I met Robert Marawa for this interview about 3 weeks ago and I delayed publishing it mostly because I needed to calm down.
No, I'm not mad at Robert.
I needed to calm the excitement I felt at having spent a beautiful 3 hours in his presence.
I have always admired Marawa for his talent. I love his intelligence, his voice, his knowledge of sports in general and the way he handles his show "Discovery Sports Centre" on Metro FM.
(He is also "very easy" on the eye but I've just been told I need Jesus so I'm not talking about anyone's looks for a while)
After starting my blog, I told myself that I wanted it to be the Discovery Sports Centre of blogging... Informative, Honest, Fun, Opinionated, have great interviews with industry high players & give space for my audience to comment, bluntly so if necessary. Just like his show.
Little did I know that just as I was watching his career with interest, my idol was also monitoring my blog's progress and knew about my existence. To say I was stunned would be an understatement.
So if you aren't feeling Marawa then please feel free not to read but as much as I should do interviews for the readers of the site, this one was for me man. I needed to do this for myself!
I guess reading this, Robert will finally understand why I kept giggling the whole time I was with him :-)
And now for the interview.....
Please read more about Robert on his TVSA Profile : Robert Marawa.
I first laid eyes on him back in 1996 when the SABC TV Channels were relaunched as SABC 1, SABC 2 & SABC 3. He was one of SABC 1's Continuity Presenters and I didn't really think much of him back then.
It was only when he started on Soccerzone that I paid him attention....eish okay, I'm sure you guys want the interview not a long story so yeah, this is part 1 of the Robert Marawa interview. Part 2 will be up tomorrow because it would have been damn long had I not split it.
Here's how me and Madluphuthu spent our time...thank you for being so open with me Rob!!!
Brown Shuga: I don't remember reading any interview you've given unless it was something I read on the DISH magazine. Is it because you don't want to or are they just scared to interview you?
Not really, I think I had a standard when I joined the industry. Also when Drum wanted to interview me as a new face on SABC1, I refused because there's nothing to write about new faces. A new face needs to do something first before you can write about them. So I refused on those grounds, same way I refused Selimathunzi. A new face can become nothing a year later. It doesn't mean just because you appear on TV now you must be all over the place. I always ask for substance in an interview and if it doesn't have then... BS: Isn't it substance if we want to know who this new person is, so that it's an introduction of some sort? To introduce the new face to the viewers, I mean you also interview new signings to a team don't you? Marawa:
Yeah for sure, I think at the time, there was a lot of publicity and marketing around us so for me to go grace the cover of a magazine I'd grown up reading like Drum, eish...I didn't want that because with such a publication, there's an element of respect and it's a magazine that you put under the same wavelength as an Ebony Magazine in America. I knew then that an SABC 1 presenter wasn't what I wanted to do, long term. That was my intro into TV and media, I wanted to do sports anchoring so to make a whole big thing about a new face, I wasn't keen on that. NEW FACE
BS: For such a nosy interviewer, you are very private about your issues, what's up with that? The thing is, as much as you and your listeners are interested in the people you interview, there are also people who are your fans who want to know about you.
That's where you have choice. You see, if you're in a leadership position like SAFA/PSL, you're accountable to the masses, you're accountable to give the information out. I'm just a mere cargo in this whole thing...... BS: I think you're very harsh on them (SAFA)
Well, if harshness is the way to go to get answers then that's what you do. It's what intrigued me to go into the route that I went into and I don't regret it coz for me if you do background checks and investigate what the guys get up to, there's so much they get away with. I don't believe that in sports /football there's a enough journalism that goes deeper than just what is on face value. People need to investigate more, that hardly happens now and everyone is just sort of buddy buddy, everyone wants to know why we are doing so badly, we know, it's them. It's the administration and the leadership. (Poor SAFA, zisuka nje sebeya criticizwa lol)
BS: So it's not the players who go on the field and do not score goals?
Players are one thing but if you haven't developed them from a young age, they're not gonna get it right. BS: Uyay'thanda le point ye development neh..but we've already established ukuthi we didn't do that so how do we move forward?
