SA Positive News caught up with Russia Today TV's International News Anchor and Correspondent, Tumelo Mothotoane. The Limpopo-born former SABC News & Current Affairs anchor continues to rise to greater heights and making SA proud.


When did the broadcasting bug bite?

I have always been a talkative child who thrived on performing for her teachers,family and friends. Be it school impromptu speech exams, drama, debating public speaking etc. So growing up and watching the likes of Mandisa Nakana-Tayloron YOTV affirmed this burning desire to be on TV one day. But coming from Lebowakgomo in Limpopo, such dreams were taboo so I was aspirant but often had this "It might happen, it might also not happen" voice in my head. My mom took me to various kids’ program auditions as a child but I never made the cut and that also dampened my self-esteem and made me question my abilities and how realistic this 'dream' actually was. After I matriculated and now enrolled at WITS University, I recorded a demo, took professional pictures, constructed my CV and a motivational letter as to why I was a worthy investment in media as a TV personality. I sent it to as many production houses and TV channels as I could Google and Soweto TV responded. That's when my career in TV started - as the host of a young woman's talk show, SISTAS.


 Who/what inspires you?

So many different things and people inspire me. Firstly God is my biggest inspiration. He believes in me when I don't believe in myself. He continuously affirms my purpose and motivates me to push through regardless of adversities at the time. My grandmother and mother inspire me because of their resilience and faith when things look like they are falling apart. Ordinary and uncelebrated women, who strive to make ends meet for the betterment of their families’ lives, inspire me. People who press on against all odds and are stubborn in their journey to greatness, no matter how long and impossible the road may seem, inspire me.


 You are only 24 and have achieved so much in life, how do you do it?

Funny thing is I don't think I have achieved much yet. There is so much more I wish that God would use me for before I depart this world and I am grateful for the little He has helped me achieve so far. Nonetheless, I have always been a focused child. When I witnessed my mother struggle to make ends meet for me and my little brothers growing up, I vowed to never be her heartache but her better-half. When other parents complained about their children going through 'the stage', I wanted to study hard, bring home good grades, get a good job and help my mother. I also understood that to get to where I want to be professionally, it would take a lot of discipline and sacrifice. To this day that's my mantra: To be disciplined enough to not follow the noise but remain focused in my purpose and make the necessary sacrifices to see my destiny come into fruition.


When you were at Soweto TV, did you at all know that you'd be where you are today?

Absolutely Not! I had the faith but that faith with "a lot of doubt" (laughs) I still find quiet time and cry when I think of the journey that lead me to where I am today. I also appreciated everything that I had been through because it has moulded the professional that I am today and the testimony that I am able to share today, to say that - It is POSSIBLE. I remember each day I presented SISTAS, I would say in my heart before recording "Oprah is watching and she is going to call me and employ me on her channel" I would repeat this for over and over again before every single show and here I am 6 years later - an International News Anchor and Correspondent viewed by the whole entire world.


You have joined the list of SA's successful women in media who represented the country internationally, the likes of Tumi Makgabo, how do you feel about this?

This is the biggest and most humbling honour. I have watched Tumi Makgabo on CNN, as well as Lerato Mbhele on BBC without an idea that one day that would be my portion too. I remember how that call to join the RT News team left me shaking with disbelief. It's such a humbling honour and I can only pray that this milestone inspires the many African children and youth to remain faithful in their pursuit for greatness.


You've recently been featured in Forbes magazine, your thoughts and feelings on this?

Listen when I say I was left with my jaw dropped on the floor after Forbes Africa called me for an interview, I am not joking! I mean this is Forbes Africa for goodness sake and it was truly an honour. Importantly, the feature inspired me to continue working hard and dreaming even bigger dreams. I respect Forbes Magazine as a publication and I have never thought I would make the feature, let alone at 24. Talk about Godspeed!


How has it been like working at Russia Today TV?

Russia Today TV has been a great learning experience so far. I mean I switched to student mode the moment I entered the headquarters and left all my prior experience behind so that I may open myself to learning a different craft of international news coverage, especially on an international platform as thus and from a Russian and European perspective. The RT team comprising of producers, directors, camera-men, anchors, correspondents and executives have been nothing but welcoming and warm towards me - especially being the only black person in the entire building - they have made me their little sister and are always there to assist me with anything.


What can you say to an aspiring TV broadcaster who might be discouraged because of their disadvantaged background?

Nothing is undo-able these days especially with the growth of technology and the internet. Gone are the days where you only wait on mainstream/traditional broadcasting companies to smell your skills and talent. You can publish news online, record news bits on YouTube as well as develop and engage with an audience through social media. That's how mainstream broadcasters spot potential in these days of technology. So young people need to stop speaking life into this 'disadvantaged' rhetoric because it will do nothing for you but depress you and set you back. Wake up, volunteer at a community media outlet, do something on the internet and use that to market yourself. Create your opportunities.


Could you please share your story of the SABC audition that your mom says you keep telling :)

(Laughs) Well, when I arrived at the SABC to do a screen-test for Sunday Live some of the executives weren't sure that I was the right person. I mean I was 20 years old, bald headed and had no prior journalism experience but being a teenage talk show host on Soweto TV. The executives called me into a meeting and said to my then Executive Producer with frowns on their faces - "Do you really think Zwelinzima Vavi and the likes would agree to be interviewed by THIS?" (Pointing his finger at me) (Laughing) Well, my Executive Producer exclaimed how he thought I was good for the job and pleaded with them to give me a chance to at least audition. They agreed and after my audition the same executives called me to the boardroom, with papers on the table and said "Tumelo, we always knew you were very talented and we would LOVE to have you host Sunday Live". I was happily surprised of course. I signed my contract and yes, I have interviewed some of the most prominent political figures including Zwelinzima Vavi, Deputy Minister in the Presidency - Buti Manamela and many more. Why? Because when man says you can't, God says Yes You Can!



By Amanda Matshaka

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