Redi Tlhabi's winning words

2013-06-25 09:30

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Her first book has been short-listed for a major prize and optioned as a movie. Plus she’s a well-known TV and radio host.

Her unique brand of intelligent journalism, combined with personal and humorous views and anecdotes, has made Redi Tlhabi one of South Africa’s most sought-after media personalities. With a journalism degree from RAU, she has anchored for Kaya FM, SABC and its Africa channel,, the UK’s Channel Four, BBC and Sky.

What inspired your book Endings & Beginnings?

It’s a memoir about a specific chapter of my life – the story of Mabegzo, a notorious Soweto criminal I befriended, who remains the central figure. I go back in time to understand the circumstances of his childhood and what turned a charming young man into a heartless killer and rapist. I am cautiously optimistic about the film, which has been optioned by author Antony Altbeker – and it is a great validation.

What’s the most difficult part of your journalistic work?

My work is largely exhilarating and serves the big purpose of informing the public, stimulating debate and challenging newsmakers. It’s frustrating not being able to cover every issue of national interest. So many important stories go unreported because of time pressures and space availability.

The most important role of your Al Jazeera show South 2 North?

Telling stories from the global south to a world dominated by events from the global north. The north is, of course, interested in the south but my show presents alternative stories of the south as movers and shakers. We are not just about poverty and corruption. Life is dynamic, our economies are growing and new authoritative voices from the south must be heard.

Have gender relations progressed?

As far as educated women’s access to jobs and finance, yes. But they too must operate in a highly patriarchal environment. I recently spoke to IMF head Christine Lagarde and UN Commissioner for Human Rights Justice Navi Pillay and even they’ve experienced instances of sexism, being belittled and patronised. As far as gender violence and safety are concerned then no, women must still contend with the violent expression of male power that manifests itself in rape and murder.

Most inspiring people I've interviewed

I find the extraordinary stories of ordinary people soul-stirring – the domestic worker who earned a Master’s and the young man raised in a shack who became a top lawyer and did a stint at a New York law firm.

Favourite novels:

1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

2. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

3. Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda

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