Radio died for me two weeks ago when I finally turned off from SAfm (one of South Africa’s premier talk radio stations and part of the South African Broadcasting Corporation stable).
I had been a loyal listener of this radio station for close to seven years.
It was a painful death. You see, like any person you speak to on this continent radio was my love.
When I was at a certain age I did not need the alarm to know that I now had to dash off to school.
There was the Jarzin Man on Radio Two to alert me to this: 6:45am and the Jarzin programme would kick off with the signature tune “Jarzin, J-A-R-Z-I-N”.
Then of course Admire Taderera with that lovely voice would chirp, “Ndini wenyu murume wemadhora, Jarzin Man, ndinoti mangwanani akanaka”
(I am your money-man, the Jarzin Man. Good morning).
Radio was not just alive – you lived with it.
In 1978 or thereabout I nagged my aunt to take me from Mabvuku to downtown Harare to see the famous Jarzin Supermarket.
Imagine my horror when I finally saw this pedestrian shop stocked with essential foodstuffs (sugar, cooking oil, mealie-meal, Mazoe).
Not for Jarzin the finer qualities of Meikles, Barbours or Woolworths – no, just some hole filled with everyday people and everyday goods.
I suppose I was getting my lesson in what radio could create and what really existed (appearance versus reality – the age-old theme).
But that didn’t dent my love for radio.
After all, I was growing up in a period of “monomedia” – there was one radio set in the house.
The typical township family would start off with the wireless, graduating to the high-fidelity stereo (Pioneer, WRS, Supersonic and Blue Bird, to name a few of the fashionable brands then).
Around 1979 we were lucky to get our first black and white TV. Before this miracle it was African socialism – you all gathered at the sole house with a TV in your street.
If it came to supper time the folks there asked you to leave and you simply migrated outside and peeped through the window curtains.
Ah, Mr Ian Douglas Smith, did you know this is what your happy natives had to go through just to catch their favourite television series, Lassie or Bonanza?
But as usual I digress. I am supposed to be mourning the recent second death of radio.
Now with SAfm my listening times were pretty much set: 6am to 9am (AM Live) and then 12 noon to 1 pm (Midday Live) and I would then reconnect from 4pm to 6pm (PM Live).
SAfm has been about a nation talking to itself. On a daily basis issues would be put in the public domain and there would be no shortage of panellists and callers to air their opinion.
Over the years, one grew to know some of the main callers so well.
I loved listening to the daily callers that seemed to just fit the stereotype of the rainbow nation such as Eddie from Fitzburg (a farmer), Prophet O J “Saved by the Blood of Jesus” from Mafikeng, Feizel from Mayfair and Peter from Grahamstown. Geography and character seemed to match.
But good radio is driven by the anchors and SAfm has had a stellar line-up in the recent past with John Perlman and Tim Modise doing it for me.
Now it seems the exodus of talent has presented us a dummy of a station – lousy topics, equally lousy elocution by the presenters, bad production and very limited knowledge of subjects at hand.
Pockets of talent remain but on the whole the package has become mediocre.
And what do I mean when I say radio died twice for me?
Well, as I have said, I grew up listening to great radio and great personalities.
With Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 we gravitated towards the new kid on the block, Radio 3.
John Matinde represented the finest in radio for me – impeccable show, great music, dry wit and a voice designed by the gods.
But he was not alone. The Radio 3 generation was spoilt for choice for close to two decades – Hilton Mambo, Josh Makawa, Peter Johns, Kudzi Marudza, Kelvin Sifelani, Eunice Goto, Simon Parkinson, George Munetsi, Ian Sigola, Hosea “Hitman” Singende, Joseph “Muzukuru” Hussein – the list of amazing talent that we had just goes on.
Joseph Madhimba would deliver the news bulletins with such an authoritative voice that radio speakers shook in awe.
Bad news never sounded as good as when Madhimba was delivering the bulletin “on the hour every hour”. And the soccer commentaries by Evans Mambara . . .
Now we have to do with a mix of the talent of a Comfort Mbofana and a few others with the amazing constipated green bombers that have invaded Pockets Hill.
Can’t they be given a farm so they can do their horrors there instead? And yet amazing talent is bubbling on the streets of Zimbabwe waiting for the airwaves to open up . . .
Anyway, all I wanted to say was that I have switched off my radio in the office.
I play Tuku in the car and I watch the 7 o’clock television news at home. Outside of that, I am on the Internet.
Chris Kabwato is the publisher of www.zimbabweinpictures.com