, rather than contributing some roadmaps, charts, which could guide us towards resolving problems.

A lot has been achieved. There are many platforms. The choice might seem wide but we have to ask ourselves what that choice seriously offers. To what extent are South Africans more enlightened than they were twenty years ago? Herbert Marcusse had this to say:

“The means of communication, the irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, certain intellectual and emotional reactions which bind the consumers to the producers and, through the latter to the whole social system. The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood…Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior.”

I have to end by pointing out that we’re in trouble. Our languages are in trouble. You just have to listen to certain radio stations – we used to call them jukeboxes in the past – that present an aesthetic that’s so remote from the lives and loves of our people. The disc jockeys – because I cannot call them anything else – outdo one another in aping pseudo-African-American accents or gangsta slang. They have no idea of the struggles of those self-same Americans to preserve their African roots after being kidnapped and sold off as slaves in the plantations. Malcolm X has commented on the basis of spirituals like “I couldn’t hear nobody pray”.

He had read in some books where it was said that some of the slave mothers would try to teach the ancestral language of Africa to their child who’d be off in another field somewhere but within earshot. They themselves would be praying and they’d pray in a loud voice, and in their own language. The child in the distant field would hear his mother’s voice, and he’d learn how to pray in the same way; and in learning how to pray, he’d pick up on some of the language.

By language here I don’t mean any of the official languages of our democracy but the inner, unquantifiable language of commitment, of criticism and self-criticism; the language of love and defence of all the things we hold sacred and dear; an adherence to the values that imbued us with the spirit that enabled us to withstand everything and fear nothing. In those days and nights of love and war, we knew how to protect the weak and become the eyes of the unseeing and the tongues of the mute. That consciousness should still stammer in the collective corner of our hearts.

Many thanks.

Did you like this? Share it:

The International Radio Festival announces 9th edition in Malta

The International Radio Festival (IRF) is pleased to confirm that the 9th edition will take place in Valetta, Malta – […]

Thobela FM new line-up announced

A new season, new week, new day. Monday 13th August 2018, Thobela FM listeners will wake-up to new programme voices. […]

Fearless, intelligent women take over POWER 98.7 airwaves this Woman’s Month

 As part of its Woman’s Month programme to celebrate and elevate South Africa’s multi-talented women, POWER 98.7 is once again […]

Gagasi FM Shero Awards celebrate KZN women

The annual Gagasi FM Shero Awards are back. Every year in August, Gagasi FM celebrates women’s month through the Shero […]