TV/Radio Presenter Rorisang Thandekiso On The Moments That Defined Her Path Forever

TV/Radio broadcaster and speaker Rorisang Thandekiso’s biggest turning point came in Grade 8. Vocal from a very young age, Rorisang often got into trouble for being too opinionated or mediating a fight between classmates, for instance. “So much so that the principal called me Winnie Mandela. My mother would get called in because I talked a lot,” she recalls.

The ‘talking’ started affecting her marks via the school’s demerit system, where for every wrongdoing, points would be deducted from the learner’s final year mark. “At the end of Grade 4, I received two report cards – one with my actual marks, where I’d passed, and one where the demerit points had been deducted and I’d failed. The school went with the latter report card, meaning I had to repeat the Grade 4.”

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Nothing But A Minor Hurdle

Livid, Rorisang’s mother wanted to take her daughter out of the school, to which her grandfather advised: “Don’t, it will shrivel her up forever!” That year, Rorisang repeated Grade 4 and vowed to keep silent, which killed her confidence and made her feel as though there was something innately wrong with her. 

Fast-forward to Grade 8…Rorisang’s English teacher would always sing her praises on just how well she narrated stories and carried out her class presentations. “That year, he encouraged me to enter the English Olympiad competition that was actually meant for Grade 11 and 12 learners. I won and we only declared afterwards that I was, in fact, in Grade 8,” she shares, adding that in that moment a light bulb went on in her head. 

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Feeling Seen

“Winning the English Olympiad competition made me feel seen and reaffirmed that there had been nothing wrong with me throughout primary school. The competition celebrated me for having an opinion. All of a sudden everything that I loved – engaging, debating and trying to change the world through my opinions – suddenly had a place to live,” she enthuses. 

As a result of wanting to be an agent of change, Rorisang studied International Relations after matric. And even though she didn’t get to change the world through championing policies – being cooped up in an office was just not for her – she did find another platform when the yesteryear children’s TV show YOTV headhunted her. This, after seeing her making waves locally and internationally through her debating engagements.

“At 18, my first presenting gig was a show called Blue Couch, which dealt with the more serious stuff – and I later started producing it. This was the beginning of a broadcast career that has spanned nearly 20 years.” 

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Staying Power

The secret to her longevity is from another lesson she learnt while waitressing as a teen. “I worked at a restaurant where Tata, one of the chefs, would always encourage me to arrive at work early so he could show me how the kitchen operates. He wanted me to get the complete picture of how a restaurant functions,” she says. Tata taught her a valuable lesson: “In any place, the most knowledgeable and impactful people are usually behind the scenes – and are often the most disregarded,” he said. This lesson guides Rorisang to this day. 

“I’ve learnt that no one is beneath me. There can never be anything that makes me feel too important. Many of my work opportunities come through ordinary people. Therefore, there can never be anything that makes me feel too important. Fame, for me, is a weird concept,” she concludes.  

Parting Shot

I could never live without…God. I’m fully dependent on Him and it’s the one relationship I cannot compromise on. The things people enjoy about me – be it TV, radio or an MCing gig – I pull them from God. Family has also been my biggest source of support.

One thing most people don’t know about me is that…I only watch Nollywood films and K-Drama series. So much so that I usually get into trouble when I meet local personalities that I’m supposed to know [chuckles].

What I hope to build more of in 2024 is…I’d like to zone in more on my ‘speaking’ era. I really want to travel the world with my speaking engagements.

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2024 edition of Women’s Health SA.

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