Rob Marawa – Conference MC

Rob Marawa - Conference Corporate MC
Rob Marawa - Conference Corporate MC

Rob Marawa – Conference MC famous sportscaster at the SABC’s Metro FM studios. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

He’s Nkandla’s second most famous son and by far the best-known sportscaster of his generation. Before winter and the Fifa World Cup began, Percy Mabandu and Mawande Mvumvu sat down with Robert Marawa, SA’s boffin of the ball game

It’s just weeks before the 2014 Fifa World Cup kicks off in Brazil, which is making it even harder than usual to get time with Robert Marawa, affectionately known as Madluphuthu ­(isiZulu for pap eater).

As the voice and mind behind Metro FM’s 083 Sports@6 and SuperSport’s Thursday Night Live with Robert Marawa on DStv, the man’s schedule is as packed as Soccer City during a Soweto derby.

The country’s best-known sports commentator probably also has a fair bit of reticence about meeting with reporters. His career is, after all, standard fare in the tabloids. Book through Speakers Inc

After a number of emails, we settle for a series of one-hour chats before his evening slot on Metro FM at the SABC studios in Auckland Park.

This doesn’t guarantee his undivided attention though. There’s always something else going on in Marawa’s world. As he arrives at the studio, he is swarmed by his producer and throngs of guests coming to be interviewed on the show.

So we talk amid the fray, our exchange often interrupted.

Marawa carries a black leather zipper file that bursts at the seams with CDs, notepads and other journalistic utensils. He keeps digging into it to find one thing or another. His manner is deliberate and focused, but always genial and apparently unassuming.

The 41-year-old radio star wears an iconic baseball cap with an embroidered letter B. Perhaps it stands for Bob. At our first meeting, it’s a black one, matched with an untucked black shirt, tight black trousers and shiny black shoes.

Our small talk involves jokes about him being from Nkandla, just like President Jacob Zuma. Marawa chuckles and says: “Now since the village is famous for Number 1 and his homestead, everyone is asking me about it. People just didn’t care or didn’t know where it was before.”

His eyes scan the control desk with its sea of buttons, which looks like it belongs on the Starship Enterprise.

His quietly industrious producer goes about her job behind the scenes. She wears light make-up, black leather trousers and skyscraper-high stilettos. The two barely exchange words. Each one knows their part in conjuring up a highly technical broadcast as if by magic.

It’s a discipline that is not unlike the tightly managed flow of Marawa’s private time. He says he needs to regulate his activities because it’s easy to get sucked into the demands of his public life.

Rob Marawa – Conference MC

There are endless sports events, gala dinners and VIP invites that make it easy to never get time off. Follow on Twitter

But in 2008, Marawa was forced to relook at his life when he found himself on an operating table at a Morningside ­hospital after a cardiac arrest.

“I almost died,” he says. He was on his way home from gym when it hit one evening. “I did not know what was happening. I was sweating, cold and felt a lot of unusual things and then I called an ambulance. Literally, I was 23 minutes from seeing 2Pac and those other guys, but I made it. You see, I used to think I was Tarzan and that I could do a lot of things, like not sleeping and eating trash.”

The anecdote provides a rare opportunity to get personal with a cautious and guarded subject. Why was he alone at home when he had the heart attack? Was he not seeing ­anyone?

“No, I’m single,” he says with a smile, adding that he has a three-year-old son, Awande, who lives with his mother. She works as a model in Australia.

The subject of his son brings a glow to his otherwise pensive face. He predicts my next question: “If you’re going to ask when I’m going to get married, you’d have a better chance of seeing a black pope.”

We all break into laughter.

Rob Marawa – Conference MC makes it clear that he respects the institution of marriage. “I’ve got parents who’ve been together for close to 50 years. My mother, Phumlile, is in her late seventies and my dad, Frank, in his late eighties. For me that’s the ideal. A family is supposed to sit at one table over a meal and that is how I was raised. But my job is not easy because I work almost every day. So it will have to take a very understanding woman.”

When it comes to his job, they say Marawa is South African radio’s Mr Untouchable. Untouchable because he’s rated as the best in his field: the most informed, the first across the line on both radio and TV.

But also because it is rumoured that he enjoys protection from his old homeboy now residing at Mahlamba Ndlopfu.

We ask how close he is with Zuma. “Closeness is relative,” he answers. “I do not want to claim that I’m close, but we acknowledge each other. We have conversations when we meet at events. We’ve known each other for a very long time, before he even became president. Rob Marawa used to stay in Yeoville and he stayed somewhere in the Berea area. Those days he was driving a green Camry and still had hair.”

Marawa’s family had ideas for development projects in Nkandla and the president was naturally among the people they approached with their vision to improve the area.
He’s a man for all seasons, with previous SABC Sport anchoring roles (often in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning) involving live presentation of the Cricket World Cup, Olympic Games, the Africa Cup of Nations, the World Cup (1998), the Commonwealth Games and the All-Africa Games and more.

Word is that SABC Sport’s `Mr Soccer’ has a larger female supporter base than Bafana Bafana and the American wrestling organisation, WWE, put together.

With an abundance of sporting knowledge, a cheerful style, the always professional Robert Marawa is as smooth as silk in front of the camera. If the SA Navy needed a reliable anchor to steady a ship, Rob Marawa-Conference Corporate MC would do the job.

He’s a man for all seasons, with previous SABC Sport anchoring roles (often in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning) involving live presentation of the Cricket World Cup, Olympic Games, the Africa Cup of Nations, the World Cup (1998), the Commonwealth Games and the All-Africa Games and more.

Robert believes that when the going gets tough, the tough get their TV sets tuned in to SABC Sport for the best in local and international entertainment.

“It is our goal to be Africa’s ultimate sporting experience.  That is daunting, but with the assistance of our great production crews, it is achievable. I am proud to be part of the team,” said Robert.

And here is something else you may not know about this former Hilton scholar.  He studied law at Wits and knows his way around a hot topic. That has been of great use to both his television and radio roles.

Robert loves his shirts.  Catch his trademark kit on Laduma on Saturdays and Sundays and on MTN Soccer Zone on Monday nights.  And he is single, so Gqimmm…shelele!
entertainment law in the UK. Rob Marawa – Conference Corporate MC managed to convince his parents that this was the right thing to do. It seems he was on the money.

What followed was an illustrious career that included being the anchor of MTN Soccer Zone, a runaway success that was attracting up to 12 000 SMSes an hour from viewers. Before Metro FM and SuperSport, there was Topsport and Laduma. It’s a path that has seen the boy from Nkandla shake hands with countless world figures and all four of democratic South Africa’s presidents.

And he did that on his own, with no one protecting him except the god of hard work.


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