By Tilo ngwana Rashaka
She’s a young television and radio broadcaster who’s aiming for the top. With years of experience under her belt in radio and television broadcasting, Tumelo Mothotoane, a 3rd year Media studies and psychology student at University of the Witwatersrand, is giving the television industry a face lift with her charisma. Tumelo can be described as undoubtedly a blossoming talent and the future for her looks bright. Her talent has been compared to those of the seasoned presenters of the likes of Bonang Matheba and Dineo Ranaka. Having done a very brilliant job with revitalizing a woman’s programme on Soweto tv, Sistas, Tumelo now dazzles the South Africa national viewers with her charismatic and vibrant presenting on SABC 1 when she presents her own live current affairs programme, Sunday live, every Sunday at 18:00. Only at the age of 22, Tumelo is also the presenter of AM Live, a programme that forms part of the SABC’s 24 hour news channel. If not the first one, Tumelo can be said to be one of the few young black news anchors the national broadcaster has ever produced. Today, she opens up to A re di fefere and takes us down the memory lane of her professional career path.
- Many people, including the media, have attempted to define Tumelo Mothotoane. But how do you independently define yourself?
Tumelo Fortunate Mothotoane is a soon to be 22 year old young lady who hails from Polokwane in the Limpopo Province. I was born and raised in a township called Lebowakgomo and spent most of my childhood and teens there; hence it holds a special place in my heart. My maternal grandparents played an influential role in the woman I am and still carving myself to be and even though they are both late, I carry myself in a manner that would make them proud of their ‘setlogolo’.
- What is it that you liked most about your upbringing?
The simplicity that it embodied. My cousins and I loved playing a lot and when I lived with my grandparents then, they encouraged us to get dirty and play with children on our street, invite them to family birthday parties and just be jolly. In as much as my family values have encouraged me to be competitive, daring and courageous, I was also taught that it’s not the tangible material things that matter, but the simple yet important things in life such as Life itself, God and family that count to the overall individual character and the destiny we are all uniquely missioned to.
- What did you want to become when growing up
Oh my goodness! A lot of things! I wanted to be a social worker, then a child psychologist, a teacher, a TV presenter, a diplomat…shuuu! I just thought hey maybe I can do it all, I mean we have to YOLO right? That’s the motto! Haha! One thing was clear though: In whatever I pursued, I wanted to serve my people and with all gratitude to God, I eventually settled in my calling as a TV anchor and I am blessed to be provided with this platform to learn as well as be the voice of the voiceless.
- Your first big break in the entertainment industry was with Soweto TV, how did you end up getting the presenting job? Was it presented to you on a silver platter or you worked for it?
Wow! Soweto TV was such a blessing and was a huge stepping stone for my career. It is through Soweto TV that I learned that in whatever we pursue; it is always better to allow the work to speak for itself. It was a cold winter no-school day during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in S.A. I decided not to go home during the festivities but rather invited my little brothers for a visit during the school holidays because I was on a mission to hustle my way in the media industry. I remember I would pack my brothers lunch every single day, take them with to campus and push to send as many production houses and channels my profile and portfolio. It was a Full-Time job! It was only after weeks that I finally sent a copy to Soweto TV, a few hours later I received a call to come for an interview for SISTAS. A day later, I would spend the rest of my 3 years as the host of SISTAS, a young woman empowerment show with the aim to embrace all young women’s voices.
- How was the experience and how old where you when you joined Sistas?
I was 18 years old when I joined SISTAS and the experience was priceless. A blessing to say the least. When you are a TV presenter, the viewers have a false perception that you know all there is to know about Everything. The truth is shows such as SISTAS are a place of learning for presenters too. During the research and producing process of the show, we learn so much about different issues and that is the most amazing thing that I took from the show. I was invited in an environment of learning which changed my perception on certain issues as well as having the privilege of meeting some amazing young women both nationally celebrated and in community committees.
- There were already a few presenters who came before you prior to your appointment as the presenter of Sistas. How did that affect your confidence?
Yes. Amazing talents such as Amanda from YOTV and Nkuli presented the show before and I will not lie, as an un-experienced TV presenter then, I had my insecurities on whether or not I will live up to the viewer’s expectations. I remember one of the Soweto TV directors, Titus, said to me on my first day “Ah! Oska wara ngwana. Turn this into your bedroom and just be comfortable. This is your platform to shine” Haha! That vote of confidence helped and as time passed I eventually warmed up to the show and matured like fine wine. I learned from that experience as well that comparing ourselves to other people’s achievements is unnecessary burden because we do not know the journey they had to go through as well as compromises that they had to make for what they are currently praised for. I focused on being the best ‘Tumelo setlogolo sa ga Mothotoane’ that God had hand-carved me to be.
- Notwithstanding the fact that you may have felt proud about yourself when you first watched yourself on television. But what was the dominating feeling?
