Macfarlane Moleli determined to start his own media empire
In five years, Macfarlane Moleli wants to be running his own media house, hosting his own TV show and changing African narratives but, first, he must get his MBA.
The seasoned broadcast journalist, on TV screens every Sunday night, either hosting Carte Blanche or following up the stories of the week, will take the first steps towards that on Monday when he starts his year-long postgraduate diploma in management practice as Henley Business School Africa’s second winner of its Sol Plaatje scholarship.
Moleli doesn’t just present on the popular actuality show, sometimes he hosts one of the current affairs shows on Gauteng radio station, Kaya FM, where he is one of the stand-in anchors for the current affairs presenters. He also doubles as an MC, a media trainer and a voice-over artist.
Moleli is also a social entrepreneur, the chairperson of the Footprint Foundation, an NPO dedicated to uplifting vulnerable children and especially girls, providing 1.3 million sanitary pads to more than 140 000 girls to ensure they don’t miss school.
“I’ve always said my big mouth will only get me so far in life,” he says, laughing, “as a journalist, you’re an expert in a different subject every week, but I need to do more and do better. It’s time to learn how.”
He grew up in the Vaal area, but was educated at St Andrews in Welkom and Michaelhouse in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands before matriculating at Potchefstroom High School for Boys. His prowess on the rugby field won him a full scholarship to the Vaal University of Technology to study marketing where he would also be picked to play for the Gauteng Falcons.
He passed but dropped out before graduating. Moleli then studied and qualified as an IT network engineer but the radio bug had bitten after a stint on campus radio. His first job on air was on Radio Islam in Lenasia, followed by Channel Islam before he was discovered by YFM during Thabo Mbeki’s inauguration in 1999. The next year, he would convert to Islam.
At YFM, Moleli partnered with DJ Fresh as a news reader after being discovered as a talent by Khanyi Magubane. From there he moved to 5FM to read sports but because he didn’t just have a voice for radio, he soon found himself moving across the way at Auckland Park to anchor the morning news on SABC Africa and read the prime-time news on SABC3 in the evenings. From there it was a short move up the road to e.tv, to anchor Africa’s first 24-hour news channel eNCA, the show Morning News today.
He joined Carte Blanche in 2017, rapidly moving through the ranks to end up co-hosting with founding host Derek Watts.
In between all this, Moleli has never lost sight of his roots or his need to give back to the community; spending two years helping Thabo Koela roll out the K-Maths programme to 3 000 students in KZN. Everyone on the system improved their marks by at least a symbol, he remembers. There were high hopes for the programme but official intransigence meant it never progressed beyond KZN. From maths, Moleli moved to finance, becoming part of a consortium that won the contract to establish the “World Trade Centre of Africa”.
“It was a time when no one was talking about transacting money via cellphones,” he says. “We wanted the money from the transactions ploughed back into the communities to benefit them and grow local businesses.”
The initiative didn’t succeed on its own, but it would inspire many banks to launch similar programmes. His motivation this year, though, as he turns 40, is to take it to the next level.
“I’m reading this fascinating book by Hlumelo Biko called Africa Re-imagined. He asks if democracy is so good, why has it failed in so many countries in Africa? Part of that reason is that we’ve lost our old way of doing things in Africa. We’ve forgotten so much in our culture that’s inherent to us.”
It’s something he hopes his journey towards an MBA will help him achieve.
Henley Africa dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley says Moleli is the kind of candidate the Sol Plaatje scholarship was set up to help.
“When we launched the inaugural scholarship, awarding it to the Sowetan’s Thabiso Thakali for the PG Dip and Daily Maverick’s Pauli van Wyk for the MBA, we wanted to inspire a new generation of media leaders at a time when media has never been more important all over the world yet, paradoxically never more under threat.
“If we are to have any hope of a sustainable future, we need a #InformedDemocracy, and that needs a sustainable media industry to underpin it with a diversity of voices all feeding into a pool of credible and critical thought.
“It’s great to be part of Macfarlane’s own five-year plan to help him achieve that.”