Winnie Busisiwe Mahlangu
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Winnie Busisiwe Mahlangu
Radio personality Winnie Busisiwe Mahlangu was born in Witbank, Mpumalanga in 1934. She was the doyen of the radio as the first woman to be employed permanently by the SABC for Radio Bantu in 1962. During that period discrimination against women and black people was rife in the SABC.
Before the pull to broadcasting, Mahlangu obtained her Teacher’s Diploma at the Middleburg Training College and taught at a primary school in Wattville, Benoni. When the SABC decided to regionalise the ethnic radio stations, isiZulu-speaking broadcasters – including Mahlangu, who was the only woman – were transferred to Durban to establish the then Radio Zulu station (now known as Ukhozi FM), for KwaZulu-Natal listeners.
Her golden voice became the household name which dominated the airwaves of the time. In 1996 the union, Media Workers’ Association of South Africa, launched the SABC employees’ bursary fund and named it Winnie Mahlangu Bursary Fund, and she was the patron of the fund.
She served the SABC for 30 years. She was promoted only in 1992 to senior announcer after much contestation. Her programmes focused on empowering women economically both in rural and urban areas. Fellow radio announcer KE Masinga named her ‘uMafungwase’ (first-born), as she was the only woman amongst men. She specialised in women’s programmes and has travelled extensively. As a linguist Mahlangu discovered the rich talent of the late Thetha Masombuka, the popular radio sports commentator and radio announcer.
Her contribution does not end within the SABC. In her personal capacity she selflessly assisted students with financial aid to pursue studies. Her home housed needy children. She communicated with principals in many schools to get children accepted for secondary and high school education. Her tireless efforts have resulted in university graduates in various professions. When she retired in 1993, Mahlangu did not rest but focused her energies on assisting the elderly. She worked with the Department of Social Development to ensure that the aged receive their pension. She used her car to transport the sick to hospitals.