You see, their way of moving forward is to bring Parreira, pay him lots of money and then absolve themselves from responsibility by saying “Well, you wanted a top level coach, there he is, R1.8 million, he couldn't be here Santana is here and we're paying him R1.6 million so we pay him the money”
That same money, 10 years ago in development, could have produced world class players and now they tryna absolve themselves from blame by paying all that money to these coaches who come from outside. BS: What are they supposed to do? It's okay to point fingers so we can establish where it all comes from but how do we move forward?
They must accept that they messed up, that's number 1. If they don't then we'll keep arguing. And then they'll realise where the faults are.
It's very simple, SAFA has a lot of power, without SAFA there's no PSL so SAFA can tell PSL “Use only 3 foreign players and if you have 2 foreign strikers you can't use both of them at the same time. Use one and the other striker must be South African. Defenders, you can't have two foreign defenders on, have one South African and one foreign etc...”
so that when it gets to Bafana we can't say hey, the boys are not scoring. BS: But that's now SAFA being the coach and telling clubs who to play, isn't it?
No, it's saying they should only have 3 foreign players in the team, it's taking care of your own product, which is 2010, Bafana Bafana, that's why Swaziland is doing so well because all the Swazi players who are in the PSL play before South African Players.
That's why players in Lesotho are doing well, they almost beat Ghana because Lesotho players who are based here are playing ahead of South African players. Our players are sitting on the bench.
So what we have to try and do is make sure that we in a way favour the country because apparently we are hosting a world cup soon... BS: I think that whole selection thing is debatable because someone might argue and say that you are in a way saying South African players should enjoy automatic selection, whereas it should be about hard work and match fitness but we won't go there, it'll take us forever.
Marawa: For sure.. BS: You can also be very intimidating with the way you question your guests..
Intimidating, that's such a strong word, why? BS: It's just that sometimes I just feel like gosh, Robert is just pushing and pushing. Is it your way of conducting interviews or did you have to learn how to do great interviews, not that your interviews are great, I”m just saying... Marawa:
No, mine are terrible. BS: The worst! Marawa:
Yeah, terrible. I think a lot of the time, the people that you're interviewing are under so much pressure or they're being threatened by their bosses not to talk. They don't wanna be honest, they come on air and they talk nonsense and don't wanna be forthcoming with the truth and usually when I become forceful it's because I've done my research and I know what the answer is but I just want them to commit publicly to whatever the case might be.
9 times out of 10 you have to go that extra mile of pushing to get that answer. I don't believe in sound bite journalism, I believe you have to add on and add more substance and more meat to it. BS: True. So is there someone in particular that you find very difficult to interview?
Nah.... BS: Or uyinkalakatha wena ubakhona bonke?
: I think I've learnt who doesn't say what and how a lot of the people at SAFA are. For example, when they come on air, already from the greeting they're so defensive and they try intimidate me from the word go by the sound of their voice.
I've kinda learnt who those people are and I'd just throw them with a surprise question not something they'd expect me to say as my first question. For example, I'd say “Good evening Mr Oliphant, so how was your trip to Geneva?”
and he'd be thrown off like “What the hell....”
you know? But it's just a way of trying to say, “Don't be defensive, listen and address the issues.” I don't think there's one person now, I know their strengths and weaknesses so I take it as it comes. BS: Okay...u Irvin Khoza yena he just leaves you to the Lord to sort you out if you keep pushing like that.
: Yeah, when he said that I had messed up a Press Conference he had scheduled for the next day to announce his new coach and I knew who his new coach was, nobody else knew so that's why he kept on saying "God Bless You"BS: Heheheh Eish nawe! Okay, let's talk about why you left SABC Sport. Did you have an idea that there would be the storm?
No man, that was co-incidental. BS: Why did you leave?
What do you want, do you want me to give you my resignation letter?(Tjo, attitude already....)
BS: No, I wanna know why you left and I want to know the truth since we are so .....
