Man Oh Man – Macfarlane Moleli
We were first introduced to Macfarlane Moleli, or rather his voice, as a newsreader on YFM back in 2006. He tells us about his high schoolhopping, kick-starting his broadcast career at Radio Islam and why moving to Carte Blanche has been a remarkable exp
What people think is my radio voice actually isn’t. I have a news voice, not a radio voice. Those who know me well enough will tell you that this is how I speak. I was very fortunate in that both my parents were teachers so I already knew how to speak English when I started school. I was also an avid reader — I went through the African Writers Series and the Reader’s Digest encyclopaedia by Standard 5 (Grade 7). I grew up in the Vaal. But, being a product of boarding schools, I consider myself a son of the soil. I went to Sancta Maria in Vanderbijlpark, St. Martin’s in Johannesburg, St. Andrew’s in the Free State, Michaelhouse in KwaZulu-Natal, and Potchefstroom Boys in North West. I’ve done my fair share of travelling [chuckles].
My big mouth landed me in news broadcasting. When I converted to Islam in 2002, I went to live with my aunt in Lenasia. I’d spend the bulk of my time researching and acquainting myself with the religion. A lot of the stuff I was reading was way different to the content being broadcast on Radio Islam, so my cousin and I visited the radio station to voice our complaints to the station manager. He asked if I thought I could do a better job, and I said, ‘Yes!’ And just like that, I got my own radio show called Out Of Africa. At Thabo Mbeki’s first inauguration, I was reporting from the Union Buildings in Pretoria when Khanyi Magubane, YFM’s then desk editor, heard me and said they’d never had a male news reader. She invited me for an interview and that’s when I went in for the big time!
Life after YFM was incredible. Straight after that, I was given an opportunity at SABC Africa because Peter Ndoro had just left, and they were looking for a male presenter to work with Desiree Chauke. I did it for two and half years. While I was there, I also read the prime time news on SABC3, and did SABC Radio Africa. I then got poached by then editor-in-chief Debora Patta for eNCA for their first 24-hour news channel. It was all daunting for me at the time, but on-the-job experience has been my best teacher. I’ve been doing this for 14 years now.
My children are my reason for living. I’m a father to three boys and four girls. Moving to Carte Blanche was probably one of the most amazing things to ever happen to me. It’s almost like a culmination of everything I’ve ever done work-wise and a recognition of sorts — especially considering that I’ve always flown by the skin of my teeth. Carte Blanche has been on air for 30 years, and there’s a lot of respect and responsibility that comes with being on a show of its calibre. I’d like to use my time on the show to impact people’s lives.
I’m a big believer in things happening exactly when they’re supposed to. For instance, when I retire, I’d like to become a breakfast show DJ and would love to host my own talk show. I refuse to force matters though — I much prefer to wait for the right time.
I converted to Islam because it was the only religion that made sense to me. Firstly, it made me feel like I was human again. Secondly, it made me understand who God is. God is not something you do, only, on a Sunday. Islam is a way of life — it’s something you do every single day.
If I wasn’t in journalism I’d most probably be a lawyer. My mom used to say that I have answers for everything [chuckles]. I’ve also always believed in justice and fairness. The reason I school-hopped so much was because as one of the few black learners at the Model C and private schools I attended, I dealt with a lot of discrimination. I used to fight with my white schoolmates, and would backchat at teachers. At the time, it was unheard of for a black learner to stand up for themselves so I’d always get into trouble. Plus, I had ADHD, which made me very disruptive in class.
The one thing I’ve owned the longest is my tasbih (prayer beads). I’ve had it since I converted to Islam. Fear makes me angry. Most of it stems from injustice. In the same breath, fear also drives me to face the very situations or people that have left me fearful.
My biggest phobia is heights. I’ve bungee-jumped, free-fallen and ziplined but I still feel like dying each time.
My favourite thing to do for a woman is to make her feel like she’s the centre of my universe. I do this by either taking her out, going away on holiday or cooking for her (I cook very well, by the way!). Women have a lot to deal with as it is, so it’s important to make them feel like queens because society doesn’t appreciate them much. I treasure women because I was raised by my mom and aunts — all of whom are amazing women.
The first thing I notice about people is their warmth. I can almost read a person’s character from their handshake, eye contact and smile. The best decision I ever made was to stop drinking, temporarily. It was after my second divorce three years ago, and I moved back in with my mother for a bit. My mother’s reassurance was all I needed to rebuild my life.
The least true rumour about me is that I’m a snob. This usually comes from people who don’t know me.