People always say behind a successful man there’s always a woman who worked overtime crafting him, and Siyabonga Ngcangisa’s life proves this is not just another cliché. The name ‘Siya Ngcangs’ may sound familiar, as Siya has been in the media industry for a while. Siya co-presented at South Africa’s third largest radio station Umhlobo Wenene FM and has worked for publications such as Move! Magazine and DRUM Magzine.
“I was born and raised in a township called Mdantsane in East London. My childhood was pretty normal. Myself and three siblings were raised by my late mother. She was a strong woman who laid a solid foundation that led me to the little I’ve achieved today. I’d say ‘little’ because my mother disliked people who act big, and always encouraged me to stay humble no matter how successful I ‘think’ I am,” recalls Siya.
Mdantsane is known for grooming the best boxers in South Africa, and Siyabonga himself has dodged a few punches too – literally.
“I was very into sport, having played boxing and soccer, and a little bit of cricket. There is nothing I went through that was not normal for a black boy in the location. We didn’t have much, as I was raised by a single parent whose intention was to, with the little she had, take me through life so I could later grow and fend for myself. But honestly, I can’t really say I was poor because I had all the basics – school uniform, food and clean clothes. That was enough for me.”
As much as his mom played an instrumental role in his life, Siya recalls how his community helped him hold the pen as he figuratively wrote his life story.
“I think that’s where the saying, ‘it takes a village to raise child’ comes in (laughs). But other than that, I had great teachers at the schools I attended who always encouraged discipline. I also had [a number] of community members whom I looked up to.”
His discipline was soon tested as he left home to seek for greener pastures.
“After school I went to Cape Town where I completed my studies in Journalism, at what was then known as the Peninsula Technicon (now Cape Peninsula University of Technology). I then worked in Cape Town for Kick Off Magazine.
“[Drum Magazine] brought me to Joburg in 2006 and gave me a platform to make my mark in the media industry. I was young when I joined, and later spread my wings elsewhere, but ten years later, they called me and appointed me to an editorship position.”
It’s often said that ‘you shouldn’t brag about your abilities but should rather let people praise you about them’, and Siya was an embodiment of that saying.
“When I worked as a journalist and later, a radio co-presenter, I received a lot of appreciation from people I had never known. I received a lot of love from readers of all the publications I worked for, and a lot of love and support from the listeners at Umhlobo Wenene FM, where I worked alongside Phumzile Zonke between February 2008 and February 2011.”
He is grateful for the stones that were scattered his way cos from them he could build a bridge.
“We have different journeys as human beings and sometimes it’s difficult to specify. But all I can say is most of the things I went through laid the foundation of the man I am today.”
Talking about his ‘today’, Siya used his fourteen years’ media experience to establish his own company.
“My last work for a company was with Drum Magazine, where I was the associate editor. But now I’m at a place where I get to make my own decisions, create and implement my own visions. I’m currently the owner of a Communications and Media company called Untouch Media, after having worked as a journalist for various publications, TV and radio for a combined 14 years.”
Like the TV cameras that once shone on his face, Siya hopes to keep his focus and zoom into community building.
“I’m planning to grow my business and hopefully give opportunities to many young people. There’s no higher or lower purpose, other than continuing to push hard and staying grounded. I also hope to win more awards (laughs).I’ve won numerous awards – Kick OFF writer of the month for November 2005, Move! Magazine worker-bee of the month twice in 2011 and 2012. In 2014, Multi-Choice gave me a special award for ‘Excellence in Journalism’.
“But an award is not a symbol that you’ve made it in life. What’s more important is making the best of the chances you’ve been blessed with, which I hope I have.”
It’s Women’s month and Siya extends his gratitude to the woman who brought him up on her own.
“…my late mother was my biggest supporter. She bought all the copies of the publications I wrote for and listened to each episode of our radio show. When I was on TV working as a boxing analyst for SABC Sport, she would sacrifice her sleep and watch. She was my biggest fan and that gave me a lot of encouragement… A lot of other people in the media industry gave me a platform and chance to explore my talents.”
Siya wraps up the interview by giving a word of advice to anyone who might be going through a rough patch.
“No one can ever give you happiness more than yourself. I always look for inspiration from within, and not make people’s opinions a centre of my life. But I love people with substance, and I enjoy spending time with them.
“I know that I’m not the best, and I’m not the worst. In the same way I’m not better than others, I’m also not worse than them. As humans, we all go through similar challenges, but at different stages.
“You must know that whatever you go through, is part of your journey. There was no way you could have avoided it. You must also look for answers within yourself more than outside. Remember: no one will ever be better or worse than you.”