(who's being defensive now....seems he's learnt a thing or two from SAFA mmmmhh
) BS: Since we both love honesty so much.
Now you wanna stir up the pot all over again....
BS: No man c'mon on! Out with it, why did you leave SABC Sport baba?
I left purely on professional grounds. I'd gone to the World Cup in Germany for 42 days and I felt it was 42 days wasted in my life because whatever we did there was nowhere near what I expected to do. I found myself under achieving in a platform where I could have accelerated my growth and the growth of SABC Sport. BS: What happened?
We didn't have access to go to stadiums, we didn't have access to be in the international broadcasting centre. You're in Germany but you can't go watch a game, when you go watch a game, it's on a big screen somewhere with people drinking beer!
We didn't do any live games from Germany, everything was being done there. Besides the fact that there was a studio in Germany for those purposes. There were just a lot of missed opportunities. BS: So was it the SABC's fault?
It was their production. All I”m just saying is that from where I thought the production would go, sending so many people, spending R18 million, and you would expect to come back with something that's gonna rock people back home like “Yho, look at those guys, they are right there and they are bringing great visuals, they're talking to the relevant people”.
I just found that we underachieved and even besides the 42 days in Germany, maan, there were just a lot of internal things that I had a problem with and rather than confront them endlessly everyday, I thought let me go step aside because at the time when I resigned, there was no Supersport. I was prepared to give it all up and go sell hot dogs in Braamfontein. That's how strongly I felt about leaving. When I came back from Germany, we did a game for the Telkom Spectacular and after that production, I went home and started typing my letter. BS: Something happened at the game?
Well, that too just showed that whatever I was thinking needed to be translated into action. BS: What happened at the game?
Again, it was just underachieving from a production point of view, from delivery point of view. BS: And you got tired of complaining and asking people to sort things out?
(what a bright question Lelo...*sigh*)Marawa:
Yeah, also you don't wanna come across like you know everything when all you're tryna do is help improve a product.
Supersport offered me a contract 6 years ago when Lazarus Zim was still head of MNet and I turned it down because Soccerzone was just beginning at the time and it was like a blank page that we had to fill in. They just said to us “Here's Soccerzone, run with it”
Things like “Moment of Brilliance, Moemish of The Week”, those are the kinda things we came up with.... BS: Do they still do that, Moemish of The Week?
I don't know, I've never watched the show since I left BS: Hehehe me neither.
Yeah so those are the things we put together. That was a challenge that was there. BS: How long were you at SABC Sport?
Umm....I remember doing the World Cup '98, that was the first thing I did when I left SABC 1. BS: Wow, it's been quite a road for you.
Yeah, you're gonna write my book so you'll know all the inside stuff... ......WHEN HE GOT FIRED/SUSPENDED FROM METRO FM.....
Article: Marawa Suspended Not Fired
BS: Heheheh, let's talk about when you were caught in the middle of the Supersport vs SABC PSL rights drama. Were you fired or suspended?
*sighs* BS: Heheheh what happened? Okay, you had just finished your show when you did the interview with Supersport, PSL & SABC and then what happened afterwards?
Well, there were phone calls even when I was busy with the interviews. There was a phone call when I was on air with Supersport to say “Get that guy off air
” BS: Was it Dali?
Well, my producer was telling me. She was phoned and I could see she was on her cellphone, another phone and another one so I was like “What do you mean?” And she says no, I was on the phone now and they say “Take that guy off air” so I carried on coz what I was doing was right. There were 3 sides to it. BS: So you will kill for the truth Marawa?Marawa:
I'll be fired for the truth! I don't care, that's just the way it is. So there were 3 sides to it, I'd spoken to PSL, I'd spoken to SABC and I was in the process of speaking to Supersport. I would dare anyone to tell me that of the steps I took, I was wrong. BS: Maybe because it was an SABC platform, you should have let them have the last word? Marawa:
It wasn't about who gets the last or first word... BS: But maybe it was important for them to have a comeback since they'd heard what was said...okay carry on. Marawa:
Also, 2 weeks prior to that, David O'Sullivan had been interviewing Supersport on his Rugga show on SABC 2, he didn't get fired so all I was saying was that, “Well, what's the story? I understand you've lost your rights, but my job is to host a sports talk show, it doesn't really matter whether I'm working for Supersport or whatever TV. All I'm doing is just getting all sides to a story that is happening at the moment.”
