Buhle says Graham is the one true Survivor

By Shanaaz Prince
27 May 2014

More than just the fire-making whizz we see on our screens, Survivor SA finalist, Buhle Madlala is also a mom and entrepreneur.

We’ve seen her grace our screens for the past few months as Survivor SA’s very own “girl on fire” with her impressive fire-making skills but there’s more to Buhle Madlala than meets the eye.

As we enter her quaint and quiet one bedroom Northcliff flat, with walls adorned with photographs of family and friends, Buhle sits coolly on her couch dressed in work attire as she just returned from a business meeting.

Immediately her welcoming and friendly personality shines through as she offers a drink on her big coffee table in the middle of her lounge, which is filled with books, ranging from inspirational reads to books on travel as some upbeat R&B music plays softly in the background.

The 35-year-old go getter and a single mother of one is an entrepreneur specialising in project management and events. Her ambition and strong will, as demonstrated on the show, comes a long way since her childhood days growing up in Imbali in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal.

Buhle prepares a meal in her small kitchen, chopping fresh vegetables while explaining how she prefers staying out of the kitchen, particularly when it comes to baking, but rather bakes and has fun in the kitchen when willed by her daughter Amu (11), who she enjoys interacting with when she visits. Buhle bakes with her then 4-year-old daughter Amu Buhle bakes with her then 4-year-old daughter Amu “Growing up in the Imbali township, I was an only child and growing up with nine cousins, eight of which are boys, Barbies and playing house was never thrown in my direction. I spent a lot of time with the boys and I think that’s what has instilled the tomboy nature in me and from a young age, I think it was difficult for me to get away from that,” she explains

'I always wanted to prove myself as being better than the boys'

“For me, it was always about catching up with them (the boys). Playing with them, being a girl was not a factor for me and I always wanted to prove myself as being better than the boys. This became almost second nature to me growing up.”

The tomboyish nature still sticks with her today as, more than just a mother, entrepreneur and big dreamer, Madlala is also an avid soccer player, playing as a striker in a corporate league for a local team in Johannesburg called the Hogan Lovells.

Buhle is also an avid soccer player seen here posing with her team, the Hogan Lovells. PHOTO: Supplied Buhle is also an avid soccer player seen here posing with her team, the Hogan Lovells. PHOTO: Supplied

After discovering this wasn’t really for her, she resigned from her job where she realised her passion for entrepreneurship and event planning after her involvement in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where she worked in hospitality sales and did a lot of strategic planning for FIFA.

Little did she know, a few years down the line, she would become a household name.

It was Survivor-crazy Amu who encouraged her mother to take part in the reality show in the first place. Amu, who would often watch the show, told her to try out at auditions until she eventually decided to go for it, Buhle says. “I will be honest, at that time, the thought did cross my mind at this being a ‘get rich quick scam’! Upon embarking on her journey with Survivor SA, Buhle tells of her mother, Lindiwe’s (60), concerns of her being on the show.

'At that time, the thought did cross my mind at this being a ‘get rich quick scam’!'

“I remember the time when she was contacted to come to the island, she went to my grandmother and asked her to call the police and get an affidavit because there were these random people who have me, won’t let her speak to me and are requesting her to come to some island.

“My grandmother even called a family meeting with all my uncles,” she recalls, laughing.

Playing the game has always been about remembering why she was there, honing on to her skills and utilising those skills the best way possible to ensure that she was always needed by the tribe, she says.

From her fire-making skills, which she admits to have been second nature to her after learning to make a fire while living in the townships in Sweet Waters in Pietermaritzburg with her now late father, Alison, at a young age, to her tomboyish nature growing up and even her outlook on the game as being “drama-free”.

During episode one of the popular reality show clearly demonstrated her lack of swimming skill as she nearly jeopardised her stake in the game during the Waterworld challenge, but she has risen victoriously, making her way to the top three finalists of the game.

“My strategy was to try my hardest to play the game and try and win, not by being nasty to people or stepping on any toes or even canoodling in order to try and get someone off the island, ultimately, my strategy was to be needed.”

Now that she’s back home, Madlala says that her mother has a better understanding of the Survivor SA game after being on the show as part of the dinner with a family member reward, but not much of the same could have been said for her grandmother, Dlala (81), who had many questions to ask upon her return.

“I think once I returned home, the people who had the biggest shock were my grandmother and aunty, especially my grandmother who questioned whether I had forgotten that I have a child and why I would subject myself to those conditions, being around snakes and spiders. She just couldn’t understand.”

Despite not walking away as Survivor SA’s latest winner, Madlala gives her best wishes to winner, Graham Jenneker who she believes to be deserving of the win.

“I’m happy for Graham and totally excited that he has won,” she says.

“Obviously I would have hoped to win but looking at the game objectively, he really is the true survivor.”

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