SANEF pays tribute on 1 November 2019 to much loved and respected journalist and broadcaster Xolani Gwala who died in the early hours of this morning. His family announced news of his death. Our sympathies go out to his family, friends, colleagues and radio and television audiences.
He was 44. He hails from Impendle outside in KwaZulu Natal and has been working in the industry for over two decades. Xolani started his news career at the SABC in KZN in the early 90s, then went on to host current affairs show at SAFM, Johannesburg, his TV Show on SABC and finally went on to 702 to host his Talk Show.
He was diagnosed with Colon Cancer in 2017 and fought a brave battle up until his death. Friends and colleagues took to twitter and social media to pay tribute to this much-loved broadcast personality thanking him for his immense contribution to our news and broadcast industry and his indelible impression, he made to so many journalists and broadcasters.
Sanef Chair Mahlatse Mahlase said: “Xolani had a special pedigree. He was a hard-hitting broadcaster but respectful to his guests. He always got the answers without being rude. He loved radio, and he believed in its power to hold those in authority accountable and as a vehicle for South Africans to talk”.
She said Gwala was a great human being even off-air.
“He was the ultimate gentleman, friendly, cared about his colleagues, and he had that infectious laugh that calmed everyone and anchored his success on team success.”
Mahlase recalled that the last project they did together involve Gwala’s interview with President Cyril Ramaphosa, where he asked difficult but necessary questions.
“His brave fight against cancer inspires us, and he was courageous. He loved South Africa. We lost a lover of democracy,” Mahlase concluded.
SANEF acting chairperson Katy Katopodis, a former colleague and long-time friend of Gwala, said his death is a huge loss for the industry. “He was a veteran broadcaster, the ultimate professional and a giant of a man. He was loved by many and was always firm but fair with all his interviews. He leaves a beautiful legacy in the SA media industry.
“All will miss his velvety voice and gorgeous laugh.”
Judy Sandison, former Editor SABC Radio News in KwaZulu-Natal said Xolani started his news career as a freelance bulletin producer/ presenter on Radio Zulu (Ukhozi FM) in the mid-90s in Durban.
“He soon proved his mettle and was appointed on the permanent team. He was always up for a challenge and had such an engaging personality both on and off-air. His popularity with audiences kept increasing as he embraced the opportunities for multi-skilling.
Sandison, who is SANEF KwaZulu Natal Regional Convenor, said: “We were pioneering with talented young journalists. He soon turned his hand to producing and presenting both news bulletins and current affairs shows, as well doing field reporting in English and isiZulu from the province, for SABC radio news countrywide. He was also the first black journalist to read a news bulletin on the SABCs radio Lotus.”
Mary Papayya, former SABC Executive Producer and News Editor & Sanef founding editor described him as a “one of a kind journalist”.
“Xolani was a consummate professional and ethical to the core. He was a rare breed of journalist who cared for more than just the story. For him, issues of racial diversity, the transformation of the newsroom and diversity in storytelling (language and narrative) and imperatives of human voices were important elements of the news. He was a feisty anchor who held those in power accountable. He was part of a core of young black journalists whom I mentored, and we debated at length on critical matters of transformation and ethical decision making. As an Executive Producer and News Editor at the SABC in the early 90s (as part of the team to transform the news and the SABC) he held us all in leadership accountable.”
SANEF sends condolences to the families, friends and followers of Mr Gwala. Everyone who knew him will sorely miss him, and the world is indeed a lesser place without him.
For more information contact
Katy Katopodis – SANEF Deputy Chairperson – 082 805 7022
Moipone Malefane – SANEF Secretary-General 082 772 5861
Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom, Acting Chair – 082 379 4957
Judy Sandison – SANEF KwaZulu Natal Regional Convenor 082 571-3334
Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor 083 582 1734
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – 082 926 6404