I’m a sister, an aunt , a friend and a brand strategist born in KwaZulu-Natal more than four decades ago. I grew up in KwaMashu and today I stand in the world between my childhood and the future South Africa that many people of my generation are trying to build. Decisions I make have national consequences in both the public spaces and my own private life. I’m accountable to my professional colleagues but most importantly I’m responsible to the people I grew up with and without whom I wouldn’t be who I am. As a child I witnessed Ubuntu almost every-day during my childhood. My mother, a teacher a single parent on the income Black women earned, would warmly welcome and feed strangers, despite her meagre resources, already stretched to keep her family clothed and fed. In fact today I have more brothers and sisters that came as result of my mother’s act of Ubuntu, people with whom I share the bonds of close siblings because of the mothering they received from a humble but formidable woman. Some of beneficiaries of my mother’s largesse were among the emotionally and mentally disturbed. She used to call them in from the streets to offer a meal, speak with them, spend time with them. One day after – as children always do-we complained that one of my mother’s constant visitors was rather smelly, my mother ran a hot bath for him and proceeded to scrub him. Afterwards she dressed him with my oldest brother’s clothes. His smile afterwards was priceless. We learned from this to share, not for the possible return of our time, energy and resources, but for the joy it brought, to the humility it taught, and the gratitude it made us feel for the grace of having something to give.
These lessons have guided my life journey. My professional life started 25 years ago when I was at Technikon Natal. As a theatre crafts student, my first job was that of a dresser ( helping artists with costume changes) at Natal Playhouse. Here I witnessed talented A plus personalities performing in a highly charged environment. I watched their joy when they received good feedback from the audience and their despair when they performed to an unresponsive crowd. On a bad day they would lash out backstage and dressers like myself would have to face their wrath. The perils of performance and need for validation were laid to bare. But in their vulnerability I learned the power of connection. A skill that was further enhanced when I joined SABC Radio division as a sound technician with a key focus on producing religious live broadcasts and cultural documentaries. Here I learned about the power of religion and faith. One of the memorable projects I did was documenting one of the most hidden and impenetrable religious pilgrimages in the world. Early in the new year, clothed in white, members of Nazareth Baptist church, also known as the Shembe, travel barefoot across the rolling KZN hills to their holy mountain in Ndwedwe. I was humbled by the four day journey, watching old agile African women tackling those mountains like professional climbers, all in the name of faith. What I saw as pain, they celebrated as victory. I learned not to judge but to respect the deep connection that people have with their God irrespective of whom they perceive him to be.
The early years of my career were by no means easy. It was also around these times that I had an unforgettable experience of racism, unforgettable it that I didn’t like how it made me feel. It however allowed me to learn a valuable life lesson .It happened at a rugby match at the Kings Park stadium. As a sound intern, I was operating a rifle microphone that followed the ball around the pitch. During the first line out I had to stand as close to the action and point the microphone to the ball, and of course I had to do this standing. The predominantly white male spectators threw racial insults, an exercise that lasted for the entire 80 minutes. When I related this mother later that day, she asked what did they take away from you? I told her my pride and she went on to say pride is the easiest thing that a stranger can take from you and I should not spend my happiness and energy protecting it. I continued to cover rugby because those days I had less control of time and choice of which projects that I was tackling. I had to rely on the guidance my mother and other people who had far more experience and who were generous in sharing that wisdom.
It is these individuals that I’m for ever grateful to have crossed paths with. From former Ukhozi FM Head of Religion Rev Prince Zulu to former SAFM colleagues. The list is endless but one the people who unwittingly changed by career direction was former SABC KwaZulu-Natal Assignment Editor Ami Nanachand. As a technical intern, I learned to be an all-rounder, operating studio cameras, doing sound, and being a VT operator. And in my different roles, I had something to say about all the stories that were produced for news. One day Ami challenged me to stop being an arm chair critic and to start telling television stories. Thus began a television career than has seen me rise from being a reporter , to bulletin producer, from executive producer to head of Assignment and to MD and editor-in-chief of South Africa’s most watch 24 hour news channel, eNCA. Through this journey I’ve worked hard, took career knock downs, learned from them and transformed my world view.