Face to face with Ruda Landman
Ruda Landman’s brand of listening is born from a genuine desire to know. And during a 40-year career in print, radio and television journalism that desire seems to have increased. Tell Me Your Story is proof.
“I was given this platform by Bright Rock life insurance company, whose approach is that financial security needs change, as do a person’s circumstances – career, marriage, family, home – so with each interview we touched on all that, but for me it was about the personal stuff, the stories.”
What attracts Ruda to the “personal stuff” is “the variety of views in this country, of entry points into our shared history. Give each of us a peephole into the same room and we’ll all see something different. Take Jessie Duarte – she and I have lived no more than ten kilometres apart for more than 40 years, and we are of similar age, but our lives couldn’t be more different.
“Likewise John Kani. And with Jonathan Shapiro our conversation was such an intense review, we were quite dazed at the end.” There’s an additional compelling anecdote behind each of her chosen candidates.
In their original incarnation, each interview (more than 60 at the time of publication, 18 transcribed in this book) appeared on Bright Rock’s website, Change Exchange. For half an hour or so in her inimitable conversational fashion, Ruda quizzed the subjects on “how they managed change, and how external changes in the country inevitably, given our history, changed them.”
But what about her own journey, her own story of change? “Erika (Oosthuysen of publishers Tafelberg) insisted on a personal chapter. I was terribly reluctant, I felt it would be a false note. Then I decided to fit in with the others, I would interview myself. It was hard deciding what to include, what
Carte Blanche after 19 years, (she was there from 1988 to 2007). It’s probably the most I’ve ever said about it.”
On the question of her early years, she hesitates, “Childhood is difficult. There were four of us, I was the youngest with three older brothers. My parents were both teachers… they gave us everything they could. We were a staunch nationalist family, with a capital and small N!” She smiles.
“After matric I spent a year in the army, where I learned to type – and to shoot. At university in Stellenbosch, I studied languages and teaching, and met my husband JP. I was only 24 and a day when we married.”
Political-economic analyst JP “was always political. I only woke up much later, around 1976, when I was working at Die Burger.” A pivotal point she cites was interviewing a woman in the Vrygrond informal settlement. “I sat in this woman’s kitchen having tea, and suddenly thought, ‘She’s just like my mum’.”
Ruda’s subsequent and continuous awakening has been hard earned. She laughs as she describes how, back in the day, she failed a test as an SABC announcer. Her long history on radio and television, and directorship of Media24, prove how wrongly they judged.
She claims not to be a goal setter, and it’s clear she’s more motivated by compassion and curiosity than commercialism. Her natural warmth and learned wisdom ensure there are few tests she would fail now, but her concern is for the next generation. “I’m involved with GRAD, a practical support guidebook for first-year students. This year, through the NGO StudyTrust, we’ve distributed 140 000 copies to 24 campuses.” As the main author she is chuffed and, as a mother thrilled that royalties from Story will go to StudyTrust.
Next? “Without wishing to jinx it, JP and I are working on a book together.” I wonder if she ever considered interviewing him. “No, too close. But I did interview my son Johannes for The Change Exchange – he was good, I was proud of him.”
Tell Me Your Story is published by Tafelberg (R285). www.tafelberg.com