I had RESTLESS BUTTERFLIES! Haha! And I still feel them when I watch every episode of Sunday Live to this day. My mom and I were in tears as we reflected on the journey that I had endured to get to my very first TV appearance. To this day, I still get awestruck and overwhelmed when viewing my show because I respect my work, the media industry as well as those who have worked hard to carve it into what it is today, that I do not want to waste anybody’s time with lukewarm production. Being my worst critic also doesn’t help and perfectionists will tell you that you just never get satisfied. You smile a job well done but know that there is always room for improvement.
- Without any reasonable doubt you have many fans and followers who look up to you. But what is your reaction to fans that invade your privacy?
Celebrities have fans!! Hahaha! It is humbling to receive messages from people telling me how a particular show impacted their perception or even their life, and being referred to as a role model is an honour. At the end of the day, it’s not about being perfect or pursuing power and superiority over others. For me it’s about being honest about the fact that I am just as human as they come, I am not exempt from the classroom of Life and I would prefer to relate to people than act superior. I honestly haven’t had problems with people yet as far as my privacy is concerned hey. Nobody has invaded that part of my life because I think it sometimes happens to an individual if they too volunteer information on that part of their life. I am strictly about the work, I do not even consider myself a TV Personality because I am not selling some sort of personal lifestyle brand. I am simply a symbol of news and current affairs through national dialogue.
- Soweto tv was once your home and you had people whom you referred to as your family. How did you feel when you had to part ways with the community station?
It was the most emotional period in my career and a bittersweet decision to make as well. I mean here is a phenomenal offer to be a part of the National broadcaster, and at the same time, here is my humble beginning with warm people I had known and worked with for so long as well as viewers whose households the show had impacted. I honestly was so attached to SISTAS because it was literally my first baby.
- Do you have any regrets about leaving the station?
Not at all! It was necessary and came at the right time. Change may be an emotionally demanding phase, however it is good for one’s growth. I miss my former colleagues and the show but I am joyous with where I am currently as well.
- Currently you are on SABC 1 current affairs programme, Sunday Live, how does it feel to be presenting a live programme?
This is my very first Live show experience and may I just say it was so tormenting at first with many mixed emotions because I was excited nervous, happy and scared all at the same time. It is a totally different experience to what I was used to doing at Soweto TV. Although I am still learning a lot about live broadcasting, I am warming up to the show and its viewers. The time slot was previously anchored by current affairs legends such as Xolani Gwala and Vuyo Mvoko, so that too naturally gives me the pressure to deliver quality programming.
- How was the transition from a community television to a national broadcaster with millions of viewership?
It was one that was overwhelming because here I am, this 21 year old girl from a community TV station with no background of national broadcasting or news and current affairs (besides my pending Media Studies degree at WITS). Some people were a bit anxious of my performance because of my age and thought I wouldn’t take such a serious responsibility serious. However, as a staunched believer of allowing your work to do the talking, I am pleased that there are more votes of confidence.
- During the Soweto tv times and before your turner as the Sunday live presenter you had your own radio show on Trans Africa. How was the experience of presenting, as well as producing a prestigious 3 to 6 time slot programme?
Trans-Africa radio provided me with the opportunity to upgrade my media experience by learning more about radio broadcasting as well as my continent as it is an online radio station with focus on Africa as a whole and not just South Africa. It was fun and educational and I had no idea how challenging it was to produce such a demanding timeslot. Overall, the experience was amazing and educational.
- Someone may argue that you are a rising star, what is your secret to success?
I define success as victory after a battle, win or lose, there is victory after a battle. If you fail after a battle, you are rich with knowledge and lessons to make better decisions and if you win after a battle it is a stepping stone. The point is that you need to remain adamant and faithful even when things don’t look good, until something happens.
- Do you have any formal training in radio and television presenting?
Not at all. Just formal training in having faith! I am however doing my final year in Media Studies through the University of the Witwatersrand.
- Would you say you have arrived where you wanted to be?
No. And I doubt that I ever will be satisfied with being anywhere because Life is all about re-inventing yourself and I am not one to get comfortable. I want to grow and challenge myself to greater heights.
- How do you feel when people say you have Bonang Matheba personality? That you are lively, energetic, talented and focused?
People say that? Really? If people see good in you, it is naturally humbling for me but I have lived with myself for the past 21 years and know how flawed I am and tested I have been through this journey. My job entails that I offer quality programming services to South African viewers and if people are satisfied with those services then that is good.
- What is it that people don’t know about you?
Hehe! That I am the youngest anchor in South Africa. I often refrain from talking about my age because I do not want my commitment to my work to be judged with my age.
- What are your future plans?
Continue working hard and contributing substance within the news and current affairs industry of my country and continent in all spectrum, as well as pursue my post-graduate studies in Media Studies because if there is one phenomenal thing about life is that you can never stop learning.
- Who or what is your source of strength and any message for your fans?
I derive strength from the Lord. I do not even attempt to go through life’s blessings as well challenges without inviting Him because I believe He orchestrates everything that happens in my life. I believe that our names are our messages of hope to the world and since my name Tumelo means ‘Faith’ in Sepedi, I would like to encourage people to have faith in all they do. To hold on to God, their dreams, their families and healing because we are a hurt nation. Have faith, faithfully.
Catch Tumelo every Sunday on SABC 1 at 18:00.