Best known for his gutsy personality on the 2013 “Big Brother Africa” reality TV show, Zibanani O’Neal Madumo has used the platform to make his name known throughout Africa and this is only the beginning
Formerly known as DJ O’Neal on one of Botswana’s biggest radio stations, RB2, Madumo has rebranded himself as just O’Neal, saying that while radio is his first and main love, he doesn’t want to be boxed into a single thing and plans to take over Africa in more ways than one.
Born and bred in the small mining town of Selibi-Phikwe in the central district of Botswana, Madumo says that he’s long risen above his environment and, while he was surrounded by a lot of negativity growing up, he used that as a springboard to get to where he is today.
Big Brother Africa
In 2013, Madumo was catapulted to continental stardom when he was was cast as one of the contestants on the reality TV series Big Brother Africa, where he was not the most well liked. While he appreciates the opportunity, he cites this as one of the worst experiences in his life.
“What I picked up when Big Brother was over was how passionate Big Brother viewers are so, when you come out, no one extends a hand out to greet and people feel entitled to speak to you in any way they want,” he says.
Madumo describes this experience as very destabilising and says that it was hard getting back to his normal life and getting back to work.
He says that he went onto Big Brother with a very clear purpose. His main aim wasn’t to win, but rather to be on the show long enough for his name and face to be out there so that he could easily penetrate the African market. He says that this was the only benefit that he got out of the show.
“One of the reasons why I went onto Big Brother was because I come from Botswana, a country of about two million, so it’s a very small country and I felt like I had reached a ceiling there. I had done everything from prime-time radio to television. Not to sound boastful, but when you reach a point where people have nothing but praise for you, you have to take a step back and think to yourself: ‘There’s no way there isn’t someone who’s negative about me’ because compliments will only keep you comfortable,” he says.
He joined the show to launch himself to a much more competitive market and to create a better and higher standard to reach for. He knew that if he went onto Big Brother Africa, he’d be able to visit Tanzania or a Kenya and have people recognise him, which has proven to be the case.
After Big Brother, O’Neal was head-hunted by Gareth Cliff to be a part of the team for his online radio platform, CliffCentral.
“Because I had such a big following on Big Brother, a lot of my fans started bombarding his office saying that there’s this guy who was one of the best radio presenters in Botswana and he happens to be in South Africa – that’s how passionate Big Brother fans are, by the way. So I was called into CliffCentral, interviewed for about 30minutes and put on a show immediately afterwards,” he explains.
Now Madumo has the longest running and most downloaded show on the popular radio platform, called O’Neal on CliffCentral. It’s a live music-based show that showcases some of South Africa’s most underrated artists.
Madumo says that ambition has always been the thing that’s carried him forward and his plan is to establish himself in greater South Africa. He says that while he’s a foreigner and can’t compete with South Africans at their own game, he hopes to establish himself as a distinguished brand.
Also, through his travels across the continent, Madumo has identified a huge gap in the media industries of many West and East African countries.
“I think there’s so much room to improve media in broader Africa. Some countries have only recently come out of civil war and freedom is still a luxury and, as a result, this has interfered with the freedom of expression, which is something that radio relies strongly on. Sometimes you’ll find that some countries have great resources, but they’re lacking the medium and understanding of using those platforms,” he says. “This is a gap in the market that I am looking into.”
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