Gabriel Rasengwatse is one of the country’s most famous radio personalities.
His career journey started 18 years ago, when he went on a tour of Gabz FM studios and fell in love with radio.
During the tour, the station’s co-founder Sydney Baitsile suggested he should be recorded.
Though he was told the recording was horrible, they called him back for two weeks voice training.
Rasengwatse became a stand-in presenter for years before he was finally confirmed as a full-time employee.
Today he is Gabz FM Station Manager.
Apart from being a radio personality Rasengwatse is an entrepreneur and an author.
The Voice’s Portia Mlilo caught up with the radio guru to discover a bit more about his career journey and the challenges he went through as manager.
When was your first on air experience?
My experience happened after Lesego Mohutsiwa’s show back in 2001.
He was doing 9-12 slot at the time. I took over from 12-3 and I had to go to work at 7:30 in the morning.
At that time I was working at Repro Scan Printing and Publishing. In 2005, I started doing the breakfast show.
The morning show has always been the hardest on radio. It has specific listeners who have a specific taste for current affairs.
I thought I did poorly and was looking forward to improving.
Surprisingly, the Chief Executive Officer, Kennedy Otsheleng came to me and said I did a great job.
I was so excited; it was the first time he talked to me.
What does your job entail?
To keep the station running and making a profit. I take care of the business, technical, and administrative aspects of a radio station.
Duties include managing employees, making financial decisions and other things in general.
What was your strategy when you took over as the manager?
In 2016 we carried out what we call a brand health survey.
It called for re-understanding and re-positioning of the brand that led to us developing a strategy.
We are currently aligning with that strategy.
The bottom line is that we are a global influential brand that is listened to across the world.
My vision beyond the strategy is to re-position Gabz FM and to be understood as a market place.
That’s how you make profit. When you listen to our radio, you hear opportunities, brands, projects, products and it is where trade must happen.
How challenging is the role of Station Manager?
It is as challenging as looking for your socks in the morning.
If you are not organised, it will be a lot more challenging!
You just have to plan and be organised, know what is where, when and most importantly be proactive when something shows up, especially during transition.
What we have on air now started in February.
I went through a restructuring process, which was hellish – I don’t wish it on anybody at all!
But we had to do it to take the station where we want it to be.
What is important is the ability to respond, adapt and find other means to overcome.
Talking of restructuring, there was a time when one of your former employees vented and attacked you on social media. How do you deal with such situations?
My brother, Comfort Exotic Ramatebele! You know someone asked me the same question and my answer is, in my culture what an elder person says is true.
He is my big brother and I respect him even up to today. I have always wished him well.
I accepted that if my brother can see me that way, then it means I am that person.
That was just an executive decision.
Radio listenership seems to have declined in recent times. How do you keep relevant and attract potential listeners?
Actually we have seen a surge and not a decline! Gabz FM at its inception was a music station.
Then came the Hot Potato, Solo B and the late Lettie.
They brought this segment that is the most famous here, where people get to answer questions they are not comfortable with.
The station received engagement; there would be between 7 and 8 calls and afterwards no calls until the following day.
That changed in 2014. Regional Richardson was the only person who received many calls and messages – between 7 and 8.
When he knocked off, it was music until the next day.
That year, Petula (former presenter) and I came and introduced the Midday Rush, which became the biggest show by value across the country, gaining the second largest following at Gabz FM in terms of engagement.
When I took over as the manager, I changed almost everything to ensure that we engage with our listeners throughout.
What has been your most embarrassing moment live on radio?
They are many! I have no shame, it’s part of the job.
There was a time when I read four billion when written in millions and it was funny, I couldn’t hear myself.
During the 2009 Elections debates, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi was my guest.
We were talking about a facility being developed for the dumping of uranium waste.
I asked her a question and she asked me to repeat it but I couldn’t remember what it was because it was a follow-up question!
Share some of the lowlights and highlights of your career?
I think my career has been fantastic! I don’t look at life like that, what is low I must turn high and even higher.
My experiences are who I am today. My greatest achievement is to contribute to the development of radio space, the creative industry.
This industry is under developed. I am the first private radio graduate to become the Station Manager, literally.
We have been borrowing managers from other sectors because we have not been developing radio people for the position.
Currently Gabz FM is run by people who come from radio shows and the newsroom; I think it a risk worth taking.
There are rumours Gabz FM is likely to shutdown due to financial constraints. How true is that?
Rumours can only be proved by the event happening (laughs).
For you to know that the doctor is good is when he heals your. That’s the answer.
At some point you left Gabz FM for a short stint at Duma FM. What happened?
Yes I had great ideas as the Programmes Manager but I had a clash with the consultant.
It is part of the job. In a highly creative industry you will disagree about things.
In the end, I think I became an impediment and I was removed during my probation period.
It was business, I never took it personal. I went to hustle, doing business in South Africa.
One day I came to visit One Rabantheng at Gabz FM. On my way out, I met (Kenneth) Moeng and we took a drive together.
We were listening to the radio and I heard the voice of Petula.
I told him I would love to work with her, we would make a great combination.
A few months later, Moeng called me and I re-joined Gabz FM and worked with Petula.
Who contributed to your career development?
The late Gabz FM CEO, Otsheleng was one of my greatest inspirations in terms of Corporate Management.
At his funeral, it was mentioned that he took the Gabz FM job which was paying him half of what he got at BP because he felt the company was international and his mark would not be noticed so he came back home.
Before he died, he had put together our website.
He introduced Kemonokeng, the core location company that was set up to help three private radio stations to share equipment because we did not have enough transmission resources.
He was passionate about seeing radio transitioning into a corporate business not just a radio station.
We tend to think radio is about talking but he saw it differently.
He approached radio from a business perspective.
What advice can you give to aspiring radio personalities?
Have something to say. Hold an opinion on something.
In other words, if you have nothing to stand on you will fall for anything.
Who is your role model?
I look up to a few people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Ketumile Masire, Lenah Mohohlo, Thapelo Lippe, Maya Angelou and the late Beata Kasale-Kabango.
People who faced challenges and overcome and I admire how they managed.
Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
I am going to South Africa to meet a friend from Germany on Friday.
On Sunday I will be working at Pop Bottle Botswana at Bojanala Waterfront.