Legendary award-winning media host, Ashraf Garda, is continuing to play his part in developing the lives of South Africans with the introduction of the Champion South Africa movement to create new avenues for future generations.
With 2020 being an absolutely challenging year, Garda took a leap of faith to invest in his own initiative and made use of podcasts and other social media avenues to share insightful information on various topics to empower the minds of South Africans.
Garda believes that the country possesses a wealth of knowledge, experience and talent that can take Mzansi from mid-table to a champion nation.
He has worn many hats in the industry including radio presenting on sports shows and hard-hitting journalism on current affairs and politics on television.
Garda has earned various media awards for his outstanding contributions in the industry and admits that his highlight has been his continuous journey of being able to make an impact.
He is also a supporter of women’s sport and lauds the gsport initiative for empowering women to pursue their sporting careers.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Garda chats about his transition from working in the textile industry to broadcasting and what keeps him motivated.
Ashraf, thank you for taking time out to chat! 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. How have you been able to remain on top of your game?
I think it is an interesting point about how, one, 2020 has absolutely been challenging and secondly, I think, to say that I have been on top of my game completely for the year 2020 would be incorrect.
I think that there are some aspects where I have done well, achieved and made some gains but there have certainly been some other things that have been put on hold or have been stalled because of Covid-19.
So, with that in mind, my answer can’t be that I have stayed on top of my game. I think how we have managed to a sense of resilience and being able to understand…In fact, if I can quote a verse from the Holy Quran which says, “After every difficulty, there comes relief.” Now this is relevant because on the 1st of July, I was Covid positive, my wife was positive the next day and it effectively took away 4 to 5 weeks away of my work but most importantly I am well.
“The positive thing was learning how to manage and deal with presenting through webinars, which has certainly been a different experience for everyone and is now become a major part of our lives.” – Champion South Africa founder, Ashraf Garda
There have been a lot of negatives due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, what positives have you drawn from the situation?
The positive thing was learning how to manage and deal with presenting through webinars, which has certainly been a different experience for everyone and is now become a major part of our lives. Also, some media consultations and training that I have been conducting. I made this point the other day, we are all busy but are we productive? And, I think in many ways these short webinars or Zoom-based meetings have improved productivity compared to the live events. It does not mean that there is no call for live, I think live is still very important.
In that period (lockdown) I also started doing podcasts as I felt that it was important to do, post my period at SAFM, where I wanted to do something to impact the broader community. We have Marketing Wars with Ashraf Garda podcast and Champion People with Ashraf Garda podcast. The Marketing Wars podcast is based on Marketing and Branding.
“We have had collaborations with people, we have a WhatsApp group with innovators and the level of sharing of information from industry leaders, champions in their field in that group has been amazing.” – Garda reveals the positives of his Champion South Africa initiative.
As you are aware that I head up Champion South Africa which is a movement to build and move South Africa from a mid-table nation to a champion nation. We have had collaborations with people, we have a WhatsApp group with innovators and the level of sharing of information from industry leaders, champions in their field in that group has been amazing and it reminds one daily of the incredible wealth of experience that we have in our country and the incredible talent we also do have here.
Let us take a step back and chat about your journey. Where did it all start for you in the media industry?
So, my journey in the media industry was fascinating in the sense that I come from a community – Vrededorp – that was a sporting hotbed and the sporting influence was certainly there in my family who were involved in cricket administration and playing over the years so that influence was obvious, right? But specifically, the direct entry into becoming a Broadcaster, I always had a fascination with media. You know, I would listen to BBC radio over the years, cricket commentaries, and I would be so inspired by that without thinking about it as a career as you know at that stage I was in the fabric industry.
What had happened, I was the Chairman of a junior soccer club and a radio station called, Radio Az-Zaheer had become a voice for the community and I had suggested to them that we as a community were having a local soccer tournament and seeing that they are a local community station, they should cover the cup final. These were small kids and they would never get the opportunity to have their names announced on air, certainly not at that stage with community football.
I then set up everything for them. The team from the radio station later called me and said that none of them could actually talk about sport so they asked if I could do this sports preview, which was the initial plan. That was my first time on air. I remember clearly the station manager, 10 minutes into the programme, putting a sign through the window saying that my enthusiasm in infectious and I have been on air ever since!
It was remarkable! But, that station closed very quickly, so I went onto another local station – The Voice – where I hosted a Sports Show. I was getting encouraging feedback from people that were saying that I was good at what I was doing. So, I went to do a course in Radio Broadcasting and it polished me to pursue a career in the industry.
“Two weeks later I was on air and that has been the entry into a remarkable journey from sports, to current affairs, talks shows, politics and a whole lot more!” – Garda chats about applying to work at SABC which opened doors for him in the media industry.
