By Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko
There are two kinds of voices on the radio; the kind that makes you want to turn the volume up or change the channel. When you hear Sinethemba Ntfombitebusika (as she is affectionately known to the listeners of EBIS) Dlamini the likelihood is that you will turn the volume up and listen intently.
Apart from having a voice that is easy on the ear, you can tell by her line of questioning that she is in touch with the landscape of Eswatini’s issues and is passionate about what she does – that shines through. Also, it comes across strongly that she has a deep respect for people.
To people who have known her since she was a child, it comes as no surprise that Dlamini ended up in a profession where she commands the attention of the entire nation. Born in Manzini and raised by her mother who brought her and her two big brothers up singlehandedly, Dlamini says she has always been drawn to the creative arts in all its forms.
“My mother who is a retired teacher now was a choir conductor, she was also a siSwati and English teacher so I grew up surrounded by a lot of books and music. We were either reading or listening to music on the radio at home. In hindsight, I was being set up for the path I am on now,” she says.
She recalls also how as a child she took an interest in content, way beyond her young age following TV shows on Eswatini (Swazi) TV such as the one that was anchored by Knowledge Makhanya she recalls the line, “nalenzilo kute nalemali yekuyitsenga yeMakhanya”.
“I guess your soul knows things about you that you do not. I remember seeing Noxolo Grootboom on television and couldn’t wait for the end of the bulletin to say ‘Ndinithanda nonke emakhaya’ with her. I would take copies of the newspaper and sit in front of the mirror and pretend to be a newsreader. Little did I know that the audition had already begun. For a while, I was convinced that what I wanted, was to be on TV. Also because I thought people on TV were rich! We will laugh about that another time,” she says, with a smile.
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So when exactly did she then decide on the radio? The Mass Communication and Journalism graduate from UNESWA who majored in broadcast says she was a teenager begrudgingly doing her homework when she tuned into the radio one evening and heard a voice on the radio that stopped her dead in her tracks saying “Presenting local and international news, I am Nomvula Motsa”.
She says she knew right then and there as she was struggling with her mathematics homework, that whatever Nomvula Motsa was doing, she wanted to do too. And as luck would have it, when she walked into her first lecture at UNESWA to study journalism -there in front of her was Nomvula Motsa who would for the next few years lecture her in Development Communications.
“That whole experience was surreal, and naturally I learnt so much from her and the rest of my lecturers as well. Journalism is such an interesting field. There is no such thing as a typical day and I love that. I can’t imagine myself doing the same thing every day. Fast forward to after graduation, I finally landed at EBIS. Working for EBIS has been quite a learning experience for me.”
“You learn that siSwati although it is a single language, has different colours and textures to it. When you’re covering Their Majesties, for instance, wekhuta lwandle, the tone and vocabulary is different, even the way you carry yourself has a unique protocol to it. The next day you’re probably assigned to Parliament and quickly you need to understand the processes there also, Bills, Acts, Orders, and everything that comes with being in the August House,” says Dlamini.
She recounts how during her early days in Parliament, one of her fellow journos pinched her at the beginning of a parliamentary session for remaining seated as the Speaker walked in yet protocol demands that one has to rise.
Dlamini says dealing with politicians as a journalist is very interesting as one needs to strike the balance between giving honour where it is due as well as getting the answers that the public deserves.
“It can also be difficult because sometimes the job demands that you speak to people who have for instance lost a loved one. You need to pass condolences and rush to get details and the story behind their loss. In essence, when you walk into the newsroom you have to leave your emotions at the door or even as far as the car park,” she says.
So what does the future hold for her? Dlamini says she would love to continue working in the radio space and someday become a producer as she enjoys putting content together.
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“There is a lot to learn from others who have walked the path before me such as the late Thembi ‘Billie-Jean’ Hlophe whose talent was unmatched. And how can I forget my role model, the late Nomvula Motsa, who had a natural ability to make you listen to her? And then there is Noxolo Grootboom who exudes both elegance and humility. She is so unforgettable that even after retirement, media houses still count on her professionalism from time to time. I want to be that gem,” she says.
The mother of an energetic toddler says she is grateful for her mother’s support in raising her son as her work is very hectic and she would not manage alone.
“The industry is very demanding – you constantly have to push boundaries and become a better version of yourself daily. I love meeting different people every day and learning about their lives. It is an exciting space to be in and it can only get better from here,” Dlamini says.
So what does a typical day look like for her?
Wake up, thank God for the day, and check my emails, and WhatsApp messages
Grab a cup of coffee, take a bath, and prepare for work
Drive to work
6 a.m. – Noon
Read the news bulletins after rehearsing
Host the current affairs show
Read the newspapers
Catch up on social media to keep abreast of current issues
Meet with colleagues for daily assignments
Grab breakfast on the go, in-between attending assignments
1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Compile news stories based on assignments attended
Make calls to news sources
Have lunch on the go
Get home, take a shower
Call home to catch up on my son’s day and family issues
7.30 – 9 p.m.
Read – if I am not too tired
Listen to motivational podcasts
Plan for the following day
Watch the news
Say my prayers, write in my journal