Xolani Gwala has died after a long battle with colon cancer, 702 announced this morning [1 November 2019], reading a statement from his wife, Peggy-Sue Khumalo. Gwala was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in September 2017. He was 44 years old.
“We have been moved and inspired by his hard and formidable fight he waged, which represented his greatness and will power to conquer,” Khumalo said.
Despite undergoing treatment in a “world-first clinical trial in Israel… the miracle did not materialise” but “these last few months have been precious, and we are eternally grateful that Xolani has been able to spend them with us as a family. This journey has made our family so much stronger and brought us ever closer together”.
Khumalo thanked listeners and colleagues for their prayers and good wishes, as these had made an enormous difference and helped the family cope. “You gave Xolani enormous strength as he recovered from liver surgeries and underwent his treatments, while always maintaining his infectious laugh and sense of humour. We were hopeful but always knew the gravity of the situation,” she said.
The veteran broadcaster, whose last employer was 702, had a 24 year career in radio and television. Over his years in broadcasting, working in radio and television, he has been a reporter, news anchor, producer, talk show host and current affairs presenter and spans across radio and television.
“The children and I, and the rest of the family, are devastated to share with you that our dearest XG, father, friend, broadcasting icon and campaigner for cancer awareness, tragically lost his brave battle against this ferocious disease today,” Khumalo said.
“We have been moved and inspired by his hard and formidable fight he waged, which represented his greatness and will power to conquer. Xolani won his battle against cancer not only for himself but for many others and was a fierce campaigner for cancer awareness and early detection,” she said.
Khumalo said Gwala was an inspiration and mentor to so many colleagues, friends and listeners over the years. “We thank you for your heart-felt messages. These have meant so much to us. Siyabonga!”
Gwala also worked for the SABC during his career. In a statement, the public broadcaster said he had “devoted his life tackling and documenting issues of human interest particularly those affecting the socio-economic and political status of South Africa. During his tenure at the SABC, his paramount concern was to fulfil the mandate of the SABC by building an informed society”.
The SABC added that Gwala had played a pivotal role in the development of the media industry “and his overall contribution will continue to serve as a well of knowledge for aspiring broadcasters to draw insights and understanding for ethical journalism”.
In a video tribute to Gwala, Eyewitness News said he was a “journalist” and “a gentleman” who was a fierce proponent of democracy. “Xolani Gwala was a steadfast champion of South Africa on air and off. He was irrepressible, kind and always respectful sometimes almost unfashionably so,” it said, and always challenged “lies and spin”.
DA shadow communications minister, Phumzile van Damme, said Gwala was “a feature in the daily lives of South Africans for more than two decades. He was an excellent broadcaster with an unparalleled work ethic which earned him respect in the industry”.
The broadcasting fraternity had lost a great icon and was now poorer without him. He will be deeply missed, she said.
“#RIP#XolaniGwala you’ve run your race. The broadcast media world is poorer from today without you,” wrote eNCA’s Dan Moyane. “From @SABCNewsOnline to @Radio702 you contributed with excellence. You’ve left us too early after your brave battle against cancer. Lala ngoxolo Mpephethwa.”
“I’m deeply saddened by the news that #XolaniGwala has passed away . I remember the chat we had just before he was about to host the 9am show on SAfm for the first time,” said broadcaster Ashraf Gard. “He said ‘Ashraf this is big’ and I told him ‘Xolani you are big too’.”
“That laugh, the voice, a journalist, but above all a truly great man,” wrote Sheldon Marco Morais.
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