From the streets of Jozi to the global news stage… Nkepile Mabuse is a great example to follow if you’re considering a career in journalism. Her career is filled with many awe-inspiring moments. She studied at Wits University in Jozi.
Why did you choose this profession?
I didn’t choose it, it chose me. That may sound clichéd but it’s the truth. After school I studied civil engineering at Witwatersrand Technikon in Johannesburg. It took me five years of working in the field to realise that it was not for me and I quit. In my search for any job that would pay my bills, I landed an insignificant position at a current affairs show and fell in love with journalism.
What training did you undergo?
On-the-job training. Some say it’s the best way to learn and I believe acquiring formal training in something you love is half the journey travelled. It is through experience that most of us learn the most important lessons that end up shaping our lives.
What kind of personality suits journalism?
You have got to love people and be patient – most good stories come to those who wait. Most importantly, you have to care about the people and events you report on.
What do you enjoy most?
I learn something new every day and meet incredibly interesting people. If a story about illegal organ transplants breaks, for example, I have to quickly familiarise myself with the laws that regulate operations in the country concerned. It’s important to be able to locate people or information that can help me become an instant expert.
What don’t you like?
Sometimes dealing with government officials can be extremely frustrating. Many of them do not return calls, have no sense of urgency and generally feel they should not be answerable to anyone. Journalists are the last people they want to deal with.
What’s been the highlight of your career?
I’ve had many. Barack Obama’s African roots made covering the 2008 American presidential elections extremely exciting for me. I was in his father’s village, Kogelo, in Kenya.
People who had never seen a television set, never mind followed a US election, were glued to screens brought into the village for all to witness history unfold.
When the announcement was made that he had won, old ladies danced alongside school children as the whole community erupted in jubilation – truly unforgettable scenes. Obama’s visit to Ghana comes a close second for me.
His motorcade drove past us while I was live on air and it was really special to witness the enormous admiration and love that ordinary people have for him.
Any advice to impart?
Work hard. Be humble and keep learning. Learn from those you admire and also from those you regard as intellectually inferior.
My biggest personal goal is to shape my son into a responsible and open-minded young man who will make a positive contribution to his country, community and fellow man. Careerwise, I would like to tell more stories that change the lives of those they are about and alter the thinking of those watching.
Your job in three words?
A constant thrill!