Man Oh Man – Bon­gani Bingwa

Bon­gani Bingwa, host of 702’s break­fast show and SABC 3’s Democ­racy Gauge, on how he loves a chal­lenge, be­ing pedan­tic about lan­guage and what an easy-go­ing dad he is...


Un­like my on-air per­sona, I’m gen­er­ally a re­laxed and easy-go­ing per­son. I like to have fun and don’t take my­self too se­ri­ously. Be­fore any­thing else, I’m a par­ent. I’m pas­sion­ate about be­ing a fa­ther. Late Amer­i­can writer James Baldwin says chil­dren may not al­ways do what you say, but they will rarely fail to imi­tate what you do. Your kids watch you when no-one else can see you, when you are most com­fort­able and when you are your true self. They ob­serve you with­out even know­ing, which is why it’s im­por­tant to be au­then­tic and a role model around them. While I try not to take my­self too se­ri­ously, I make sure that what my daugh­ter sees is real and hon­ourable.

I hope my daugh­ter will learn to see her­self through my eyes. I read that some­where, and it’s the best de­scrip­tion of my as­pi­ra­tions for her. She’s a fierce ad­vo­cate for what’s right and has a deep sense of em­pa­thy for those she loves. I see a lioness in her, a fighter. That is what she has dis­played, and I hope those qual­i­ties only grow stronger.

I was an ad­vanced kid and en­joyed the com­pany of peo­ple much older than my­self. I was the kid who was for­ever be­ing chased out of the room, be­cause at some point, the adults re­alised they were talk­ing freely in the pres­ence of a child. I al­ways wanted to talk about the things that got un­der peo­ple’s skins and made them un­com­fort­able. I al­ways wanted to know ‘why?’ Broad­cast­ing, as the word sug­gests, casts the net far and wide – you never know who is lis­ten­ing and what they may take from it. My job’s done when some­one says, “Oh gosh! I’ve never thought about this or that in a par­tic­u­lar way, you’ve opened my eyes.” I would tell my younger self not to be afraid of mak­ing mis­takes.

I would tell him, ‘You’re braver than you’ll ever know. You will face thrilling highs and in­cred­i­ble lows, but through it all, search for de­cency and your best self. Don’t let fools change you be­cause, at the end of the day,

you will be ac­count­able to your­self and your fam­ily. If you re­main hon­ourable to your­self, you can han­dle all that comes your way.’

I love work­ing as a TV and ra­dio broad­caster, and have the good for­tune to be able to do both. Two years ago I was a Carte Blanche pre­sen­ter and had been so for nearly 11 years. Some peo­ple said my move was silly be­cause ra­dio re­quires dif­fer­ent skills. “You won’t last six months,” a per­son I re­spected and ad­mired told me. Well, here I am two years later, host­ing Break­fast With Bon­gani Bingwa. Ad­mit­tedly, I’m learn­ing ev­ery day and there’s room for growth, but I’m hav­ing the time of my life, do­ing what I was warned I might fail to achieve. What I love about broad­cast­ing is the idea of hav­ing an im­pact on the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. Be­ing able to shape the minds of both young and old and even, on oc­ca­sion, those who pull the levers of power. I’ve had politi­cians ap­proach me at events or when I have en­coun­tered them unexpected­ly, say to me, “Keep go­ing, keep at it – you will never know the difference your voice makes.” That hum­bles and gets me up ev­ery morn­ing.

I love a chal­lenge. Tell me I can’t learn a new skill or achieve a par­tic­u­lar goal and you won’t know what hit you! Right now, my per­sonal ful­fil­ment goal for 2019 is to read 40 books. Not silly, trashy nov­els, but mean­ing­ful books that can add value not only to my life, but those I have the priv­i­lege of in­flu­enc­ing.

I’ve had to learn not to judge others. It took me a long time to recog­nise that, what we judge in others, says some­thing about what we see of our­selves in them. That’s re­ally what we’re do­ing when we point a fin­ger – as the proverb says, ‘four others are point­ing back at you’. I’m pedan­tic about do­ing things prop­erly — speak­ing cor­rectly, gram­mar, spell­ing and the proper use of lan­guage. Don’t speak to me in emo­jis or the ab­bre­vi­a­tions peo­ple are so fond of on so­cial me­dia. I can­not abide by it! There’s a price to pay for this, though. My life is a con­stant bat­tle be­tween want­ing to cor­rect gram­mar and the de­sire to keep friends. So I have had to learn the art of biting my tongue [chuck­les]! ■

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