SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
AROUND this time two years ago, Robert Marawa was battling for his life in the Intensive Care Unit of a Johannesburg private hospital, which probably explains why, a year later, the mere fact he is still alive overshadows everything that has been thrown at him of late.
Including, but not limited to the abrupt cancellation of his contract with SuperSport where he claims he suffered the ignominy of being advised, via a text message while preparing for his weekly television programme, that it must have been love, but it was over now.
It meant there was no official goodbye to his weekly followers on “Thursday Night Live”, and what had been scheduled to be a climatic ending to his coverage of the football season on SuperSport, with the anchor role in SuperSport’s coverage of the UEFA Champions League final, turned into a no-show.
Amid a tsunami of outrage among his die-hard group of followers, including some who declared they were not going to renew their SuperSport subscriptions, Robert remained a refreshing island of tranquillity in an ocean of fury and an orchard of calm in a desert of rebellion.
Unknown to the millions of a constituency angry that the familiar voice, and the handsome face which they had grown to love on SuperSport as their presenter, the people’s anchor, had abruptly, and possibly forcibly, been taken away from their screens, was that this was a different Robert.
A Robert that had been taught some harsh lessons by life to value other things.
Like the mere fact he was still alive today to witness all this drama despite all the brutality this messy divorce from SuperSport had inflicted on his personality, and the humiliation it had brought to his good name given it had been abrupt and wrapped with a veil of acrimony.
When you have come so close to death, as was the case with Robert around this time last year, and somehow received another reprieve to go back to the world and see your son again, drop him at school, pick him up after school, take him to a meal and see all the life in him — everything that you came close to losing — life assumes a completely new meaning.
“People don’t know what it is that I’ve had to do,’’ Marawa told Radio 2000’s Phat Joe in March this year after battling his way for the right to live again.
“I’ve been threatened. I was in ICU in June/July last year. My sister was shattered. When she walked in, she saw a corpse. But people don’t know that because I don’t talk about it.
“The thing is, if my life had to end because of a passion and the job that I do, then so be it.”
Two heart attacks in the past dozen years, a sudden collapse at an event, being dragged to the gates of heaven before being sent back here following an extension to your time on this planet of the living means that Robert now sees things in a different light.
Remarkably, it was his passion for his work, a round-the clock regime in which he puts everything into what he knows best, that almost killed him the first time he suffered a heart attack in 2008, the irony of it all being that his flirtation with death on both occasions came at a gym.
“I felt it, because I knew what a heart attack felt like. As I did that final exercise, it snapped. I didn’t tell anyone, I just walked out and thought let me drive myself.
“I always say to people that if you are going to experience the pain, you will experience it via a heart attack . . . It’s going to be uncontrollable.’’
I should know because, 15 years ago, I also spent about two weeks in hospital, virtually unaware where I was at one point, when I was at my very worst condition, and when God gave me the strength to come back, the first thing I did was to check two guys I had shared my private ward with.
Of course, they had died.
ROBERT, ALUVHA, BOTHA AND A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP BORN
OUT OF RESPECT
Robert is someone who has touched millions of lives in South Africa and across the continent, and this was emphasised when the Sunday Times journalist, Pearl Boshomana Tsotetsi, took a taxi to meet him last year in Johannesburg just as he prepared to return to radio after a year’s absence.
The Uber driver taking Tsotetsi to that interview was asked by the journalist what he thought about the man who was South Africa’s most famous sports presenter and his pending return on radio.
“I love him,’’ said the driver. “I have missed him so much, it’s as though he’s my wife.”
That Robert is a man probably tells this intriguing story of how much he is loved in his home country.
When Tsotetsi asked him why he hasn’t chosen to marry and settle down as a family man, his response was as outrageous as it was a bombsell.
“I’ve always said the day there’s a black Pope, I’ll get married,’’ he responded.
“Marriage is wonderful. My parents were married for 51 years, so if there’s anyone that can motivate (me) to get married, it would be the two of them.”
Then, Tsotetsi asks him, is he in a relationship?
“Of course I am — with my mom and my sisters,” Robert replied, and when he was told he shared the name of the mother’s journalist, he responded, ‘ooooh really? OK . . . Jeez, a lot in common, including your name,” which was a reference to Tsotetsi also sharing a first name with the sportscaster’s famous former girlfriend, the actress Pearl Thusi.
It’s easy, listening to his answers, for those who argue that Robert is both egoistic and elitist, that the guy from a farm in KwaZulu Natal, who came to the big city of Johannesburg and made it in a big way, now believes he is the be-all-and-end-all of everything sport in South Africa.
But, it’s also easy to be categorised in this job, I should know that, because I have lived the last quarter-of-a-century of my life in the same public lane and you get people who don’t know you saying you support this and that team, claim you were their classmate and you were so poor in everything you even repeated Grade One seven times, you know, stuff like that.
However, the truth always finds a way to come out, and this week, the good side, the human side, the refreshing side, the true side of Robert Marawa came to the fore when, using his influential voice and his priceless time, he fought in the corner of two daredevils — Alvin “Aluvha’’ Zhakata and Botha Msila.
Some have called the duo absolute fools, others have described them as mad simply because these two guys chose to do things in a different way and make a road expedition from Cape to Cairo for the 2019 AFCON finals because, as far as they are concerned, it’s all part of the adventure.
