FEATUREON AIR

Maki Molapo: Ficksburg’s Ripest Cherry

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When newsgirl Maki Molapo revealed that she’s Bloemfontein’s latest export to commercial radio, Bloem Twitter didn’t know what to do with itself, writes Ace Moloi.

The time is 7 O’ clock, I am Maki Molapo

The goodness of mornings in South Africa’s centremost city depend significantly on the radio frequency you land on. There are options; Kovsie FM 97.0 promises you Monate Fela Breakfast, CUT FM 105.8 promotes its CUT of Breakfast, hoping you’ll come back for more tomorrow and Motheo FM 88.5 asks of you to make its morning crew your companion in this Crazy Morning Rush.

Three flagship shows on campus-community radio, each interesting in its own format.

But you now know it takes more than their punch & rolls for them to secure your listenership. You ask, among others, how their newsreaders fit into the show. Do they have a personality: a way to knit a bulletin together with an eloquent patience so that you see yourself at the crime scene they are reporting about?

In other words, are they Maki Molapo?

Ficksburg’s ripest cherry

Maki Molapo was born in the cherry-farming town of Ficksburg in the eastern Free State 25 years ago, and soon relocated to Lesotho to live with her grandmother and aunt. But she kept links with her birth town, commuting everyday to Ficksburg for her schooling. Most of the schools she attended are now defunct, leaving a trail of shutdowns behind her as though to prepare her for the #FeesMustFall era.

In primary school she was a victim of bullying, which she says turned her into a loner. In her lonesome she’d consume “a lot of TV”, which is how thoughts of a media career were chiselled in her mind.

Maki Molapo is a writer, broadcaster, newscaster and budding academic with a flair for current affairs, music and literature. She holds a B-Tech in Language Practice from the Central University of Technology (CUT), a campus that drew the contours of her media career as we’ve now come to know it.

“I had a really amazingly awesome varsity life. I had the greatest time there. I studied what I love, briefly wrote for the school paper – Speculum – and volunteered at the campus radio station. I loved it! I had fun,” she describes her campus life in Bloemfontein.

As a graduate, she did her Language Practice internship with the Free State Provincial Legislature in 2017, and the following year – 2018 – she took up a part-time lecturing post at her alma mater. She also rejoined CUT FM’s breakfast show as a newsreader, a gig that would cook her to read the news on SA’s highly lucrative media platform.

But we will get there.

Campus radio: a great escape

If campus radio is fundamentally a training ground for fresh talent, to Maki it was more than just a developmental space but a great escape as well. She’s a first generation presenter at her former station, having started with it back when its reach was limited only to the CUT cafeteria.

About these baby steps, she recalls: “I had no cooking clue what radio was about from a broadcasting point, but I figured it was the best chance I had in penetrating the media space. I auditioned at the studios after seeing a poster and they liked my voice and how I spoke, so I was in.”

Different people are attracted to radio in different ways and for different reasons. Similarly, Maki’s future in broadcasting wasn’t something she obsessed about as a child. I pick up from her narrative that radio was the kind of noise which was religiously imposed on her by her grandmother without her consent. She remembers listening to Lesedi FM and enjoying the station’s radio drama series, but it wasn’t that deep a feeling that she wound up talking to herself.

In her own words, it was only when she made the cut into campus radio that she developed keen interest in the medium. “I had to consume as much radio as possible and go to the studio everyday. Little did I know I’d be addicted. I loved the studio. It was a great escape.”

Although she has done a number of shows and worked alongside the likes of Shaxe Khumalo, Laila Nnyane and Nkox Da Leader, who are among some of Bloemfontein’s highly prized media personalities, her best moments in radio date back to when she did #CalabashMoonlight, a show she says taught her a lot about the importance of pre-show prep, introduced her to her own presenting style and made her fall in love with Africa.

Yet to the Bloemfontein radio community, she will forever be remembered fondly for the relationship she built with the listener on breakfast, a skill that positioned her at the apex of the newsreaders list on campus-community radio locally. “I think my biggest focus was . . . someone who relied on me to give them full details about a story that they may have heard in passing or someone who just reads the headlines and is too lazy to read the full story,” she shares her bulletin compilation philosophy.

We meet to part and we part to meet

Community radio will attach you to a personality, only for the personality to move to a different platform, if they don’t fall by the wayside, gagged by mismanagement of talent, poor resources, self-aggrandizing leaders and other ills of community radio stations in the Free State.

Following approximately three years of local radio, it was time to migrate for Maki Molapo, as Ntokozo Mbambo would chant. And her reasons were good. “I think God had been dropping hints that I have to move but I didn’t want to move here without something stable – an income that will cater for my needs. Little did I know that I will move on faith. I’d also reached a point where I wanted a different experience: meet new people, learn something new and be challenged in the process. I wanted to live,” narrates the new kid on the 702 and Cape Talk block who still finds it a tad unbelievable that she is plying her trade on a Primedia.

Maki is fully conscious of the immensity of this gig, and promises to take her new broadcasting home by storm as she follows on the footprints of her role model, Thembekile Mrototo, and borrows on the vernac fluency of Moleboheng Maoela, whom she says she also looks up to, in addition to Leanne Manas.

‘Ha o wa tshelela borokgo papadi, mosadi.’

There’s no reason to doubt that she will fly the flag of her generation’s hopes and dreams higher.

When the money starts rolling, her Financial Management qualification, bagged from Motheo TVET College, will prop her up against the materialism of Johannesburg.

If ever she finds herself staggering, she will replay visuals of her younger self crossing the Lesotho border to South Africa and gas herself up, “Ha o wa tshelela borokgo papadi, mosadi,” just as she did the first time she went on air at 702.

She will draw from her childhood battles with bullying to assert her presence and rightfully claim her space as Fickburg’s ripest cherry.

Ace Moloi is an author, freelance writer and writing consultant.

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