Johannesburg - It was Xolani Gwala who replaced the retired broadcaster John Robbie as the host of 702’s breakfast show two years ago, but on Friday morning, the veteran broadcaster was on air paying tribute to the man who retired him.
Gwala, 44, succumbed to colon cancer on Friday morning. Robbie paid a warm tribute to Gwala and described him a 'lovely' man and fine broadcast journalist.
Speaking to Radio 702, Robbie said he was devastated by the news of Gwala’s death.
“Redi Tlhabi sent me a WhatsApp this morning and I was devastated, you could not have met a lovelier guy and a fine broadcaster, so it is very sad to hear the news,” said Robbie.
Robbie said it was only when Gwala was to replace him that they got to know each other better. He recalled how they spent an afternoon talking radio and how Gwala approached him for some insights into the breakfast radio show.
“He said John I’m suddenly realising how different a morning show is… he realised the magnitude of the task and he said can I have 30 minutes of your time and I said of course. He wanted to chat about my experience and any advice I had and I said absolutely and I was very flattered.
“So we went across to the News Cafe across the road and I remember three and a half hours later we were still there. Xolani picked my brain clean, he wanted to know about everything, I knew from the tone of his questions that he got it, because it’s about 90% preparation.
“If you prepare, your work stops the moment the show starts because you are having fun and you are prepared for everything. I just knew he was going to be alright, I just understood that this guy, he’s got it,” recalled Robbie.
Robbie described Gwala, who had been in broadcast journalism for over 24 years, as an “amazing talent” who had the work ethic required to succeed.
Gwala enjoyed a 24-year career which took him Ukhozi FM, to 702, back to the SABC and back again to 702. He had a short stint with a media company abroad in between.
702 radio host Eusebius McKaiser also paid tribute to Gwala and said although his battle was well documented, the news had shattered him.
“We knew that the news was coming, but one can never be prepared for the unreality of that which was inevitable.
“When I think of Xolani, I think not of his broadcasting excellence… but his infectious laugh and his affable smile, and he is a gentleman.
“Before we are technical professionals within journalism, we are human beings, and his humanity always shone through in his broadcasting and journalistic excellence,” said McKaiser.
McKaiser said he was moved by how South Africans and the public-at-large had responded to the news of Gwala’s death.
“I am moved by how appropriate all of us in the country are describing him as a gentleman, as someone who had incredible humility… and quite apart from that, he had a stellar career.
“He was technically excellent, he was a very good journalist and he was a brilliant broadcaster, he was one who had heart and soul and humanity,” he said.
Gwala is survived by his wife, Peggy Sue, and three daughters.IOL