Bob Mabena: One of Tshwane’s finest
Pretoria - The City of Tshwane yesterday joined the rest of the country in mourning the death of radio legend Bob Mabena, whose last job was as PowerFM breakfast show host.
Mabena, born in Atteridgeville, was a keen supporter of the City and participated in many events aimed at enhancing the image of the municipality, it said.
Mabena settled in Centurion, his home until he died of cardiac arrest on Monday, aged 51. His memorial will be today and the funeral on Saturday.
Selby Bokaba, the City’s Divisional Head: Strategic Communication, said Mabena was a constructive critic of the municipality, especially on matters relating to service delivery, and never abused his radio platform to settle personal scores when the metro fell short of his expectations.
“In 2009, the City partnered with Mabena to host the successful Metro FM Music Awards, and three years later he compered the State of the City Address gala dinner with aplomb,” Bokaba said.
“In 2015, Mabena played a starring role in the #ThumbsUpTshwane campaign aimed at highlighting the role that celebrities played in broader society and how they could help to enhance and improve the City’s image and profile.”
The campaign had local celebrities expressing pride by giving the City the thumbs-up in areas where it had done well; they took a #ThumbsUpTshwane selfie and posted it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Tshwane Head Administrator Mpho Nawa hailed Mabena as an inspirational figure who was passionate about radio and had a lot to offer to the residents of the city.
“Bob worked for various stations in Joburg, including his recent employer, PowerFM, but remained rooted in the city of his birth. He loved Tshwane and participated in many activities hosted by the municipality,” Nawa said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa described Mabena as an “exceptional talent”.
He said: “This is a sad loss, not only for Bob’s family and friends, but to the broadcast fraternity and the country. His exceptional talent and voice of reason and insight reached millions of South Africans in their homes, workplaces and vehicles.”
The DA said Mabena had been a role model to some of the country’s “biggest and brightest broadcasters”.
The ANC said Mabena was an accomplished broadcaster who “brightened many mornings” via his breakfast show.
“It was this ability to converse with and entertain all types of people that also made Mr Mabena a sought-after public speaker and master of ceremonies, jobs he would carry out with flair. He will be sadly missed,” the party said.
Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, head of the Investment and Infrastructure Office in the Presidency, posted on Facebook: “Sad to learn about the passing of radio legend Bra Bob Mabena. Our thoughts are with his family, workmates and friends in this time of sorrow.”
Atteridgeville-born Ramokgopa was mayor of Tshwane when #ThumbsUp Tshwane was launched by the metro.
ANC Youth League regional chairperson and ANC MPL Lesego Makhubela posted a picture of Mabena with the caption: “Former SRC and former debating captain at Saulridge High School in Atteridgeville, Pheli’s greatest son. May your rest in power and rise in glory Bra Bob.”
Radio veteran Ernest Pillay worked with Mabena on Radio Metro (now MetroFM) when the medium was birthing new talent. “He came through from Radio Bop around 1990/1 and I was already a year and some change at Metro. We were of the same age I was just a year older.
“From that perspective it was a given that we would navigate towards each other. I would have done him an injustice if I said it was just the age (that brought us together). He was just a nice guy, a people’s guy and it was easy to connect with him. Radio was at the centre of everything we shared, including life and good times.
“I used to do Saturday breakfast on Radio Metro and he did the Top 40 show called Top CD Top 40 back in those days. I would end at 9am and he came in at 9am to take over. That exchange at the top of the hour I looked forward to that moment. We had a rapport that almost turned into another show. The Top 40 needed to start, but the exchanges we had would go on for eight to 15 minutes, growing every Saturday because there was just this natural fun we would have. It was more him and the affection he had for people.”
Pillay would also fill in for Mabena on the television music show Studio Mix from time to time. As their careers expanded and they moved on to different radio stations, taking on different roles, their paths always crossed.
Nothemba Madumo’s first experience of Mabena was at Radio Bop.
“He came to Mmabatho while I was working at the station and he joined while he was quite young still, but really full of ambition and life. He was a hit immediately because he had a drive and youthfulness that really excited everybody. He did very well with his shows as he was a very likeable person.”
Madumo was instrumental in Mabena’s love for jazz music.
She was also instrumental in getting him on the road as she was the person he started learning how to drive with.
The two had a close friendship over the years, moving to the same radio stations, working on television during their run as presenters for Woza Weekend and Studio Mix.