I would have fired myself if at the end of all of that, I would not have spoken to Supersport. I would have volunteered to leave the show but it was my duty at the time to do all 3 interviews. BS: So you were fired, you weren't just suspended? Marawa:
No, I was umm....ummm...there's a word they used coz I was called in the office.... BS: Whose office?
Bob's (Mabena) office. Umm...they informed me that Group Chief...there's a word they used...I don't know, I think they said “Take time off”...oh, they called it “A cooling off period
”. BS: Why, were you emotional on air?
No! So I don't know who exactly needed cooling off. BS: Damn, I missed that particular show...
Yeah, YFM is a problem! BS: Heheheh I wasn't listening to YFM!
Yeah, they called it a cooling off period so all I said was that I don't mind cooling off but what am I cooling off from? And they told me that the whole situation was sensitive and me bringing Supersport on has added more fuel to the fire and I thought “Well, that's cool, just give me a legal document that says I have breached a certain clause in my contract and I'll go and cool off gladly
They were verbally telling me to cool off whereas I had never missed a show one day in my entire life, whether through a parent being sick or family problems. I had never missed show so I couldn't just not pitch without a reason so they had to give me something. They listened to the tape over and over again... BS: And they couldnt find anything...
No but finally I said yeah, it's cool I'll get off air, you can do whatever you want. BS: And then they called you back?
It became legal because my lawyer was on top of it, corresponding with their lawyers, they looked at my contract, there was nothing in it.
For me it was my having joined Supersport that was an issue. And there were certain people, who are still there, that wanted me to leave SABC completely after I'd left SABC Sport and in fact just one person. BS: Ubani? Off the record... Marawa:
Hayi BS: Off the record, I promise
Ayikho off the record! BS: Don't you want to know if you can trust me? This is a perfect opportunity for you to test that. Who?
No, I heard usebenza ku City Press manje, uzong'shaya ngama front page... BS: I write about gossip, not soccer!
That's why I keep away from you...otherwise I'll be front page everyday yho! BS: Whatever....yeah so...
So I got a call to say I can come back but already it had made front page in newspapers
... BS: Eish, and the way it happened! There was just no explanation coz I tuned in and heard you weren't there but I kept listening waiting to hear why, there was nothing till Sakina started her show and one of your listeners Alfie called into Sakina's show and asked her where you were and Sakina was like “I don't know, I just got here and Robert is not here.” Marawa:
Yeah, they had put Romy in and yho, she took a lot of abuse BS: Shame man....
I've never spoken about it like this..... BS: It's a good thing and thank you for opening up to me but I don't think it's because no one's asked you about this before.
Yeah they have but you see, I don't like giving people ammunition to say “Yeah, you see, he's badmouthing, that's why we should have let him go
BS: But how did you manage it, or was it not an issue ukuthi you're leaving SABC Sport, going to Supersport but still remain with Metro?
Gareth Cliff is on 5FM & Idols on Mnet, Elana Afrika is on Kyknet, yet she does 5FM. Tim Modise was doing his show on SABC 2 while on 702/Carte Blanche. The list is endless. BS: Oh okay, so it was not an issue? (I was really on a roll with these smart questions....)
It was never an issue. Sasha Martinengo, Supersport Formula 1 Anchor and he's on 5FM. BS: Oh okay.
So it was a Robert issue, it wasn't a Metro or Supersport thing. There was just that one dude who still walks around with his jaw hanging on the floor because of my leaving SABC Sport. BS: Ubani?
Qhubeka sisi, ngeke uwaqede lama questions. BS: Who's this guy you keep referring to?
