Ends 37 year career with final news bulletin
JOHANNESBURG – It was by faith that legendary broadcaster Noxolo Grootboom landed in the field of journalism.
“It was never, ever in my plan. My path must have been paved by some higher power because I never thought I would become the person that South Africans have made me to be today.” Grootboom came to Johannesburg from the Eastern Cape because of circumstances beyond her control. She and her siblings joined her mother, who was living in a backroom at the time.
She had gone from having her own bedroom to sharing a space smaller than her bedroom with both her mother and her brothers. “I just said God give me strength; I will look for a job and take any job that comes my way. I said to him even if I got a job as a street sweeper, I would work so hard to one day become the manager of those street sweepers. I told God if I were to be a domestic worker, I would do that job with grace and dignity.”
That promise she made to God was one that set her on a path to become a force to be reckoned with.
In 1983, when she got a job working as a typist at the SABC, to her it was achieving ‘gold in the city of gold’.
“It was something that was going to propel me to fulfill my dreams of rebuilding our lives as a family and getting us out of the backrooms of Soweto. I am a very prayerful person. I also asked God that in all that I do in Johannesburg may I not end up in the drains of the city.”
Grootboom remembers the first time she had to present the news. She had not been employed as a news presenter but had been filling in for Thandi Mesatywa who was off sick for some time.
“It was emotional for me because I was holding the spot for someone who I held in high esteem. Someone that I respected in the industry and who instilled in me the love for news reading not knowing that I would have that opportunity one day.”
Grootboom used to watch the way Mesatywa read the news and loved her craft, which planted a seed inside her. “When she passed, I got that job permanently. All credit goes to sis Thandi. Even in sickness, after each bulletin that I anchored she would pick up the phone and mentor me telling me what I di wrong and what I did right.
As time went on it became compliment after compliment. The last thing she said to me before she died was that this (news reading) is where I belong. She said it was my calling and her wishes were fulfilled.”
Grootboom grew from strength to strength under the mentorship of Thandi Mesatywa Grootboom has always felt the presence of Mesatywa, like a guardian angel watching her from a distance. “I promised that I would always strive to shine a light on what she started.”
Over the years Grootboom has been a light to many South Africans who would be glued to their screens come 7pm on SABC1 for the IsiXhosa news bulletin. Her famous “Ndini thanda nonke emakhaya” closing phrase was her way of saying thank you to the people of South Africa.
“There was this genuine love and attention I was receiving from people and because I knew I could not reach everyone one by one to say thank you, I decided on “Ndini thanda nonke emakhaya”.
On the odd occasion that Grootboom was unable to give the full phrase in closing due to time constraints she would end with ‘Kamnandi’ much to the dismay of her viewers and colleagues who would then ask her why she did not use her signature closing.
“It was those phone calls that made me realise that I must not fail them. I made it a point that my closing is the first thing that I write so that the editor counts my closing in the bulletin no matter the story.”
Her most memorable moments of her 37-year journey was the platform she was given to do running commentary to many major events that happened in the country.
“Notably all of them were the funerals of our Struggle stalwarts. The first one I did was for Chris Hani, followed by Joe Slovo, Sabelo Phama of the PAC. I was even graced with the honour of doing the funeral of doing the funeral of uTata Mandela, uTata Sisulu, uTatu Tambo no Mama Tambo. Every stalwart that you can think of, I did that funeral.
Those are the most memorable moments to me because the first funeral unearthed a skill I did not know I had. It taught me that I am not just an anchor. It was an opportunity to show what I could do.” Noxolo Grootboom is ready to relax with her family as she retires from the newsroom
Her work life required a lot from her and she is thankful to her husband for bringing up their children. The first thing she wants to do once she has officially retired is to show gratitude to my family.
“Not that I was an absent mother but he understood the responsibility I had and the times I worked. I came home in the evenings and could not attend school meetings, help out with homework, cook meals. He became all that. The first thing I want to do is go out with my family, they choose any restaurant and I can thank them for the support they have been to me.”
As the country tunes into Grootboom’s final news bulletin tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm on SABC 1, she will be dressed by Nombuyiselo Zinco, a designer from Gqeberha, who offered to dress the media darling for this grand occasion.
“She is a small business owner who is self-taught in making IsiXhosa garments and she called me offering to sew me something special. All the pieces that I will be wearing were put together by her and her two daughters and the beadwork was done by her 7-year-old son.”
Grootboom will show her gratitude to the millions of South Africans who have lifted her to great heights.
“It is time to say to them ‘it is more than ndini thanda nonke emakhaya, you are my life South Africans. It is going to be the most difficult news presentation ever.” The Star