Phat Joe schools ‘Unfollowed’ host Thembekile Mrototo on the fine line between cancel culture and being controversial

Phat Joe on Unfollowed. Picture: Supplied

Phat Joe on Unfollowed. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 1, 2023


“Unfollowed” couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. This series offers a sit-down with some of the biggest "troublemakers“ in the industry to find out about their foot-in-mouth moments and how, if at all, they survived them.

Tantamount to cancel culture, which has become a looming threat for any celebrity that feels like they are entitled to do and say as they please, it hasn’t really been effectively implemented in Mzansi.

To prove my point, when Somizi Mhlongo’s now ex-husband, Mohale Motaung, opened a can of worms with allegations of abuse, among other things, he was pulled off air on radio and TV. This was in 2021.

A few months after the noise died on social media, Mhlongo was back on “Idols SA”, radio and basically his celebrity life, with gigs galore.

The same could be said of Katlego Maboe when he was accused of cheating on his baby mama, Monique Muller, in late 2020.

He was at the top of his game, hosting TV shows, bagging commercials and other gigs. Those ground to a halt.

Again, once the outrage quelled and he settled his issues in court, Maboe was back on top. Not that the issues with his ex have stopped. But life does go on.

“Unfollowed” host Thembekile Mrototo. Picture: Supplied

Cancel culture is a double-edged sword for sure. After all, who gets to decide the fate of one individual in a world where freedom of speech is deemed a right?

Should a celebrity be cancelled or called out when they step out of line, so they can course correct and redeem themselves?

These are important questions. And it is also why “Unfollowed” is attracting eyeballs.

Hosted by news anchor Thembekile Mrototo, I watched the first two episodes with keen interest.

Lady Zamar, who was the epitome of composed barring a few emotional moments, unpacked the whole saga of her rape allegation against Sjava.

With both artists loved and celebrated by Mzansi, the situation quickly devolved into who was the bigger star as followers weighed in on the allegations.

And it got ugly, especially when a voice recording of Lady Zamar to Sjava was leaked on social media, where she is heard saying that she was trying to get his attention.

The hullabaloo erupted shortly after Sjava introduced his wife at one of his events and Lady Zamar was painted as a homewrecker.

What she told Mrototo was that she, based on her experiences, felt compelled to be in a relationship with Sjava after the alleged rape took place.

Lady Zamar on “Unfollowed”. Picture: Supplied

She said she had lived in fear. She was shunned by her peers, who took sides. Her career suffered.

But, at the end of the day, she said it was worth it because now, she has peace of mind. Her sole focus was on her fans and giving them what they want. And she said that was why she had turned off comments on her social media.

Now Mrototo, like any journalist worth their salt, asked the questions that weighed on everyone’s mind.

And the episode featured snippets of media articles and social media posts, as well as entertainment journalists and other big industry names giving their input.

But it was a one-sided story.

The chat that really shook things up was the one with Phat Joe. A TV and radio legend in Mzansi, Phat Joe used the platform to correct a few misconceptions, one of which is that he is notorious for getting fired.

The one-on-one got a little heated when he threw shade at Mrototo for not doing his research properly and he accused him of being biased with his line of questioning.

Phat Joe felt like some of the questions were aligned to fit a “controversial” narrative. And, to his credit, he had a few valid points.

When he was asked about the whole Caster Semenya comment, which saw him fired from Kaya FM, he stood by what he said.

At the time, there was a lot of curiosity about her gender. He said he wanted to tackle it from a different angle.

But the question/s raised eyebrows and and left listeners incensed: “Does this mean that at this point she has never had a period? Let’s say she has testosterone, does it mean she's a man or a woman?”

Phat Joe was clear about where he stood on pleasing followers/ listeners. He wasn’t about to start pandering to one of two sensitive individuals and "rob“ most fans of what he does: entertain.

He said a different point of view made for healthy engagement. At several points, Mrototo tried to get him to concede that he was in the wrong in some instances.

But Phat Joe refused to do so. And he had every right to do so.

He is an outspoken person. His opinions might ruffle feathers but it does get people talking. If you are in the broadcast space, though, isn’t that a key objective? Who wants to watch or listen to a boring presenter?

Lastly, not to insult the journalists’ providing feedback, but why would their input matter when they are no different in feeding the beast that is social media with a similar agenda?

“Unfollowed” is worth checking out if you want to find out more straight from the horse’s mouth.

The upcoming guests include Jub Jub, Mihlali, Nonhle Thema, Ntsiki Mazwai, Tol Ass Mo and Zoe Mthiyane.

∎ “Unfollowed” is streaming on Showmax, with new episodes dropping every Wednesday.