He’s an award-winning writer, former police detective and recently added a title to his name. FLAIR writer Tsundukani Zitha chats to founder and writer of MLFM’s Mina Hi Mina radio soapie, Paradise Dyson Nkuna, to find out more about him, his work and how he earned the name ‘Paradise’.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am Mavhayisi Dyson Nkuna and I was born in Shikhumba village outside Giyani in Limpopo. I am the eldest child in a family of ten children. I am a former SAPS Lt. Colonel, musician, founder and writer of Munghana Lonene FM’s popular drama called ‘Mina Hi Mina’ which became South Africa’s first radio soapie opera. I am popularly called Paradise because of my democratic leadership and friendliness.
You have just retired as a police detective, how long have you served in the public service and how was the experience?
I have worked at the South African Police Services for thirty-seven (37) unbroken years. It obviously was not easy not only because dealing with criminals generally is hard and dangerous but owing to the context within which I joined the SAPS. It was at the height of roving political violence in South Africa, quite tumultuous, therefore being a police officer then was tantamount to putting not only your own life at risk but those of your next of kin as well. This was so as police officers, black police officers in particular, were looked at as quislings or sellouts who worked with the apartheid state to oppress fellow black people. But with determination, will and commitment to serve the nation it became easy. I must however add that I am proud that I left the South African Police Service with my integrity still fully intact and served the people of South Africa with utter probity. I have never been to a disciplinary hearing for misconduct or anything of that nature for 37 years. At all the different stations I worked I always did my best. I worked at SAPS Giyani, Bolobedu, Phalaborwa and many other stations.
Did you have some sort of a time-management plan that assisted you in balancing your job as a police detective, a family man and a writer? What was it like?
Yes, I did have a time-management strategy and it worked. When I was at work, I would focus on work-related issues only and when I came back home during weekends and holidays I would spare my time for writing and family. I had no time-management problems because I was able to balance my time and let everything move smoothly.
When did you start writing for Mina Hi Mina and how many seasons did you write or contributed to writing them?
I started around 2004 and wrote seasons 1, 2 and 3.
Are you still part of Mina Hi Mina’s writing team?
No. I only did my part in the seasons I mentioned which are 1, 2 and 3. The good thing about a soapie is that it is continuous. As long as you have the background knowledge of the beginning, you can continue from where it stopped then move forward with it.
When writing for Mina Hi Mina, what fuelled the energy to keep writing?
When I started Mina Hi Mina it was in 2004. It was during that time of farmers mistreating their employees. I worked on the farms in the past and I knew the kind of life lived there. I had also come across women who used to work there. But I remember driving to work the other day then gave a female farm worker a lift, as we were driving and chatting, she showed me a gravesite where indigent farm workers were buried. She related many shocking experiences that confronted farm workers but one that really made me feel so numb and extremely unsettled was when she told me how farmers used the same coffin repeatedly to bury farm workers. In fact they were being given pauper funerals of some sort. ‘This came as a shock to me’ (sighs).
So when ML FM presented an opportunity for a radio drama, I wrote and submitted my manuscript. By God’s grace, my story was selected and from there, Mina Hi Mina started being broadcasted up until now. The drama drew massive listenership and this brought quite a serious change in the living conditions and treatment of farmworkers by their employers.
Apart from writing for Mina Hi Mina, Is there any literary work you have written, eg, a novel, a drama, etc?
Yes I have written many dramas that were recorded, while some were sold as home DVDs. I wrote and produced Vutomi 1, 2, 3 and 4. I also wrote Mali, Mafanato, Xivandzanyongeni, Utati sola uri gojini just but to mention a few. I have also written a drama that is currently being aired on Giyani Community Radio (GCR). There is just so much to mention about my creative work and its impact. I have also been featured in Xitsonga books for grades 8 and 9.
Now that you have retired, what career plans do you have going forward?
I have now ventured into writing for television. I am currently writing another radio drama for VMC and for a Xitsonga TV Channel that was supposed to have been launched this year but had to be put on hold because of Covid-19 and lockdown.
You have just released a music album. When was it released and how can people get hold of your music?
The album was released in December 2019 and it is titled Shikhumba gravel road, Misava volume 1. People may listen to it on Shisakaxanghondzhodrama.co.za and can also purchase the CD from me.
Who did you work with on this album and how was it?
I worked with Ntsako Shivambu and it was really good working with him. He is quite stellar at what he does.
What inspired you to release an album and how long have you been working on it?
I worked on the album for about four (4) months. The thing is I love teaching people about social and family issues, and about life in general, through my artistic work. I then asked myself: why not try music and still convey the same message that I would convey through drama?
You are many titles in one. What advice do you have for people with dreams in working for SAPS, upcoming writers and musicians?
Quite an important question. In any progressive society continuity is quite fundamental. We need to invest more in identifying, harnessing and nurturing new talent across various industries. Upcoming writers, especially young people, can approach me to source advice and guidance on how they can write dramas. I am always moved by people who follow their passion when it comes to art because that is where it all starts, you definitely have to start somewhere and always be patient. The one other important advice I always give to young people is that they must study, education is an important foundation that writers and artists generally must have because the creative industry can be a little challenging when it comes to generating sustainable livelihoods. Therefore when you struggle to make ends meet through your creative work you can always have something to fall back on.
Those who sometimes start writing and then get stuck as time goes by should always know that before you start writing, you need to do a thorough research on what you want to write about. What do you mean by this?
The point I am making is that you do not just wake up and decide to write without proper planning and research. Planning and research are inextricably important in writing. You must be able to consult people who can assist you, always be willing to take criticism positively and not see everyone who does not agree with you as an enemy. That is how we all grow.
What is the last thing you would like to say?
I would like to repeat what I have said earlier that people who need help on anything that has got to do with writing (drama), I am willing to help where I can.
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