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On top of her game, on and off the airwaves

Submitted by on Wednesday, 8 October 2008No Comment

Redi Direko, 702 talk show host and news channel anchor, tells DAVID GEMMELL about life on and off the airwaves and the small screen.

What time do you get up in the morning?

Quarter to five. Then I join a group of runners and we go for a twelve to fifteen kilometre run. I do that Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and I rest on Monday because Sundays I usually take part in a marathon or a half marathon around Gauteng.

What do you do after your run?

I have a shower and meditate for fifteen minutes and then I drive to 702.

What do you do for breakfast?

I eat it at work. I usually have a banana, apple or some muesli.

How carefully do you watch your diet?

Very! Extremely – I had a weight problem as a child and in my teens and my early twenties; I really, really was so overweight. One day I woke up about six years ago and decided that’s it (laughs). So I’m very careful.

But if one runs as much as you do, surely you can eat anything you like?

I don’t want to test that theory (laughs). I’ve seen some very good runners who have a weight problem, so I don’t want to try it. I have let my guard down as the running has intensified, but I am very careful. I only have a desert on Sunday’s and that sort of thing.

Everybody knows you ran the Comrades because you told everybody. What was your time?

Eleven hours and thirty four minutes and twenty seven seconds. My time for the Two Oceans…  I didn’t finish within the seven hours my first one, but the second one was six hours fifty five minutes and the last one six hours twenty four minutes. The Comrades lives up to its expectations, but while I was running it I said, ‘this is do-able, I’m comfortable,’ which did surprise me, so I’ll be back next year.

Back to food for a second – what would your death row meal be?

Not one, not two, but three cream doughnuts (laughs). I think it would be a bunny chow – but not the usual one you would get at an Indian restaurant, like curry stuff, but the township one. It has chips, it has Russian sausage, it has cheese, ah… it has mango atcha and polony and they are becoming even more creative and they are putting egg with all of that. I haven’t had one since high school…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Orlando East in Soweto.

Did you have a happy childhood?

Generally I had a very stable, happy one. But my father died when I was nine; he was stabbed and that was very traumatic. That really destabilised my world in a very big way. But it was very middle class and I was well provided for – I would say we were privileged kids in the township. We lacked for nothing.

Were you always such a busy girl?

I can’t sit still. I just feel there is so much to do; you got to do it – and do it now! I am very excitable.

I read somewhere you were studying a Masters degree in Literature – did you get it?

Yes. I got it at the end of last year. I did it on post colonial literature and the politics of identity.

Well done. How do you deal with being recognised and always in the public eye?

Sometimes I am taken by surprise, when I’m lost in my own world, and I wonder why someone is staring at me. But I usually encounter very friendly people. The only thing I battle with is when people ask me about Jacob Zuma and I’m in the bank queue and I’m trying to get things done. But I’ve been lucky.

How do you keep your feet on the ground?

You know, what I do comes as naturally to me as breathing – so I can’t inflate its importance and start thinking I’m special.

How do you deal with negative press about you?

When I read some of the gossip columns, I realise I have had it easy. Other people have it far worse than me. I also lead quite a solitary life so I’m not really out there. The one time I had a problem, was during the Jacob Zuma rape trial, because I was quite vociferous in my position and I got a lot of hate mail. Which I found very sad, it just reflected how far we are from solving rape. I had men writing to me who said women like me talk too much and we need to be raped to be taught a lesson – it was very unpleasant. I actually took leave – I took a few days off. I reacted quite strongly and passionately to it – I was very sad.

How do you keep your cool when you have either an idiot caller or and idiot guest?

I don’t always!! (Laughs). But I’m getting better at it. I’ve come to a point where I have realised that everyone has their space and it will be over in a few minutes – and I remind myself that in a year’s time none of this will matter.

How do you relax?

I meditate a lot – just breathe in, breathe out and I listen to a lot of music. And I am a shopaholic. If you give me money now and take me to Sandton city, I’ll show you how it’s done…

What do you shop for?

Shoes!! (Laughs). Last week I was walking past a shoe shop where I buy a lot of shoes, unusually I wasn’t in the mood to shop, when I heard someone calling my name and I looked and it was the manager. ‘Come back,’ he shouted, ‘you are lost’, because I am always in his shop, (laughs). I have lots of shoes. I have favourite pairs – summer and winter shoes, and some I wear at least once a week.

Do you have any you have bought but have never worn?

Yes but I will find an occasion, so I will wear them. But you know in Soweto the houses are so small? Well, you would either extend or have back rooms for tenants. And when people are extending, they are said to be building a, ‘two room and a garage.’ Well my boyfriend thinks we should have a, ‘two room and a garage’ for my shoes (laughs).

You appear to be such a happy bubbly person, what depresses you?

A lack of clarity. About anything; if it’s work or family issues. But abuse. I’ve known so many women who have been abused sexually and that really gets to me. I can’t stand sexism and sexual abuse; it just makes me go ballistic. It just makes me hit the roof.

And apart from shopping, when are you at your happiest?

When my mom is happy, I’m happy. She has just come back from Scotland where she was nursing. She lives alone and when she is ok, I find I’m happy.

Given that you are so involved in news and the media, with what you know, are you optimistic about South Africa?

I am. Because I feel inherently we are resilient people and we have experienced the worst and we have survived it. But I am very disappointed in our leaders. The ANC has done a lot, but I expected more from them. I can forgive if they say there is slow delivery, because it is complicated, but if there is slow delivery because nobody gives a damn, or because we are complacent about corruption, that’s wrong. I mean how did the all those high ranking officials go and support Tony Yengeni when he went to prison – that for me is wrong; how do they excuse Julius Malema’s remarks, that is wrong.

I fully agree. What do you do for holidays?

Once a year we go overseas. Last year we did Madrid and Cuba and I’m planning to go to Mauritius in two weeks (laughs). And then at the end of the year we will do Mozambique or Plett or George.

As a news anchor on the eTV channel, do you keep up with news while you are on holiday?

No. I don’t give a damn what’s happening. I really try to cut off, because that is the only way I relax, and I also want to miss what I do – so that the love affair continues, (laughs).

Do you have any unusual hobbies?

I like cleaning out the fridge. The night before you defrost it and then take everything out; but no-one must be around. It’s very therapeutic… (laughs).

If you could choose to be stranded in one place in the world where would it be?

Paris. Apart from everything else, I love that Shakespeare & Company bookstore – it is just floors and floors and floors of books. I love it.

Who in the whole of history would you like to sit next to on a long flight?

(Turns over the book she has brought with her and points.) Him!

Barak Obama?

I think he should leave his wife and come to South Africa. My boyfriend knows that if Barak comes we are through, (laughs).

Tell me something about Redi that no one else knows?

I am scared of ants. And cats. I went to a wedding in December and sat with my feet up on a chair because there was a cat around (laughs).

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