Sunday, June 16, 2024

Phenyo Moroka: Rise of the Phoenix

In Legend of the Phoenix, the bird dies by fire and rises from its ashes. It is this mythology that epitomizes Phenyo Moroka’s life. He is the man behind that big and bold voice that dominates the Mojo in the Morning program every morning on Yarona FM. He is also a sought after corporate MC and voice over artist.

Many people know Phenyo Moroka, but very few know the story of his life. Before the fame, the 31 year old worked in the corporate world. But he quit to pursue his dream of becoming the best talk show host on radio. His first encounter with radio was during his final year at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Someone heard him speak and suggested that he does a few voice overs for radio.

“Before I knew it I was auditioning for a slot on the campus radio station MFM 92.6. I started off like everyone else on the graveyard shift from midnight to 2 am and later did the Saturday request show from 9-12pm,” he said.

It was only later in his life that he got to do what he loves most, talk radio. After graduating with a BA in Human Resource Management, majoring in Political Science and Industrial Psychology, Phenyo went on to do a postgraduate diploma in Advertising and Marketing Communications Management at the Red & Yellow School of Logic and Magic, a private advertising school in Cape Town. That was when he started listening to popular South African talk show presenter on Metro FM- Given Mkhari, which fired up his love for talk and current affairs. Fresh from school, Phenyo Moroka waltzed into the Yarona FM studios and tabled his proposal for a talk show. Then 22 years old, Moroka was crushed when his idea was trashed and he was shown the door.

“The then Programs Manager rubbished my idea immediately. He asked what a 22 year old knew about current affairs and talk radio. He saw no place for talk radio on Yarona FM. But my dream wasn’t killed, it was merely deferred. So I kept my head up and joined the corporate world,” he said.
His attempts at running a business failed and he was devastated by the passing of his friend and mentor Mathata Gasennelwe, who was MD of Horizon Ogilvy & Mather. At Mathata’s funeral in 2009, Phenyo dusted his original proposal for a talk show and handed it to Dumi Lopang, then Yarona FM Station Manager.

“I was deeply touched by Mathata’s passing. I decided that life was too short and I was going to chase my dream of being on radio. So I asked Dumi to take a look at my proposal and that’s how I started at Yarona FM, as a stand in for David Moepeng on Point Blank,” he said.

He stayed the course and worked his way up until he finally got his big break as a full time presenter on current affairs shows Live the Talk and Point Blank. And he did well. Phenyo revealed that during his tenure as a talk show host, Yarona FM won pretty much all the talk awards.

The highlight of his career was when he interviewed Kgosi Kgafela of Bakgatla on Point Blank. Ever searching for new challenges, Phenyo later discovered a gap in the world of corporate MC’ing and decided to branch out. By 2013 he was getting big gigs. His very first was the LEA SMME Fair Awards Dinner and he has not looked back since, as he went on to host the National Sports Awards 2013, President’s Day Celebrations Awards 2013, Global Expo 2013, St Louis Export Top 40 under 40 Awards 2014, Launch of the new Tirelo Sechaba 2014 and the beMOBILE Premier League Awards 2014. While his career was flourishing and hitting the big time, Pheyo’s personal life was not so rosy. He became a divorcee at a young age of 27…and hit rock bottom. He got married two weeks before his 25th birthday, but was sadly divorced two years later.

“That was the most trying time of my life because it coincided with the collapse of a business that I had started when I was 24. I was broke and divorced all in the same year,” he said.

Phenyo’s mobile phone distribution business started well and hit a P5 million per year turnover within a very short period of time. But poor management and the naivety of youth combined to bring the once flourishing business down. At the time, he hadn’t learnt the difference between the company’s money and his money. He was living the good life at the company’s expense. In the end, the business could not sustain itself or meet its obligations, and collapsed, living him broke and in debt.

”To this day I am still paying off some of those debts,” said Phenyo.

But the young man is rising once again because he believes every setback is a setup for a comeback. A wave of conviction drowns out any feeling of sadness or regret when he talks about the path that he has travelled in his life thus far.

“God will never make you go through something you cannot handle and sometimes he takes you through a rough patch to remind you that He is in control. That’s why I feel sad for people who commit suicide. With God, you can come back from anything. I came back and I’m still pushing because I let God take control in my life,” said Phenyo.

He believes his divorce was a blessing in disguise because it saved his relationship with his family. Looking back, Phenyo is convinced that a lot of people disapproved of the union. But he was not going to allow anyone to dictate to him and he ended up estranged from his family and people who loved him. When the fun ended and problems came he found himself all alone. Thankfully, his family came back and scraped him from the bottom of the barrel. Phenyo is a proud father of two girls and he just loves it when they call him daddy.

“My little divas are my biggest achievement. Being a dad is one of the most stressful yet fulfilling things in life. There’s no greater feeling than being a real-life superhero,” he said.

With his feet now firmly on the ground, Phenyo looks forward to a successful career in the media. There is talk of a television opportunity in the near future. He is also toying with the idea of becoming a motivational speaker.

“I always say with everything I’ve been through it’s either I am destined for greatness, or I am going to die young!” laughed Phenyo.


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