Renowned SABC television and radio presenter Vuyo Mbuli’s sudden death reported on Sunday leaves us with stark reflections about the human role within the media and communications industry. It should also leave us determined to improve the quality of Islamic media, for there can be no greater pathway to proselytize and influence goodness.
Mourned by the nation, and given accolades by the Presidency and various political movements, the 46 year old made his South African television debut in 1993 as a continuity presenter for SABC3, followed by sports presenting and news reading. In 1996 he was the SABC Anchor in Atlanta, Georgia for the Olympic Games Coverage. He was co-anchor of Morning Live since the start of the morning news and actuality programme on SABC2 in November 1999. After starting his radio career on SAfm in 1995 he rejoined them as presenter on Morning Talk in 2012, until a replacement for Siki Mgabadeli was finalised. Fans remember his warmth, politeness, journalistic fairness, professionalism and wit.
Audio and visual senses are two main bases of knowledge and thought. Speaking is based on hearing, and imagination is based on observation. Hence the ears and eyes are spectacular methods of accruing understanding. The Holy Quran has mentioned the words “ear” and “eye” 19 times together. In 17 of those times hearing is given precedence over seeing as an ability to influence the heart.
That said, radio as an effective auditory instrument for communication plays a colossal role in education. It is not only informs, but also inspires human beings to learn via instilment of values and virtues. A radio presenter holds a powerful role in creating and sustaining attitudes, interests and an appreciation of human life and diversity.
In a country like ours where even the unwitting indigent and ignorant are bombarded by negative media portrayals of Islam, it is imperative that those in the media field wake up to sustaining the enormous power they hold to positively effect da’wah. Rather than focus on constraints of finance, suitable equipment and squabbling, individual presenters need develop base personal goals to improve the reach of the Muslim media industry.
"We're not talking to an audience. You're talking to one person and they're only half-listening. It's a mistake to think that everybody's clinging to your every word."
For this reason talk-show and Islamic media presenters need to be interested and interesting. They need to be personable, inclusive and humble, willing to share and willing to learn. They need to read widely, develop debating and counter-argument skills within guidelines of Prophetic conduct. As we grow, our audiences don’t want to be preached to -- they don’t want to be talked at: they want to be talked to. We need to draw people by our humour if not anything else. And while humour is subjective, warmth and affability, ‘realness’ is not. According to UNESCO statistics 95% of all people throughout the globe listen to radio regularly. Since its invention more than 100 years ago, radio has sparked imagination and opened doors for change, entertaining, informing and connecting people wherever they are.
Engaging our ears in odious acts of hearing is a sin most detestable by Allah. “And follow not that of which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, the sight and (even) the heart of each will be questioned (by Allah)”. [Q17:36] Likewise, “Say: It is He (Allah) Who has created you and endowed you with hearing (ears), seeing (eyes) and hearts. Little thanks you give”. [Q67:23]. For those who’ve been blessed with the ability to influence hearts positively by diverting from odious listening this is an honour, a means of that same gratefulness and also a trust. Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab (r) said to Ziyaad: “Do you know what [things] destroy Islaam? The death of a scholar, the Munafiq (hypocrite) who argues using the Quraan, and Imams who lead the people astray.” [Sunnan Ad-Daarimee]
If reactions to Vuyo Mbuli’s death are anything to go by, the radio industry is alive and thriving. Food for thought: he overcame gossip and invasive intrusions about his personal life and got on with his job stoically. At his death, gossip and trashy tabloids don’t stand a chance in marring the sterling work he did for South Africans. His famous words: "Mintiro ya bula bula" - your work will always speak for itself. Those words ring true as his legacy and hope to excel for all those in the communications industry.
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