After I completed the course, I was very confident that I had the talent and ability, I just needed an opportunity. And, that opportunity came when 5FM in 1998, just after the FIFA World Cup, they were looking for a Sports Host for their weekend sports show because they were introducing a weekend sports feature. A friend of mine, Yunus Solomons, who worked at the SABC got wind that they were looking, so he called me and recommended that I check the post out. I eventually did and sent in some tapes. Two weeks later I was on air and that has been the entry into a remarkable journey from sports, to current affairs, talks shows, politics and a whole lot more!
What made you leave your business to focus on Journalism knowing that you had little formal training at the time?
I think it was based on two things – one was that the business had slowed and was not as profitable as before and the most important aspect was my calling to share my voice and knowledge.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the early stages of your career?
I didn’t really face serious challenges. I think that bigger challenge was once making an impact, you then need to find ways to continue to elevate and grow within the industry. That’s when I started to venture into talk shows, current affairs and politics to broaden my horizons.
What keeps you motivated?
To deliver on my ability! You know that phrase, “Your playing small does not serve the world,” so once you have got the ability, why would you want to keep it to yourself? You need to amplify that ability for people to truly appreciate and understand who you are you. It’s like a footballer who is a very talented footballer who doesn’t play on the pitch.
As an award-winning journalist, what are your highlights on your career so far?
Well, the highlights, goodness… I have to think about this! Clearly there have been a few awards that I have received, and those awards are highlights because they are recognition both from a sporting point, then current affairs and marketing shows that I have hosted. All of them are acknowledgements of my ability but also the abilities of my producers in putting a show together and the ability of us collectively delivering to an audience.
In terms of career highlights, it’s so difficult to say and I can’t put it down to specific thing. But, I think the whole highlight has been this continuous journey of being able to make an impact.
You have also played your part in championing women in sport. What is it about women in sport and women’s sport that has caught your attention?
Firstly, I think over the years – even I have to admit – not enough has been done by myself and by others to champion women’s sport. Our system over a period has not championed women enough. I think gsport, the formation of gsport by Kass Naidoo, has been formidable and it has amplified the need to champion women’s sport. I am pleasantly surprised by the rise of our female athletes and the likes of our national teams, such as Banyana Banyana, who are outperforming the men’s teams.
I am certainly supportive of women’s sport that needs to continue to be amplified to attract sponsorship and ensure that there is equality.
What are your thoughts on the state of women’s sport and how can we as the media make positive changes?
“I do think that in the media space a lot more coverage has been given, whether it is enough I think you guys at gsport would be in a better position than I am to say so.” – Garda speaks on the increasing coverage of women’s sport.
With regards to the state of women’s sport, individual athletes have done superbly and it’s fantastic. With regards to team sports with cricket, rugby, soccer, etc, they have all done very well but the overall image in terms of support, money/sponsorship, they are lagging behind and they need media platforms to, firstly, amplify them and then get people to buy into the fact of how important they are. Then, audiences will follow, sponsorships will follow as well. It does start with a deliberate campaign to really ensure that women’s position and their role in playing the sport that they choose to play is given the prominence that is deserves.
I do think that in the media space a lot more coverage has been given, whether it is enough I think you guys at gsport would be in a better position than I am to say so because of the research that you do. I would love to see how media coverage on women’s sport has shifted over the past decade or maybe since the introduction of gsport for example.
What are you still aiming to achieve in your career?
I think first prize is to grow Champion South Africa and I think that gsport and your achievements in fact inspires us who start initiatives of our own. We want to inspire South Africans to become champions and be a champion nation. We need champions across the board to excel at what they do. So, that is project one.
I would love to now do a signature weekly radio or tv show, not necessarily every day but a signature show or platform that will really start making an impact ideally on championing interventions. My purpose might have changed from 10, 15 years ago and now my purpose is Champion South Africa.
Ashraf Garda has been appointed to the Council of Social Justice Champions that will drive the Social Justice M Plan put together by Prof. Thuli Madonsela.
Check out Ashraf’s podcasts below:
Photo 1 Caption: Legendary award-winning media host, Ashraf Garda, is hoping to create new avenues for future generations through his newly launched podcast – Champion South Africa. Photo: StudentPhotographyZa (Instagram)
Photo 2 Caption: Garda chats about his journey, and what keeps him motivated to stay in the game. Photo: StudentPhotographyZa (Instagram)
Photo 3 Caption: Speaking to gsport in this #BestMan feature, Garda says he wants to inspire South Africans to become champions, and for us to be a champion nation. Photo: StudentPhotographyZa (Instagram)