Seasoned radio host and Idols SA judge Unathi Nkayi was fired from her job at Kaya FM on Wednesday, allegedly following a heated argument with fellow host Sizwe Dhlomo a few weeks ago.\
The Gauteng-based radio station announced that it had terminated the Midday Joy host’s contract with immediate effect because “certain incidents had occurred, which resulted in the breakdown of the trust relationship between the two parties”.
Sources at the station said Nkayi had laid a formal complaint with the station’s HR department, accusing Dhlomo of being unprofessional and verbally abusing her after he was late for his show.
“Sizwe was supposed to come in for his show and release her. Radio hosting rules state that the previous host can’t leave until the next one arrives, so she was angry that he was late.
“She was busy preparing for her birthday celebrations, so he was inconveniencing her by arriving late,” said an insider. When Dhlomo finally arrived at the studio, Nkayi apparently lost her temper with him.
“She went on about this toxic patriarchal thing in radio which has to end. She kept saying that she was going to make an example of him and was swearing at him in isiXhosa,” said the source.
She then laid a formal complaint about him with the station’s HR department. “HR took it seriously. They thought Sizwe had threatened her because she said she was afraid for her life and that she couldn’t work in such an environment. She said that, if Sizwe remained on the air, she’d go to social media and approach the EFF for support.
“The HR people said they’d allow Sizwe to finish his show and then talk to him. They also said they’d call her to tell her about a way forward,” said the source.
After Dhlomo finished his show, he was informed of the charge laid against him by Nkayi. Another source said that, during the altercation in the studio, the microphones surrounding the two were recording their entire conversation.
“Sizwe immediately asked HR to access the audio and listen to it because that would serve as evidence of what had been said. They said they’d investigate, but Sizwe insisted that the matter be handled immediately because he didn’t want the matter being leaked to the media or to risk being suspended while they investigated.”
After listening to the audio, HR called Nkayi and offered her an opportunity to retract her complaint, but she refused and insisted that she wanted Dhlomo taken off the air.
The station’s managing director, Sibongile Mtyali, was also asked to intervene, but did not wish to get involved as she had a personal history with Nkayi from Metro FM.
The source said that, the following morning, Nkayi and Dhlomo were summoned to a meeting, where Dhlomo laid his own charge against Nkayi for spreading false rumours about him.
According to the source, Dhlomo accused Nkayi of telling a DJ from a different station that she had laid a charge against him and he was going to be suspended.
Sizwe came with voice notes and screengrabs from people. He said that Unathi had never once complained about his being unprofessional until she had had that outburst the previous day.
“However, it seemed she had been discussing his alleged unprofessionalism with someone who didn’t work at Kaya FM,” the source said.
The Kaya Drive show host alleged that he learnt from the said outside DJ that he was going to be suspended while he was live on air.
By the time of going to print, Nkayi had not responded to requests for comment. Dhlomo, however, confirmed that the incident had taken place, adding:
She accused me of verbal abuse, which is a very serious allegation and obviously a lie.
“If I had to describe my relationship with Unathi prior to this, I’d say it was very good. I would say we were actually friends. In fact, the reason I’m at Kaya is that Unathi called me [to tell me about the position].
“After everything that transpired, I did open my own case against her – but I have no idea whether that was the reason she herself was fired,” he said.
Kaya FM spokesperson Ian Bredenkamp said the station stood by its earlier statement.
A permanent replacement for Nkayi has yet to be announced.