We'll talk one day. BS: So wena no Dali (Mpofu), have you made peace?
: I was never at war no Dali. BS: I know but he must have been upset over what you did.
Well, not with me. I'd met him on the passage at the SABC and we spent about 15 minutes after my show the one time and he was just pouring his heart out. I don't think directly he was the problem, like I said there is this one person who is a big influence on Dali. There was no peace to be made with Dali. BS: Okay Mr Marawa. And when you were at home during your “Suspension/Cooling off period” , how did you feel knowing that so many people were behind you?
It was humbling. When I was told not to go back to work it was like telling the pope “don't preach” for the whole week, how would he feel?
So being removed from it and hearing the reaction from people, coz I never really think about it really.
All I do is to think about , eish, this show is finished so I'm already planning for the next one & what needs to be done, etc.
It was a humbling feeling, I never expected that. I know I've ruffled a lot of feathers around football and sports in general but when you get high ranking ministers in government phoning you, giving you the support and ANCYL sending out a statement
specifically on that. UDM with Bantu Holomisa attaching their signature. A cross section of political high risers not just verbalizing but also putting out statements and sending word out that they condemn my being fired or whatever. I went to the stadium one evening and bumped into Mam' Winnie and she was asking me the same thing like “Hey mfana wam kwenzakalani
?” There's Zwelinzima Vavi there, asking if there was anything they could do from their side as the union, Reverend Chikane...eish you know a lot of people.. BS: Abo Brown Shuga nabo kumablogs...
Eish madoda, angibazi nokubazi but bayak'supporta. It was quite nice. BS:
At least you know you're doing a good job and the nice thing is that you come back and you're still as humble as ever!
Marawa: Strategic....(he presses pause on my recorder and goes off the record
(So you see Marawa, I can go off the record!)
BS: You have won several awards as a sports journalist and for Discovery Sports Centre. What do you believe makes the show so successful?
Winning SAB Sports Journalist of The Year for Radio
Eish, I don't know...radio was never part of my plan in life. A lot of people start off in radio and end up on TV.
I started off in TV and got a call from Romeo. They had 90 000 listeners on the sports show they had at the time. Romeo said “Dude, whatever you're doing on TV, come do it on radio
” So they were like “Okay, here's the microphone, here are there ads buttons, have fun" so basically that was my induction in radio.
Today we're sitting at 562 000 people that listen to the show on average. And then Discovery came on last year and they signed a contract of R12 million over 3 years. (recording wasn't clear, I think he said that amount
)BS: Wow, that's amazing! What did you call it before Discovery?
Sports Centre BS: How boring...
I don't know why the show's successful. Maybe it's also because we give people the news before they read about it the following day. There's a lot of breaking news, a lot of contacts, I call them scorpions..I have a lot of reliable information now. BS: Yeah and when you ask people questions they tell you “Hawu, why don't you ask your scorpion?”
Yeah, you know the story. Danny Jordan was saying that just the other day when I was interviewing him.
For me, sport is emotive, there's a lot outpouring of expression that sport has and so you also need to have your facts straight, you can't just argue nje blowing hot air.
It's a massive platform, I mean I get scared everytime I open my inbox there's a pile of emails, about 9000 emails in our inbox and how do you go through all of that. People are passionate, they wanna be a part of it. And time is little... BS: The only criticism I've heard was from a friend of mine who is also in sport and he said he doesn't listen to the show because it's more about politics of the game than the game itself. Is that how you want it to be?
The thing is what do you say on sport? I think people need a platform to get to know their football players. Get to know their legends and everything else.
Maybe that person doesn't listen and denies himself that opportunity.
It's a welcome criticism but I also think there wouldn't be a response if it wasn't working.
Okay, that's it for Part 1. Check out Part 2 of the interview tomorrow to hear :
- How Robert ducks and dives on questions about whether or not he's dating Babalwa Mneno.
- Which 11 Players make it to the Marawa 2010 Eleven
- and more.....
Part 2 : Robert Marawa Part 2