They could have waited for an all-expenses-paid-for-trip from some Good Samaritans, after all they have the profile to attract such packages given how they have cultivated themselves into popular faces when it comes to supporting football on either side of the Zambezi.
But, given the historic nature of this AFCON finals, the first to feature 24 teams in the biggest football festival ever staged on the continent, these two daredevils chose to do it the hard way — for Botha, like the way Bafana Bafana always end up trying to qualify for the Nations Cup finals.
For Aluvha, a reminder of a time, in the past, when his Warriors also used to be specialists in waiting until the very last weekend of the qualifiers, as was the case in 2004, where they then needed Gabon to beat Sierra Leone – which they did — for them to qualify for Tunisia.
The same people who praised a German football fan, Hubert Wirth, for driving a vintage tractor, towing what witnesses described as a “house on wheels’’ packed with all the essentials, including an endless supply of beer, for his adventure to drive all the way from Germany to Russia for last year’s World Cup, now suddenly found fault-lines and stupidity in Aluvha and Botha’s expedition.
At maximum speed, Wirth’s vintage tractor could only travel 30km/hour to cover the 2 500km from Forchheim in Bavaria to Moscow in Russia, but that was all was conveniently forgotten by these people who been violently critical of Aluvha and Botha for undertaking such a testing road expedition.
That the German super fan was 70 years alone, travelled alone using a tractor built in the 1920s, didn’t matter to these people, who instead praised him for his adventure and when he arrived in Cairo, reflecting he had only been stopped five times by traffic police, they joined the world in saluting him as a football hero.
And, when the City of Moscow rolled out the red carpet to welcome him, and gave him tickets to go and watch the World Cup matches, these same people were probably the first to say the German pensioner fully deserved it because he had showed remarkable love for this game.
Now, the same people, when it came to Aluvha and Botha, somehow changed the tone, accusing them of seeking fame by undertaking a dangerous journey, with the chorus of criticism reaching a crescendo when the duo ran into problems at the Ethiopian border with the authorities there demanding visas.
That the Internet facilities in Ethiopia were down for the whole week, didn’t appeal to these critics, who took to Twitter to feast on the duo for being a confused bunch of individuals who had no respect, whatsoever, to authorities in other countries and who didn’t deserve any sympathy.
But, my brother Robert Marawa chose not to join this group which specialises in just criticising for the sake of doing so, and chose to see the value of this incredible expedition, using his influential voice on South African radio and on his social media platforms to support their cause and appealing for them to be helped.
This was a different Robert to the one who had been portrayed in bad light by some of the tabloids in South Africa, this was the true Robert, the real Robert, the boy from a KZN farm who chose to sing in the corner of Aluvha and Botha because he didn’t believe they were just football fans, but, of course, human beings being driven by their passion.
And, more importantly, by their loyalty to the cause of their national teams.
GETTING TO KNOW ROBERT, RESPECTING HIM, AND UNDERSTANDING HIM
Robert Marawa, who has more than 820 000 followers on Twitter, is the premier sports anchor in South Africa and has a huge following across the continent and, many in his position, would have simply chosen to ignore Aluvha and Botha because, if he wasn’t Robert, these guys are a level below him.
Rather than worry about two daredevils spending three nights locked up at a border somewhere closer to the Horn of Africa, another person — in Robert’s shoes — would probably have spent his time on Twitter discussing how really did the hunk, and also the hulk, in Anthony Joshua end up losing to Andy Ruiz Jnr at Madison Square Garden, of all places? Or, how the Proteas, who now will have no challenge whatsoever in the world as the ultimate Cricket World Cup chokers, can rise from the disaster that has been their flirtation in England and Wales in this campaign?
Maybe, of course, deal with the way Caster Semenya has been treated as if he is not a human being by some powerful white people who don’t want him on the track, with that humiliation by the Moroccans probably the worst part of it all and justifying, once again, why Danny Jordaan and Philip Chiyangwa were right to vote for the United States in the battle for the 2026 World Cup hosting.
But Robert chose to deal, now and again, with the adventure of Aluvha and Botha, because he found something beautiful in their journey, and because they deserved his attention and his support.
And, when Aluvha finally got his visa to enter Ethiopia and proceed with his journey, he remembered to thank Robert and others who had helped him, showed him some love and inspired him not to give up.
“Salute . . . #Chakariboy, through him and with him, the ball was set rolling this morning, he had a hectic day, and like @robertmarawa, who fought tooth and nail for his countryman, @MasilaBotha, Robson played a MAJOR ROLE in the acquisition of my visa today,’’ tweeted Aluvha as he saluted me for the small role I played.
And, Robert Mawara replied.
“Very happy for you my brother Alvin!! That’s what we do as Africans and you and your friend will be at AFCON 2019 from the start of the tournament!! Well done @Chakariboy for showing your hand as well.’’
And, after that, tweets between me and Robert started flying to and from in a display of respect for each other.
“My brother Robert, you have been awesome, your influential voice has been heard across the plains and mountains of Africa and you showed me the other side I never knew but l always hoped u had, thanks, God bless, Ggimmmmmm shelelele,’’ I tweeted, and he replied:
“Big brother Robson!! It’s not for us to stand in the way of people who dream big and dream the almost impossible . . . ours is to help facilitate the positive outcomes of those dreams regardless of their challenges!!
“Your role keeps a portion of the dream alive and we are happy.’’
Well, well, well, I could go on and on, but thanks Robert about time my brother, “ggimmmmm, sheleleeeee!”
To God Be The Glory!