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But John Robbie a Sunday Times Mampara?

I was surprised to see Talk Radio 702 morning presenter John Robbie named the week’s “Mampara” by the Sunday Times in its big exclusive Manto edition on Sunday. At first I was amused, then perplexed as I read through it.

We could laugh it off and one could dismiss the Mampara Award as nothing but light humour and satire, but it is taken seriously by many. I can think of a hundred more deserving people who the Mampara award could go to before John Robbie. In fact, I don’t think he is Mampara material at all. Previous winners of the award include thieves, murderers, racists and despots. Zimbabwe’s despotic President Robert Mugabe is a regular Mampara. So it’s not hard to see that Robbie seems very out of place here.

In his morning show the next day on Monday, Robbie didn’t take a swipe at the Sunday Times. He admitted the label was “hurtful” and that he was “a bit down” as a result of his new award. While admitting that as a high-profile radio presenter he was fair game, he felt this particular Mampara writ had a “personal” edge to it.

I have to agree with Robbie. Also, much of what was said was just simply not accurate, including the descriptions that he is “one of the dullest windbags ever to mug the airwaves” and “tired and unimaginative”. Call Robbie many things, but I doubt anyone — even his detractors — would describe him as “dull” or “unimaginative”. In fact, Robbie is often criticised for getting a little too passionate and hot-headed at times.

I had listened to his show the previous week where he had criticised the Sunday Times — and I also disagreed with Robbie’s statements. I felt the Sunday Times‘ story was newsworthy because it involved a public official in high office, but agreed with Robbie in that those were good questions to ask and debate. From a Sunday Times point of view, it was worth contesting, but hardly worth branding Robbie a Mampara.

It misses the mark for me.


  • Matthew Buckland is the former GM of the Mail & Guardian Online and co-founder of award-winning blog aggregator and editorial blog Thought Leader. He has worked in the online medium all his working life literally from its inception in South Africa. He was one of the first new media graduates out of Rhodes University and has previously worked for, Carte Blanche (Interactive), Johncom (e-media) and the BBC Online ( in the UK. He is a computer fundi and has had one since the age of 7 (ZX Spectrum 48k), where he spent most of his time creating computer games in BASIC. He has spoken around the world on online media issues, including New York, Germany, Kenya and London.


  1. Silwane Silwane 21 August 2007

    I must admit; I was a bit taken aback at the awarding of Robbie with the Mampara tag. While I do tune in to his show most mornings, I missed the bit where he’d commented on the Sunday Times and therefore can’t comment on whether he is deserving of Mamparadom or not.

    I have been a fan of Robbie since the early 90’s when he used to host the Talk At Nine slot. I also think Hogarth missed the mark with his general description of the man. John Robbie is one of the most skilful talk show hosts in the land.

    Maybe this was written tongue-in-cheek? Still, it had a distinctly distasteful tinge about it.

  2. Vincent Maher Vincent Maher 21 August 2007

    The Mampara award has always been old-media style flame-bait anyway but this kind of award makes it even more meaningless. Putting Robert Mugabe and John Robbie in the same category shows how indiscriminate it can be and how the publication tries to get attention.

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