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Azania Mosaka: Heard by the heavens

Statuesque, svelte, serene, and confident, this radio veteran has always had it

Veteran radio broadcaster Azania Mosaka (right) with her daughter Shamiso.
Veteran radio broadcaster Azania Mosaka (right) with her daughter Shamiso.
Image: Steve Tanchel

It’s been over 20 years since I first met Azania Mosaka at the Sunday Times Style Awards. On a night of champagne and glamour, Mosaka, a nominee, was resplendent in a floor-sweeping and fashionable umbhaco.

Fast forward to 2023, and we reconnect on a buzzing set for her cover shoot in Killarney on a rainy Friday afternoon. Her skin is still porcelain perfect and her eyes still have that sparkle.

Mosaka is now mother to irrepressible supernova media personality Shamiso. In fact, these days when she goes grocery shopping, she gets stopped and asked if she is related to Shamiso.

The fact that they look so much alike doesn’t help. She is now known as “Shamiso’s mom” — one of the sacrifices parents make as their offspring come into their own.

We reminisce about the good ole’ kwaito-fuelled days of the early 2000s when things started to happen in her career.

She had her first taste of fame as the 17-year-old host of The Joint, a youth talk show on CCV-TV (now SABC 1) alongside Tim Horwood. She used the money she made to travel to the UK where she stayed for three years and met Shamiso’s father.

Image: Steve Tanchel

After returning to SA and giving birth to Shamiso, she headed back across the pond.When things didn’t work out this time around, Mosaka came back home for good.

She first worked as a presenter on BassiQ, from Black Rage Productions, and then on Metro FM’s graveyard slot from midnight to 3am. In no time, she secured the lucrative Afternoon Drive and shot up into the stratosphere of the airwaves. Mosaka never let up as she moved on to the breakfast show.

“I was naïve to everything that was going on, focusing on doing the radio work. The real impact hit me when I left, 13 years later, having done graveyard, breakfast, afternoon, and mid-morning. It was time for me to do something else. I had a wonderful career and broke boundaries — something that no other woman had achieved in commercial radio before then.”

She worked for Discovery SA as host of podcast series DiscoverHealthier and then made the move to talk radio, starting at Power 98.7 on Power Lunch, a gig she held for 18 months. Then 702 came calling. “I can be a broadcaster for as long as I want.

Going to talk radio was an opportunity to exercise my talk muscle, having done everything, including producing.

Image: Steve Tanchel

Talk was interesting to me because you can achieve much more impactful things in society,” she reflects.

After seven years at 702, Mosaka walked away from it all to focus her energies on her NGO Peo Impact Gardens, deepening its work and becoming much more hands-on. She also enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand to complete her Honours, researching trauma in journalism.

Unpacking her legacy and what has stood her in good stead in over two decades, Mosaka pins it down to her voice.

She says she has been told she sounds “soothing, comforting, relatable, and [like] a friendly person one can feel at ease with”.

She has since become deliberate to cultivate the traits. “I’m also a keen observer. It has helped me to maintain my authenticity. It helped to work on my trade. There’s also something about my ear. I love audio and sound, which is why radio had a staying power for me. It just connects more.”

I suggest that her vocabulary and sharp instinct behind the mic add to her appeal. She relates a story about how she and her sister used to visit the Joburg Library as children and would get lost in the world of books.

“My mom would give us R20 and we’d go to the kids’ library section because the reference library was intimidating. We had library cards and I was obsessed with [British novelist] Roald Dahl and finished all the books. After lazing on old couches reading, we’d check out the books that we needed. With the change from the R20 we would get some takeaways before taking the taxi home to Pimville,” she reminisces.

Now stepping into a different phase of her life, Mosaka says she had been criticising herself for doing only this one thing for over 20 years.

“We have a universe of things that interest us. I made the decision to leave and explore. During the time I was away I stopped being hard on myself and became appreciative of all I had encountered, especially in an industry that has not always been kind to women.”

As Shamiso’s mom, Mosaka says her daughter awakened to the impact of her work as a media personality when she was in high school. And when the spotlight fell on Shamiso during a cyberbullying incident in 2017, Mosaka was forced to grow as a parent.

Image: Steve Tanchel

“When bringing up children we are always focused on the little ones marching to our line. The incident affected both of us terribly and opened my eyes. [Author] Kahlil Gibran puts it well that as a parent you’re just a vessel, yours is to facilitate, children come through you, and not from you, and that’s the gift that came with Shamiso.

She pushed and forced me to face certain lessons. We had drifted but got closer than before, and as a result I’m parenting my younger son differently,” she says.

When Shamiso put body art on her face, Mosaka says her first instinct was to protest. “I immediately thought of Lil Wayne,” she laughs.

“But there is an aesthetic to it and I’ve seen how other women do it. As parents, we need to stop imposing our own perceptions and standards on our children. The function of our children’s existence is to be themselves. There is a lot of judging and that is where the problem is.

”The chemistry between mother and daughter is undeniable as they swing into the mood of the fun cover shoot with booming music in the background, twinning in everything — their hairstyles, garments, and energy. They make a powerful combo.